Four Sisters ~ The Reds & Ports

Marguerite BarrettFour Sisters Winery vineyards
Contributing Writer

Continued from Tuesday, December 8th

After the Blush wines both Maree and I moved on to the Reds.  Four Sisters produces 7 reds overall, but two were already sold out.  Of the remaining 5, 2 were described as sweet or semi-sweet wines, generally not my preference, so I skipped those and settled on the remaining 3, dry, reds.

Chambourcin The wine is a beautiful deep rose-garnet color and has a very strong cherry nose.  In the mouth the wine has strong notes of cherry which provide just a hint of sweetness to balance out the dryness of the wine.  The oaking adds touches of vanilla which give the wine a smooth finish.  Overall not a bad wine, although it felt a bit young and as a result the cherry was a bit strong.

Papa’s Red Made from Baco Noir grapes, which I’d never heard of no less tried before, this is a very pleasant medium-bodied red table wine.  Garnet colored with a light earthy nose which was a nice change from the fruity noses I so often find in the northeastern reds, the Papa’s Red has pleasant notes of berries and a nice balance of acid on the palate.  There’s a “bite” at the end which I found very reminiscent of Marechal Foch grapes, and while not unpleasant, was a bit of a surprise.

This being my first exposure to Baco Noir, I did a bit of research when I got home.  A hybrid variety that while once grown in Europe is now predominantely grown in the colder climates of the US and Canada, particularly the Upper Midwest US and Ontario.  According to Wikipedia there are 250 hectares of Baco Noir under cultivation in New York, so we’ll have to check in with the folks over at Lenndevours to see what they can tell us about New York Baco Noir wines.

In the meantime, I was on to my third red, the

Warren Hills Red Named for the surrounding area, also the name of the AVA, the Warren Hills Red was my favorite of the three reds I tasted that afternoon.  Like the Papa’s Red, this also is a deep garnet color with an earthy nose.  In the mouth, the wine has lovely notes of wild berries.  The finish has the same “bite” as the Papa’s Red leading me to suspect there were Baco Noir grapes in this wine as well, although our host for the tasting couldn’t find her notes and wasn’t sure what was included in the blend.  Overall I found this wine to have more depth and complexity than the Papa’s Red, very likely due to the fact that this is a blend.

Overall the three reds I tried were nice, pleasant table wines, although I found I was more impressed with the whites than the reds.  But, we weren’t done yet, and there were still two Ports to try.

In addition to the two Ports, Four Sisters also produces 5 fruit wines and 1 sparkling wine.  I’ve never been a fan of fruit wines and given the range of other wines available, decided to skip that category altogether, and given a choice between port and sparkling wine, I’ll generally select port.  I can’t remember, and my notes don’t indicate if Maree tried the sparkling wine, Maggie’s Magic, but I went straight to the first port:

Pop’s Port Named in honor of owner Matty’s father (grandfather of the “four sisters”), Pop’s Port is made from Baco Noir grapes.  Like the Papa’s Red, the wine is garnet colored with strong notes of cherry on the nose and in the mouth.  Semi-sweet with a rich, soft mouth-feel, this is a nice port, although the tangy “bite” at the end from the Baco Noir grapes is a bit of an unexpected surprise.

The last wine of the day was

Matty’s Apple Port Made from late harvest apples grown on the Mattarazzo farm and brandy fortified.  The nose is much lighter than I anticipated and in the mouth the flavor of the apples is rich without being overpowering.  The apples provide a slight tartness which balances out the overall sweetness, resulting in a rich, smooth and very satisfying port.  I definitely preferred this one to the Pop’s Port and found it to be a great finish to an interesting and extensive tasting.

Four Sisters Winery ~ The Whites & Rosés

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Continued from Tuesday, December 1st.

The winery is housed in a ranch-style house with the tasting room located in a large open room in the back of the house.  As we made our way back, we discovered that despite it being close to the end of the day, the tasting room was fairly busy and all the spots at the bar were taken.  So Maree and I hung out for a bit, browsing the gift shop and admiring the extensive and very creative samples of custom labels that Four Sisters offers for people who would like to order custom labels for their wine.

The folks ahead of us at the bar had seemingly settled in for the afternoon, and the staff didn’t seem inclined to move them along despite the fact that there were now another 4-6 people waiting with us for spots at the bar.  But finally after about 15-20 minutes a couple spaces cleared, and Maree and I were able to start our tasting.  We had each purchased the 10 tastings for $5 package and decided 10 wines was more than enough for each of us to get a full sampling of the Four Sisters range of wines, so we skipped our usual “let’s coordinate our selections” and just focused on our own choices.

I kicked off my tasting with the

Seyval Reserve Like most of the whites I’ve tried here in the Northeast, the Seyval Reserve is a very pale yellow color.  The nose has lovely light floral notes, and in the mouth the wine is light, crisp and fruity with soft notes of melon and almost no citrus.  The finish is light and crisp, and this wine would pair well with seafood or grilled chicken.

Vidal Blanc Next up for me was the Vidal Blanc.  As anticipated this was a little sweeter than the Seyval although it is still a pleasant, dry table wine.  The color is very pale, almost straw, and the nose is grassy with subtle notes of green pepper.  In the mouth the wine is lightly tart with citrus notes, particularly lemon.  The finish is smooth with a slight smokiness from the oaking.

Cayuga Over the past year I have become a real fan of Cayuga whites.  When I first started on the Connecticut Wine Trail in October 2008, I wasn’t really sure what I thought of the Cayuga; interesting certainly, particularly given I hadn’t really encountered Cayuga before, but not something I found overly impressive.  Over time, though, as I’ve tried more local Cayuga wines and blends, I’ve found myself really liking this grape, and the Four Sisters’ Cayuga is no exception.  Also a pale yellow, almost straw color, the nose is extremely clean – in fact there’s almost no nose.  Clean is also the best word to describe the experience in the mouth: light, crisp, smooth, the wine has light citrus notes, low acid, a pleasantly smooth finish and just a hint of sweetness.  This would make a good “lunch” wine, pairing well with salads or light pasta dishes.

Niagara The last of the whites I sampled was the Niagara, made from Niagara grapes.  The tasting notes describe it as “spark[ing] childhood memories of eating grapes off the vine.”  I don’t know why that didn’t clue me in that it was going to be a sweet wine, but I found myself surprised by the sweetness when I tasted it.  The nose is light with nice floral notes, and in the mouth the wine has notes of melon and a touch of honey.  It’s a very nice wine, but as I definitely prefer drier table wines, this was not one of my overall preferences of the afternoon.

I had also selected one of the Blushes, the

Merrill Blush I admit I tried this because I was intrigued by the tasting notes which read “enjoyed by traditional wine lovers,” and found myself wondering what on earth that meant.  Is the implication that traditional wine lovers don’t like blushes?  And what is a traditional wine lover anyway?  On tasting I discovered a fairly complex wine with an interesting spicy nose (unexpected after the predominant floral notes among the whites), notes of melon and a touch of lemon on the palate which produces a semi-sweet blush with tart notes at the end that give the wine some bite.  As someone who definitely prefers dry wines, I often don’t buy or serve blushes finding them too sweet for my tastes. But the tartness at the end gave this wine some kick and, for me, made it more interesting than other blushes I’ve tried.  Perhaps that’s what Four Sisters is getting at with their tasting notes for “traditional wine lovers” read “people who prefer drier wines.”

That concluded the first half of the tasting, next on to the Reds…

Continued on Thursday, December 10th.

Four Sisters Winery ~ Belvidere, New Jersey

Marguerite BarrettFour Sisters Winery, Belvidere, NJ / Photo: Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Well, I’ve finally made it to the bottom of my notes pile – the last winery visited during my summer wine excursions.  Sitting here on a cold, dark, rainy November evening, the bright sunny July afternoon that Maree and I headed over to western New Jersey seems so long ago.

The last winery we visited that July afternoon was the Four Sisters Winery in Belvidere, New Jersey, about a 35 minute drive north of Alba Vineyards and Villa Milagro Vineyards.  Heading up County Road 519, the scenery resembled the Midwest more than the Northeast – flat and lots and lots of corn.  I don’t know why it surprised me as much as it did – maybe I’ve just become so used to traveling the back roads of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Four Sisters Winery is located in the heart of farm country, part of a 250-acre farm owned by Matty Matarazo.  Matarazo planted his first grapes in 1981, and the winery opened in 1984, and throughout 2009 Four Sisters Winery has been celebrating their 25th Anniversary.  The winery was named in honor of Matrazo’s four daughers, Robin, Serena, Melissa and Sadie, the “four sisters.”  In addition to the winery, the farm produces a range of fruits and vegetables and operates a farm market in nearby Caldwell, NJ, home of the original farm established in 1921.

The winery is located in a ranch-style farmhouse.  The front door leads into a small front room that houses a few gift items and the cash register/check-in area.  Tastings are managed through the purchase of tickets – for $5 you can purchase 10 tickets, $3 will get you 5.  Each ticket entitles you to one tasting.  Despite my initial surprise at being handed 10 tickets, I must admit the system works – it was far easier for both the Tasting Room staff and me to keep track of how far I’d made it through my list.

And keeping track is important, as Four Sisters’ wine list includes a total of 25 wines: 8 whites, 2 rosés, 7 reds, 5 fruit wines, 1 sparkling wine, and 2 ports – rivaling DeGrazia Winery in Connecticut for the most extensive wine list I’ve found in my Win(e)ding Road travels to date.  With a tasting that included up to 10 wines and a a rather crowded tasting room, I found the tickets a lot easier to manage than having to continuously review with the staff how far we’d gotten in the list.

In addition to their normal Tasting Room hours, Four Sisters hosts special events including their Murder Mystery Dinners every month May through October in which guests can enjoy great food, Four Sisters wines and participate in a murder mystery game on the winery grounds, monthly Barefoot Grape Stomping Events from May through September which are open to the public, and seasonal festivals such as the Harvest Festival and special events for both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

In celebration of the holidays, tastings are free through the end of the year, and the winery remains open seven days a week 11 am – 6 pm through December except for holidays.  The winery and gift shop have all of the Four Sisters wines available for purchase and also offer custom labels and gift baskets.   Four Sisters wines can also be found in many liquor stores in northwestern New Jersey and their recently opened outlet in the Phillipsburg Mall.

But on that hot, sunny July afternoon, Maree and I weren’t thinking about holidays or gifts, just the wine.  We each opted for the $5/10 tickets tasting, and because it was late in the day and we each had our choice of 10 wines, we didn’t bother coordinating selections.  I kicked off my tasting with the first white on the list, the Seyval Reserve…

Continued on Tuesday, December 8th.

Four Sisters Winery
783 CR 519, 10 Doe Hollow Lane
Belvidere, NJ 07823