self-admitted wine geek, Tom lives in Northern New Mexico
and works as a computational physicist at Los Alamos National
Laboratory doing numerical neutron transport & large scale
code development. He has been tasting wines since 1971, participates
locally with a couple of large tasting groups in his area,
and is practically a fixture at most California wine festivals,
such as the Hospice du Rhône, Rhône Rangers, and
ZAP. Other interests: Tom is heavily into competitive sport
fencing (foil & epee), biking, cooking, basketball, skiing,
backpacking, mountain climbing.
Long Island Days - December 29-31, 2005
part of my Christmas vacation to NYC, I spent a few days
out on LonGiland with friends; cooking, drinking, and carousing
around. Whilst I was in the area, one of my goals was to
learn more about LI wines.
With Robert (12/29/05)
When I gave my seminars at the AWS Convention in LasVegas
in November, two LI friends
of one of my LosAlamos wine group members were in attendance;
Robert Rutmayer and David
Trovillion. They expressed an interesting in getting together
w/ me during my LI visit,
so Robert and Linda, David and Jill hosted Susan & I
at Robert's home in Sound Beach,
near Port Jeff where we picked up our rental car. It was
a dark & stormy night. But the
company was warm & friendly. And the food excellent:
Assorted cheeses from Ideal Cheese,
Carrot & Mushroom Soup, Roasted Duck Breast w/ Fig Sauce,
Roasted Log O'Lamb w/ roasted
parsnips, and a Pear Tart (I believe). And the wines wern't
1. DruidWines Mersault LeLimozin 1999:
Strong minerally/earthy light melony nose; tart
minerally/citrusy/melony flavor w/ slight nutty/oxidized
finish; a lovely lean/
2. Torbreck BarossaVlly Viognier/Marsanne/Rousanne
(40%/40%/20%) 2004: Fragrant pear/Viognier slight
appley/Marsanne some spicy/perfumed nose; tart/spicy pear/Viognier
light olive/nutmeg appley slight earthy flavor; low-key
Viognier in nose but lean Marsanne on the palate; good leanness
for a Barossa white.
3. Chapoutier LesGranites St.Joseph 1995:
Dark color; rather strong blackberry/blueberry/ Syrah slight
gamey/smokey chocolaty Calif-style nose; very blackberry/Syrah/chocolate
bit metallic/sharp some gamey/smokey/pungent flavor; near
its peak; rather Calif in style and not much NorthernRhone
4. Nickel&Nickel DarienVnyd/RussianRiverVlly
Syrah 2003: Very dark/black color; intense blackberry/
blueberry/Syrah some toasty/charred/Fr.oak bit peppery/dusty
nose; rich/intense blackberry/Syrah peppery/dusty somewhat
charred/toasty/oak flavor w/ much tannins; fair amount of
oak but not out of hand; needs 3-6 yrs of age.
5. Turley AidaVnyd/NapaVlly PetiteSirah (13%) 1993:
Very dark color; intense blueberry/PS/peppery slight toasty/Fr.oak
very spicy/cloves/nutmeg nose; very spicy/cloves/toasty/oak
some peppery/blueberry/PS flavor w/ fair tannins yet; lots
of oak & spice and not a lot of complexity but still
going strong and will go another 3-6 yrs I think.
6. CampoDeBorja AltoMoncayo Garnacha (15.5%) 2002:
Black color; very intense blackberry/strawberry/ Grenache
huge fruit slight earthy/dusty/old vine nose; rich fairly
tannic huge strawberry/Grenache/blackberry light earthy/dusty
slight toasty/oak w/ very long/lush strawberry finish; needs
much age; recommended by Michael Cinque of Armagansset Wines&Spirits
to Robert and a very good one at that; more structure than
many Priorat Grenaches.
And there was a few dessert wines
after these, but I lost the card w/ those notes. In lieu
of the hour drive in stormy weather down to WaterMill on
poorly markedroads in heavy fog, at the urging of all concerned,
we stayed overnight at Robert's. Good move, because even
in the clear daylight the next morning, we still got lost.
Fortunately, I tasked Susan to ask for directions. But it
was a wonderful evening of great food and wine and great
to know Robert, David, Linda & Jill better.
As part of my LI wine education, I did a bit of homework
afore I left. Of all the WebSites I visited, the Channing
Daughters site was the one that stuck out like a sore thumb
as a winery that was doing something different from all
the rest. They are doing a lot of things w/ Italian/Friulian
varieties as well as Dornfelder, plus all the usual LI grapes.
So I made an appointment to visit w/ winemaker Christopher
Tracey late that morning; only a 10 minute from Cathy's
where we were staying in WaterMill. Interestingly, Christopher's
parents used to own the HeinemanMtnVnyd in the NapaVlly,
behind StonyHill, from which JosephPhelps/ WalterShug used
to source PinotNoir grapes; until they sold the vnyd and
it was grafted over to Cabernot.
After a brief history about Channing Daughters from Christopher
and a brief tour of their tiny/lo-tech/no-tech facility,
we adjourned to the tasting room to sample a few things.
During my stay down in NYC, I stumbled upon the CD Vino
Bianco 2001, that we tried one night at Cam's. My tasting
note inadvertingly went thru the laundry last night, so
nothing detailed. It contained 20% Pinot Grigio, 20% Scuttlehole
Chard, 30% Chard
Musque, and 30% SauvBlanc. Production was a whopping 94
cases. I was most struck by its aromatics and minerality,
not too far removed from a Gravner white. I saved a part
of the btl to try the next day but, alas, it somehow vanished
the next morning and all I got was the empty btl. While
we were tasting, CD partner Larry Perrine stopped in for
a brief chat & try the two wines I brought along. The
wines we tried:
1. CD PinotGrigio 2004: Lovely floral/pear/PG very aromatic/floral
nose; tart/lean rather minerally light floral/peach blossom
2. Vino Bianco (22% SauvBlanc/31% Dijon clone 96 Chard/23%
pinotGrigio/12% Chard Musque/ 14% Tocai Friuliano) 2004:
Very bright minerally/spicy very fragrant nose; tart spicy/minerally
light pear very light flavor; needs a bit more age but very
3. BrickKiln Chard 2004: Light appley/floral rather spicy/nutmeg/pencilly
low-key oak perfumed nose; tart/lean rather pencilly/spicy/nutmeg
very light/floral flavor.
4. L'EnfantSauvage Chard 2004: Barrel fermented & barrel
aged; strong toasty/vanilla/ pencilly light fruit nose;
lean/tart somewhat nutty/CornNuts nutmeg/pencilly/vanilla
very light floral flavor w/ trace of nutty/oxidized character.
5. PinotEnvy (27% Merlot) 2004: Lovely cherry/Pinot/aromatic
bit earthy/dusty nose; very light cherry/Pinot some dusty/earthy
light pencil flavor; attractive Pinotish aromatics.
6. FreshRed Merlot 2004: Attractive cherry/Pinotish/licorice
spicy/cloves nose; light bright/cherry/Pinotish light pencilly
some dusty/earthy flavor. It's said that LI Merlot resembles
PinotNoir more than Merlot and I can see that in this wine;
attractive bright cherry/zippy red.
7. Blaufrankish 2004: Classis BF/black cherry/plummy/licorice
bit earthy nose; tart/lean light earthy plummy/licorice
flavor; more like the JedSteele WashState Blaufrankish than
any WashState Lembergers, but not as soft as the Steele.
8. Barrel Sample: ResearchRed component w/ 20% Dornfelder
2004: Very dark color, darkest of all the CD reds; strong
black cherry/blueberry rather dusty/earthy nose; fairly
rich black cherry/fruity earthy/dusty flavor.
I had taken along the EdmundsStJohn
PinotGrigio 2004 and the Huber SantaRitaHills Dornfelder
2002 to taste w/ Christopher. I've always regarded Steve's
PG as the best one made in the USofA; very elegant and floral
compared to most. Alongside the CD version, it seemed very
rich & lush...not too surprising I guess. The Huber
was very intense blueberry/blackberry quite toasty/oak and
very extracted. I was most taken by Christopher's whites;
much more so than the reds. They all had a minerality to
them that you seldom find in Calif whites. And a brisk/zesty/racy
acidity that makes them a pleasure to drink and not tiring
on the palate. Some like the Palmina whites, some like Friuli
whites, some like Loire whites. The reds all had a distinct
earthy/dusty character and a lightness on the palate that
seemed spare and lean to my Calif palate; but, again, very
good aromatics. It seems as if CD is trying to break out
of the typical LI Chard/Cab/Merlot rut and Christopher is
doing that most successfully. And the production level is
so small that the marketing does not seem to be an issue.
Info at www.ChanningDaughters.com. A winery visit that I
LI Wineries (12/31/05)
At the LasVegas/AWS Convention, I was introduced to Jackie
Rogers with the LongIsland Wine Council. She eagerly volunteered
to arrange any visits w/ LI wineries that I desired. So
I equally eagerly took her up on the offer. The one winery
everyone I talked with recommended I visit was Paumanok
as doing about the best w/ LI grapes of anybody. So Jackie
arranged a visit first thing that morning w/ Charles Massoud,
who gave us almost 2 hrs of his time and a very complete
history of LI grape growing and the trials and
tribulations thereof. I talked quite a bit w/ Charles about
the difficulties of grape growing in LI's climate. He was
not a big believer of organic or biodynamic farming because
of the rot & mildew issues. We talked a lot about degree-days
and how the Western end of the NorthFork had a big advantage
over the Eastern end because the prevailing winds are out
of the SW and they don't pass over the PeconicBay and, thus,
retain more warmth and don't suffer the cooling. He contrasted
that w/ the weather down on the SouthFork, where the breezes
come directly off the Atlantic.
And then we tasted a few wines. From tank, going thru cold-stabilization:
Paumanok CheninBlanc 2005: Very bright/melony classic Sancerre/minerally
CB nose; bright/lean/crisp very minerally/chalky lightly
floral/melon/CB flavor; med.short minerally/floral finish.
Even under these very cold conditions, this wine was mightly
impressive for it's minerality; one of the most Sancerre-like
US CBs I've ever tasted.Amazingly good stuff.
2. Paumanok SauvBlanc 2005: Rather chalky/minerally light
earthy no herbal/grassy/SB nose; very tart/crisp lean/austere
very minerally flavor; I was expecting a very grassy/ herbal
wine typical of low-ripeness SB but it was not; more like
Friuli or AltaAdige or Jura SB than anything. Rather interesting
3. Paumanok (dry) JohannisbergRiesling 2005: Very fragrant/minerally/floral/pineapply
JR slight dusty nose; tart/clean/very crisp austere bright
floral/pineapply/JR some minerally flavor; very good bright/crisp
JR; not so much German as AltoAdige.
and then into the tasting room, from
4. Paumanok BarrelFrmtd Chard 2003: Rather minerally/Chard
bit pencilly/oak/butterscotchy nose; tart/lean bright/appely/Chard
pencilly/butterscotch/oak flavor; very long attractive caramel/butterscotch
pudding light appley/Chard minerally finish; one of the
longest finishes of any wines I tried; interesting &
5. Paumanok Chard GrandVintage 2004: Strong pencilly/minerally/appley/Chard
nose; softer rather minerally/chalky more appley/melony/Chard/fruit
some toasty/oak flavor; clearly a bigger/richer Chard again
more AltoAdige/Val d'Aosta than French.
6. Paumanok CabFranc 2003: Light color; rather earthy/dusty
some raspberry/cassis bit toasty/oak nose; tart/lean/austere
some raspberry/cassis/licorice flavor; some fruit but lots
of dusty/earthy/minerally character.
7. Paumanok Merlot 2002: Bit herbal rather dusty/earthy
light cranberry/raspberry/cherry nose; tart/light rather
herbal light cherry/raspberry dusty/earthy flavor
8. Paumanok Merlot GrandVintage 2001: Bigger more aromatic
some raspberry/cherry/licorice light herbal slight toasty/oak
nose; softer cherry/raspberry/licorice some dusty/earthy
flavor; dominated by earthy/dusty character but much more
9. Paumanok Assemblage GrandVintage 2002: Some toasty/charred/oak
some blackberry/licorice nose; tart/rich toasty/charred/oak
some licorice/pungent bit blackberry some dusty/ earthy
flavor; rather interesting somewhat Loire-like red.
10. Paumanok CabSauv 2002: More herbal/blackberry light
toasty/charred nose; light/lean earthy/herbal light toasty/oak
flavor; lean & earthy.
11. Paumanok CabSauv GrandVintage 2001: Light cherry/herbal
rather toasty/charred/oak nose; lean/austere light toasty/oak
herbal/cherry pungent rather earthy/dusty some spicy/cloves
interesting flavor; rather interesting nose but lean/austere
12. Paumanok JohannisbergRiesling (3% r.s.) 2005: Very fragrant
pineapply/floral/JR perfumed slight earthy/Germanic nose;
soft/lush very floral/pineapply/JR lovely light minerally/earthy
flavor; very attractive/lovely rendition of JR w/ great
13. Paumanok SauvBlanc Late (9% r.s.) 2003: Wow!!! Beautiful
peachy/apricotty/lush rather JR-like very aromatic/floral/fragrant
complex nose; rich/lush/sweet intense peachy/apricotty/botrytis
complex clean/aromatic/perfumed flavor; most botrytis SBs
have a volatile/pickle juice character but thus is very
clean & well-made; a very impressive dessert wine &
a real eye-opener for me.
My take on the Paumanoks: The reds
were interesting and seemed well-made, but didn't find anything
that really excited me. The Chards I thought interesting,
reminded me more of AltoAdige or WashState Chards, lots
of terroir expressed. I was impressed by the two JRs; very
unique and not much like any others in the world. But the
CheninBlanc and the botrytis SauvBlanc really got my attention;
some of the best I've had from the USofA.
pretty much put myself in Jackie's hands for showing me
other interesting LI wines; so she led us around to a few
other tasting rooms, but had not made any appointments w/
winemakers; only a head's up to try some of their better
wines that are not usually available.
Next stop was MarthaClaraVnyds. The more interesting wines
1. MarthaClara Semillon 2004: Very light slight waxy/figgy/Semillon
no-oak nose; tart/thin light minerally/ earthy slight figgy/waxy
no oak flavor; lacks a lot of character but some Semillon
2. MarthaClara Viognier 2004: Attractive floral/pear/Viognier
light nose; soft/fat very light Viognier/pear rather light
almost bland flavor; definitely Viognier but pretty light
in character. Like Pays d'Oc Viognier w/o the stony/hard/austere
3. MarthaClara Syrah 2002: Strong peppery/Syrah some earthy
very light blackberry nose; lean/light spicy/peppery/Syrah
slight licorice/earthy/pungent flavor; light tannins and
short finish; definitly cold-climate Syrah some like BritishColumbia
ones I've tried; interesting nose but not much impact on
4. MarthaClara EstateReserve Syrah 2001: Strong pungent/licorice/Syrah
rather earthy/dusty slight meaty/gamey nose; light/thin/lean
some pungent/gamey light peppery/Syrah flavor; very interesting
Syrah more like old-vine Carignane than anything; I rather
liked this wine but pretty atypical of other Syrahs I know.
5. MarthaClara Ciel (60% Viognier/40% Chard; 13.0%) 2002:
Very fragrant pineapply/mango/ floral/ aromatic lush/clean
beautiful nose; tart sweet intense mango/pineapple very
floral/lush flavor; terrific aromatic/perfumed lush wine
that should age well.
6. MarthaClara Himmel (66% Riesling/33% GWT; 11%) 2004:
complex/clean nose; tart very intense peachy/apricotty/botrytis
clean/complex flavor; a stunning very sweet (40Brix at harvest)
Some very interesting wines w/ the
dessert wines particularly impressive.
was then off to LiebFamilyCellars, where they specialize
1. LiebFamily Blanc de Blanc (100% PinotBlanc) 2002: Attractive
classic yeasty clean/ appley nose; tart/ minerally light
yeasty/appley flavor; reminds me mostly of some Loire sparkling
Samaurs than anything; nicely done sparkler.
2. LiebFamily Reserve PinotBlanc 2004: Light floral/perfumed
slight earthy rather Alsatian PB-like nose; soft/flat light
minerally/PB/floral flavor; somewhat Alsatian PB in character
w/o the austere/earthy character.
then it was on to WatersCrestWinery and a visit w/ Charles
Waters, owner & winemaker. Info at www.WatersCrestWinery.com.
This is truly a garigiste operation, but showed some of
the most impressive wines I tried of the day:
1. WatersCrest Hank'sChard 2004: Attractive fragrant/appley/varietal/Chard
nose; tart/citrusy crisp light appley/Chard clean/varietal
flavor; very short crisp/appley/Chard light toasty/oak finish;
light/clean/ crisp/ pleasant Chard.
2. WatersCrest BarrelFermented Chard 2004: Rather toasty/oak
attractive appley/Chard light minerally nose; tart toasty/pencilly/oak
light appley/Chard flavor; very short toasty/oak finish;
lots of oak but not out of hand.
3. WatersCrest Merlot 2003: Quite dusty/earthy bit licorice/cloves/complex
light cherry/fruit nose; tart spicy/cloves rather walnutty/Cab
minerally/earthy quite interesting flavor; bit light &
lean but very interesting red.
4. WatersCrest CabFranc 2003: Wow!! Intense licorice/chocolaty
light toasty/oak/pungent complex/spicy/ cloves very interesting
flavor; big/rich/lush intense licorice/pungent/chocolaty
spicy/cloves light toasty/oak flavor; long pungent/toasty
strong licorice/rather chocolaty/plummy finish w/ fair tannins;
needs several yrs; very impressive CabFranc some like LoireVlly
I was very/very impressed w/ Charles CabFranc and thought
it, easily, the best LI red I tried in my sojourn.
Jackie left us on our own for the vnyd tour they offer at
ShinnEstate. David Page and Barbara Shinn are one of the
strong LI advocates for organic grape growing. I was particularly
interested in visiting w/ David and getting his take on
LI grape growing, particularly organic and biodynamic growing.
Alas, it was raining heavily, the tasting room was jam packed,
and any effort to visit in detail would have resulted in
glassy-eyed stares from the others on the tour; so we eschewed
taking the tour. But we did taste thru the wines:
1. ShinnEstate Home Chard 2004: Strong toasty/coconut/ZagNut
bar/oak slight appley nose; tart/lean light appley/Chard
strong ZagNut/oak flavor; little strong on the oak.
2. ShinnEstate SauvBlanc/Semillon 2004: Agressive herbal/grassySB
slight floral/earthy nose; tart/lean grapefruity/citric
herbal/grassy some earthy/minerally flavor; rather interesting
3. ShinnEstate Merlot 2003: Strong herbal/dusty very slight
cherry nose; light herbal/dusty some spicy/cloves low fruit/cherry
flavor; short on fruit.
4. ShinnEstate Reserve Merlot 2002: Stronger toasty/oak
very dusty/earthy some cherry/fruit nose; tart very dusty/earthy
some toasty/charred/oak/pungent light cherryflavor; bit
more fruit & oak but still lacking fruit.
back towards WaterMill via SagHarbor, we free-lanced a stop
and found little to excite:
1. Pugliese Sangiovese 2004: Rather dusty/earthy slight
cherry low fruit nose; tart/lean/thin/hard very dusty/earthy
weak cherry flavor; dead ringer for a $60 Chianti alas.
2. Pugliese LateHrvst GWT 2004: Very ripe/overripe rotted
apple/grapey nose; sweet/flat very rotted/ apple/overripe/grapey
flavor; seems of rots other than botrytis.
3. Pugliese LateHrvst Niagra 2004: Very intense grapey/Labrusca/foxy
nose; very sweet flat intense grapey/Labrusca/foxy flavor;
dominated by the Labrusca character.
4. Pugliese Raffaello WhitePort (Muscat/Niagra) 2004: Strong
grapey/Labrusca no muscat bit alcoholic/ EverClear nose;
very sweet grapey/Labrusca somewhat alcoholic/raw flavor;
dominated by the Labrusca character.
the day of the ChanningDaughters visit, we dwaddled around
and didn't have time to visit WolfferEstate, so the Tues
morning of our drive down to JFK, we made a stop that morning
to taste thru their tableau. A very impressive operation
it was; beautiful building, very well equiped winery, great
tasting room where you received sit-down service at a table
rather than the usual bell-up to the bar approach. We tasted:
1. WolfferEstate Rose (80% Merlot) 2004: Very attractive
juicy/cranberry nose; tart/bright juicy/cranberry/ cherry
spicy flavor; quite an attractive rose w/ good veryjuicy
2. WolfferEstate ReserveChard 2002: Rather strong toasty/oak
some melony/Chard slight earthy/minerally nose; tart light
minerally/earthy light melony/Chard flavor w/a very long/lingering
panna cotta/butterscotch bit raw/oak finish; some fruit
but a bit strong on the oak.
3. WolfferEstate LaFermeMartin Chard 2003: Clean appley/Chard
slight earthy light oak/
pencilly nose; tart/lean/minerally appley/Chard some earthy
flavor; most attractive
and mainstream of the Chards.
4. WolfferEstate EstateSelection Chard 2001: Very cabbage/sourkraut
slight appley very toasty/oak nose; strong cabbage/sour
kraut some earthy/appley/Chard very toasty/oak flavor; way
overoaked and an unpleasant cabbage character (ML gone astray?)
5. WolfferEstate Sparkling Brut (Chard) 2003: Light yeasty
rather pineapply/floral slight earthy nose; tart bright
light yeasty fragrant/floral/pineapply flavor; a quite attractive
6. WolfferEstate LaFermeMartin Merlot 2002: Strong earthy/dusty
slight cherry nose; tartr/lean light cherry/fruit very dusty/earthy
flavor; bit short on fruit.
7. WolfferEstate Reserve Merlot 2002: Quite dusty/earthy
slight herbal/cherry rather toasty/charred/oak nose; tart
very earthy/dusty weak cherry/fruity fairly toasty/oak flavor;
short on fruit & long on oak.
8. WolfferEstate EstateSelection Merlot 2001: Richer Merlot/fruity
some licorice/tar light dusty/earthy some toasty/oak nose;
tart/lean/hard very dusty/earthy some licorice/pungent/road
tar light cherry/Pinotish flavor; a rather interesting red
but lacking in fruit.
9. WolfferEstate CabFranc 2003: Strong licorice/tarry/pungent
bit smokey/oak some bright cherry/fruit nose; tart/lean
bright cherry/fruit spicy/cloves/pungent/road tar/licorice
flavor; my favorite of the reds.
10. WolfferEstate LateHrvst Chard 2004: Made by the freezer/IceWine
process; light peachy/floral very attractive; soft/lush
rather sweet lush/floral/peach flavor; quite an attractive
Like most of the other wineries, I found the whites more
attractive than the reds. All the wines seemed to have a
sort of underripe/greenness to them but they all seemed
unique and interesting.
On the way down to JFK that afternoon,
we stopped at WorldPie for lunch. Quite a nice restaurant
I thought. Terrific arugula salad w/ fried artichoke leaves;
terrific arugula & fontina and proscuitto pizza, all
washed down by the always interesting Goats-Do-Roam 2003.
Take On LongIsland Wines
primary goal in these visits was to get some sort
of impression of LI wines; wines that I've tried only
a few times, usually mystery wines brought back by
SteveSterbenz that didn't show well when placed at
the end of a Calif tasting. So I wanted to try take
take a broader survey of what LI is doing wine-wise.
Obviously, my sampling was pretty small and it hardly
qualifies me as an expert in LI wines. I was trying
to place them somewhere in my vinous universe, a universe
dominated by a Calif palate. Nonetheless, I was intent
on judging them on them on their own merits and not
as Calif wines. So, a few thoughts and impressions,
based on what I tasted, in my BloodyPulpit on LI wines:
1. By and large, it was the whites that most impressed
me. Though not a lot of forward fruit to them, they
mostly had a minerality to them that you rarely find
in Calif wines, only in European wines; and a bright/racy/crisp
acidity to them that makes them a pleasure at table.
The reds, by and large, had a distinct dusty/earthy
character to them and not a lot of lush fruit. Although
that's not necessarily bad, such character is probably
not what sells in today's market dominated by fruit-forward/lush
reds from Calif and Australia (think YellowTail I
guess). But for those who think the expression of
terroir in a wine is the be-all to end-all; then LI
reds certainly have terroir in spades. I certainly
wouldn't fault the wines for their terroir-driven
character. I found the reds to lack the varietal character
to which I am accustomed in their Calif and European
renditions. However, I'm not one to worship at the
varietal typicity. If SantaRitaHills Pinot tastes
& smells like Syrah, then the cherry/Pinotish
character of LI Merlots is merely the way Merlot expresses
itself in LI's terroir/climate. Nuthin' the matter
So, generalizing quite a bit; the wines typically
show a bright/racy acidity and a strong expression
of terroir. They do not show a lot of lushness and
richness and I found many to be somewhat thin/dilute
on the palate and lacking a very longfinish.
2. Then style of the LI wines is certainly not the
kind that Arpy (RP) finds attractive and seems rather
out-of-step w/ the way the American palate is evolving.
That would seem to make LI wines a tough sell. So
the marketing of LI wines is probably pretty difficult
in the rest of the USofA and the biggest market is
probably the tourist trade actually visiting the wineries.
Certainly, the vintages that were often for sale in
the tasting rooms (most Calif/European wineries are
marketing their 2004 wines) would suggest that the
wines are not flying out the door.
Much of the LI wines literature attempts to tie LI
wines to Bordeaux as its model. The only reason I
can see for doing that is the climate similarities
w/ Bdx and the desire to get top $$'s for the wine;
you can always sell a Cabernet for more $$'s than
a Dornfelder. But I found very little resemblance
of the reds to Bordeaux reds; especially as the Bdx
wines strive more and more to resemble Calif Cabs,
much of it driven by Arpy's taste in reds. So marketing
LI reds as Bordeaux wines seems, to me, a losing proposition.
The LI reds certainly are not Calif (or Wash State)
in character, and the similarity to Bordeaux reds
was a struggle for me. If anything, the Cab-based
reds resembled more the Loire Reds more than anything,
and some of the Jura reds a bit, and some of the Swiss
and AltoAdige reds. But Bordeaux I couldn't see in
the wines. One of the things I did find off-putting
was some of the literature vis a vis Calif wines.
In attempting to contrast the LI wines w/ the more
commonplace Calif wines, I felt some of the literature
was unnecessarily derogatory of Calif wines. Those
wines from Calif are what they are, nothing more.
3. Varieties: The luster of Cabernet on LI seems to
be waning; probably because it's a late ripener. And
the fair-haired child now seems to be Merlot, being
an early ripener. I must admit that I didn't find
a single Merlot that knocked my socks off. I far more
preferred the CabFrancs to any of the Merlot. Obviously,
it's much easier to sell a Merlot (for greater $$'s)
than it is a Dornfelder or PetiteRouge. But if LI
is going to make great/world-class wines, I don't
see it being Merlot or CabernetSauvignon.
4. Technology: Following the Bordeaux model, it would
seem, to me, if there was ever a region that would
benefit from ReverseOsmosis or SpinningCone as a technique
to concentrate the must, it would be the LI reds.
I think it would dramatically change the character
of the wines, result in deeper colored, more extracted
red wines. As best I can tell, there's not much usage
of the technique yet on LI. Obviously, it would probably
destroy the terroir of the wines; but if your goal
is selling high Arpy-point wines for big $$'s and
"gobs of hedonistic fruit", then RO should
do the trick.
Another technique that seemed not to find much use
on LI wines was the use of saignee and co-fermentations
w/ white grapes. If color and extraction are the problem
w/ LI reds (given that THAT is a problem), it would
seem that these practices would be more commonplace.
One of the things that DID strike me about the LI
wines was the restraint in the usage of new oak. I
was expecting a lot of the wines to be slammed w/
loads of new/French oak. Thankfully, that was seldom
the case of the wines that I tasted.
5. Dessert wines: The one genre of LI wine that did
grab my attention was the dessert wines. Some of them
were as good as any you can find anywhere in the world;
absolutely striking. Clearly, the climate on LI at
harvest will support the growth of botrytis. I suspect,
however, the LI climate is far from ideal for its
singular growth and there is probably a lot of other/less
desirable rots and molds growing in the vnyd as well.
Some of the LateHrvsts tasted like rotted apples and
not the peachy/apricotty of botrytis, suggesting there
may have been other rots.
And I liked many of the freezer/IceWines I tasted
as well. Apparently, the tighter labeling regulations
in NY prohibit the use of IceWine unless it was actually
made from frozen on the vine grapes. So they are merely
labeled at LateHrvst; suggesting the grapes were left
to hang on the vine longer. It would be nice to be
able to identify those dessert wines made by the freezer
6. Economics: My impression is that land prices out
on this part of LI are humongeous. How one can profitably
grow grapes here, let alone brussel sprouts or broccoli,
seems beyond me. Even with attractive agricultural-land
tax breaks. Which means that for a winery to be profitable,
you're going to have to make world-class wines that
you can sell for big $$$'s. Which limits the kind
of wines/varietals you can make.
Maybe Blaufrankish or Dornfelder are those wines.
But it's tough to sell them for the $$$'s to make
it economically attractive.
I think of the LI wines?? I guess "interesting"
would be my single word to describe them. They were
much better than I had expected them to be, based
on the few I had tried before. There were even a few
that I would have bought to bring home, had I not
discarded my SouthWestAirlines-resistant shipping
case. Probably nothing I would term "world-class",
but many that I would have drunk, at table, with relish.
I look forward to returning to LI in ten yrs and am
prepared to be dazzled by the improvement in the wines
as the growers/vintners learn what works best. It's
far from an ideal growing climate, I think, but I
impressed w/ what they've made thus far.
Other LonGiland Doings
The visit to LI was a post-Christmas break for Susan's
family and friends. Cam and Carol are building a home
out in the Hamptons and we were prepared to stay in
it. Though habitable (the hot water was finally turned
on the morning we arrived), it had a distinct lack
of ameneties; promised to be remedied by our next
visit. Fortunately, friend Cathy had a nearby house
and was able to put us all up for the three nights
we were out there. All of us are pretty serious foodies,
so there were some great food and wine doings. Particularly
impressive was the Voyat Rosso from the Val d'Aosta.
The EdmundsStJohn BassettiVnyd never did get over
its funkiness thru the two days over which it was
drunk. The Ridge Geyserville '95 was in terrific shape;
plenty of blackberry fruit and loaded with Draper
perfume. An Italian Ruche was terrific, along w/ a
frizzante Cerretto Brachetto. We drank and dined well.
Cathy had a friend's book that I was most impressed by.
An Appetite For Umbria is a book, with reciepes and great
photos, of the people & the food. Worth tracking down
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