Owned and operated by Charles and Barbara Smithen, Sherwood House Vineyards is the couple’s ultimate expression of an intense passion for both wine and the East End. A cardiologist and vintage jewelry dealer, respectively, they purchased their 1860 farmhouse in 1996 and planted their vines soon after on land that once grew corn and potatoes.
In 1999, after selling off their grapes to local wineries for a few years, the Smithens decided to make their own wine and enlisted the help of French-born, local veteran winemaker Gilles Martin. Martin also makes wines for Bouke and Sparkling Pointe locally.
The portfolio leans heavily on chardonnay and merlot – Sherwood House was a founding member of Merliance and remains a member – but they also produce cabernet franc and a Bordeaux-style blend. Some of the chardonnay is used in sparkling wine production, a real specialty of Martin’s.
There are two primary places you can taste the portfolio – at the more traditional tasting room in Jamesport and right amongst their vines on Oregon Road, where they’ve dropped a tasting shed in and offer several tables for casual, vineyard-side enjoyment. If you’re out tasting at several places throughout the day, I’d recommend the Jamesport location, but if a lazy afternoon is your goal, get over to the vineyard in Mattituck.
Start with Sherwood House Vineyards 2011 Oregon Road Chardonnay ($18), an un-oaked expression of their chardonnay vineyard. With aromas of lemon and orange zest, yellow apples and a subtle nutty leesy note, this is anything but a flabby West Coast chardonnay. Bright and straightforward, the palate shows good acidity that brings verve to apple-lemon flavors with a bit of saline minerality on the finish. Seafood or simply prepared white meats seem a good foil.
Rosés made from merlot can be a bit one-dimensional and uninteresting, but Sherwood House Vineyards 2011 White Merlot ($18) is quite refreshing and delicious. Pears, apples, strawberries and hints of peach greet the nose while the palate focuses more on peaches and wild strawberries – with a light sweet herb quality – and plenty of acidity to go around. Summer wine? Absolutely. Think beach, pool or boat.
Sherwood House has built its reputation largely on the back of its Old World-styled barrel fermented chardonnay. Personally, I don’t like to compare any local wines to those from any other individual region, but many mention Burgundy when it comes to Sherwood’s chardonnay. The Sherwood House Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay ($30) isn’t quite as delicious as the stellar 2008, but it’s still a fine example. The nose shows scents of vanilla-roasted pears, buttery pastry crust and just a bit of raw oak. Medium bodied with balanced acidity, the palate tastes of caramelized pears and butterscotch with notes of fresh-cut pear and flowers on the finish.
Though not a new release like the above wines, Sherwood House Vineyards 2005 Merlot ($30) is still available and a must-taste wine. It shows classic Long Island merlot aromas of black raspberry and black cherry, hints of tobacco leaf and dried thyme, toasty oak and earthy undercurrent. Medium- to full-bodied, it offers both fresh and dried cherry flavors with underlying tobacco and dried herb character. There is a dose of toasty oak here too. It’s almost too much, but ultimately doesn’t cross the line, spicing the wine rather than overwhelming it. The tannins are of medium intensity and are well integrated. Acidity brings a certain freshness and earthy and dried cherry notes re-emerge on the medium-long finish.
Sherwood House Vineyards, 1291 Main Rd., Jamesport; 2600 Oregon Rd., Mattituck. Phone 631-779-2817.