Over the years, Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead has become known for a number of different things—beautiful weddings, live music, horse-drawn carriage rides and, of course, the petting zoo. But for me, Martha Clara will always be about their wonderful wines. And for future newlyweds, perhaps it will be best known for the site of their special day.
Martha Clara Vineyards is a massive farm of nearly 200 acres—100 of which are devoted to growing grapes. The estate was purchased in the late ’70s by Robert Entenmann, when he and his brothers sold their Entenmann’s Bakery company. After a number of years of breeding thoroughbred racehorses, he began to notice wineries popping up across the North Fork and decided to grow grapes as well. He opened the vineyard with his daughter, Jacqueline, in 1995, and named it after his mother, Martha Clara Entenmann. Her signature has since become the vineyard’s logo.
From the road, the Martha Clara tasting room looks more like one of the many farms found on the North Fork than a vineyard, but as soon as I entered, I could tell this was something different. I immediately noticed that the interior is much larger than it appears from the outside, as the main building houses a gift shop, wine shop, three tasting areas, as well as a private tasting room upstairs, and a massive dining room. The perfect space for a wedding extravaganza.
While I was there, I sampled some of their more popular vintages. I began with the 2003 Blanc de Blanc. This sparkling white is made mostly from chardonnay grapes, but has a touch of pinot noir grapes as well, giving it an aroma of apples, pears and orange blossom.
Next up was the 2010 Viognier, which is Martha Clara’s flagship white. This straw-colored wine is aged in stainless steel, giving it a bright flavor with notes of peach and lemon and a hint of pineapple.
From the Viognier, I moved on to the 2010 Estate Reserve Chardonnay. This golden white wine won Best Oaked Chardonnay in New York State in 2012 at the New York Food and Wine Classic, and won my heart, because I love oaked chardonnays. This wine has the wonderful creaminess that oak barrels bring, along with a touch of lemon, honey and spice.
Next, I tasted the 2011 New York State Riesling, which was on tap—yes, wine on tap. In addition to their traditionally bottled wines, Martha Clara has offered reusable, decorative half or whole-liter bottles of wine from taps in the tasting room for the last three years. In 2012 alone, they eliminated the need to purchase six tons of glass bottles. The New York State Riesling, which uses grapes from both Martha Clara’s own vineyards, as well as grapes from the Finger Lakes region, won the Governor’s Cup Award for best Riesling and best East Coast wine overall. It has citrus and floral notes, with a hint of clove.
For something different, I tasted Martha Clara’s Sabor, which is Spanish for “flavor.” With its pineapple and coconut flavor, Sabor tastes more like a piña colada than a wine, which is delightfully different.
After the Sabor, it was on to the reds. The first red I tasted was 2010 Estate Reserve Merlot, which is only produced during years when the grapes are just right. The 2010 is deep crimson in color and has notes of dark chocolate and cedar.
Martha Clara’s signature wine, the 2007 “6025 Old World Meritage,” which is named for the Vineyard’s street address, 6025 Sound Avenue, is a blend of six different red grapes that combine into a dark garnet-colored wine with aromas of fruit, licorice and pomegranate with notes of cedar and black cherries.
Then came the 2009 Syrah, and I fell in love. This deep violet wine burst with an aroma of cracked peppercorns, and it hit my palate with spicy notes of dark fruits and dried berries. I will certainly be back for this one.
If you and your significant other would like to visit for the afternoon, tasting flights at Martha Clara range from $9 to $12 and feature a sampling of five to six wines. Visitors can also enjoy individual tastings for $3 to $4, as well as wine by the glass or bottle.
For more information, visit marthaclaravineyards.com, or call 631-298-0075.