A big trend now is organic food—organic meat, organic vegetables and fruits, organic everything. But what about organic wine? When you actually think about organic farming it seems like a no-brainer because that’s how all farmers grew their crops before the nasty pesticides and other chemicals were developed. Today some farmers are trying to bring back the old way of growing crops.
Barbara Shinn and her husband, David Page, are the owners, and growers, of Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck. This duo prides itself on its biodynamic farming techniques and having a successful vineyard and winery based on sustainable values. They have allowed their vineyard to become more in tune with its natural surroundings and develop into its own ecosystem. For example, on their 20 acres, they can hear the bees forging for clover and, over time, can see the visual difference other vital insects can make. In addition, Shinn and Page farm by the lunar calendar, something that has been long forgotten and many other farmers think is just folklore, but it actually works.
Not only is this winery in line with nature, it is a beautiful place to go. When you first pull in, there is a four-room bed and breakfast to your left that is open all year round. It looks delightfully quaint. Parking is in the back, which puts you almost in the vineyard itself. The tasting room is rustic with its wooden tables and tasting bar. Barbara’s black-and-white dog runs around greeting all the guests—he is a big hit. Shinn and Page use the fermentation room as a “spill over” tasting room, but once all the steel barrels are full, there is no more room for people. The day that I was there, Barbara informed me that in about 10 days they were going out to hand pick some grapes to start fermenting. In the corner of the fermentation room Barbara also pointed out a couple of copper still pots and explained that they had a distilling license as well. At Shinn Vineyards, Page distills eau de vie and grappa, which is sold at the tasting room.
Next I was shown the lovely wine library where Barbara holds private events and, occasionally, on a Saturday, she will bring some customers in and open older bottles of wine as a bonus sampling.
Then it was time for me to taste some of their wonderful wines!
On the beautiful Sunday my boyfriend and I went to Shinn Estates, Barbara started us off with, naturally, the “First Fruit” Sauvignon Blanc, which is made from the first fruit of the harvest. It was clean and crisp and would pair nicely with seafood. We then tried the rosé, which was darker than any rosé I had ever seen. It was refreshing with hints of strawberry and watermelon; perfect for summer, of course. Thirdly, we tasted the Estate Merlot, which was strong yet sweet with chocolate and cherry flavors. Next on the list was the “Brut” Sparkling with its tiny little bubbles. This made the sparkling wine not as harsh as some others, resembling French Champagne. Last, but not least, was the Wickham’s Pear Cider. The pears used in this dessert wine come from Wickham’s Fruit Farm in Cutchogue and make for a wonderfully sweet after-dinner drink.
There is much more to be tasted at Shinn—each wine is different from the next, and they are all fantastic. Even some of the names given to these wines sound tranquil and come from a place of love. There’s Coalescence, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer with citrus notes; Haven, which smells of dried apricots; Grace and Clarity, both deep reds and finally Veil, a 2009 vintage white.
On Saturdays and Sundays, Barbara and David have vineyard walks where people can learn more about their sustainable way of farming and taste some of their wine. And just think—you can drink more because it’s healthier for you, right?