Are you a wine aficionado—but when it comes to tastings you feel you’ve “been there, done that?” Then Lieb Cellars’ new tasting room, on quiet, out-of-the-way Oregon Road in Cutchogue, is the place for you. It is a state-of-the-art facility, with an emphasis on the “art.” With their newly-hired in-house epicurean, Alicia Valles, and an inspired collaboration with Chef Tom Colicchio, at Lieb wine tasting reaches new heights: it becomes a mind/body experience!
The mind is encouraged to explore the creative ways Valles chooses to pair locally produced foods—cheeses from Goodale Farms, honey from Southampton Apiaries, bread from Blue Duck bakeries, and jams from Garden of Eve with the winery’s varied vintages. The body must surrender to the ethereal enjoyment of the provocative flavor combinations.
Although the new tasting room opened in October, there was much excitement at Lieb this past summer when Colicchio chose the winery to produce Craft Private Label Sparkling wine. Craft’s Beverage Director and Sommelier Greg Majors recalls, “When first introduced to the Pinot Blanc sparkler made by Lieb Cellars…I was extremely impressed with how well the wine was crafted…it is slightly drier than the 2008 Lieb Cellars Blanc de Blancs, with a larger initial bouquet and a drier finish and notes of citrus and almond that come through on the palate.”
Eager to establish a distinct personality of its own, the Oregon Road location is open noon to 7 p.m., seven days a week, year-round, and has already cultivated a devoted crowd of regulars who come for the pairings and the camaraderie, as well as the half-price happy hour on weekends. The décor is simple—the work of local artists adorns the walls. “We do not take any money from the artists,” says Mark Anderson, Director of Tasting Rooms. “We provide a place for them to show their work and they frequent our place.”
Creativity abounds. Valles, lured away from Luce + Hawkins restaurant “with the promise of a kitchen and creative freedom,” says Anderson, is inspired by the locavore movement. “I want to explore every single farm and every person who is jarring and pickling,” she says. “We want to keep everything as close to home as possible.” She wants to present a “sampling of the wonderful produce and products from local farmers” as part of her pairings. It is “unique to this location.”
The menu offers different boards that reflect the bounty of the region. She points out how a tasting room differs from a restaurant. “You can really tailor your offerings to your clientele,” she says. “When you pair our Alsatian-style 2010 pinot blanc with lavender-and-honey-infused cheese you have the experience of the two things together that opens up a whole new tasting experience. The sweetness of the wine on its own is lovely, but when contrasted with the tangy cheese it’s a truly different experience. Wine and food are best friends forever.”
One good pairing deserves another. Lieb Managing Director Peter Pace hired Anderson, a Manhattan guy who became captivated by the wine community while working as a volunteer with the Riverhead Foundation. “I rescued and rehab’d sea animals.” He moved permanently to the North Fork five years ago.
Anderson hired Logan Kingston as Marketing Director for Lieb after they met while both were acting in a local play. Logan, whose undergraduate degree was in communications, had taught middle school English for eight years and was looking for a change in careers. “I absolutely love what I do right now,” she says.
Valles, Anderson and Kingston infuse the tasting room with an infectious enthusiasm. Hang out with them at a Cheesemaking Demonstration and Wine Pairing event on December 2 or at the Cabernet Franc release party on December 16. They, themselves, are an inspired pairing.
Lieb Cellars Tasting Room, 13050 Oregon Road, Cutchogue, 631-734-1100, www.liebcellars.com