Wine Riot

This past Saturday I attended the Wine Riot tasting held at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue.  Wine Riot is a walk around tasting event that is held in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and D.C. These consumer tastings usually turn into drink fests with boatloads of mid-level wines and people looking to party. I wasn’t expecting a serious wine tasting. On Saturday they had afternoon and an evening session as well as a session Friday night. I attended the afternoon session.

The event was targeted to the 20ish-30ish crowd, a fact that was made evident to me when I tried to get a tasting sheet to write notes on. There were no tasting sheets because it was assumed that you would take notes on an “app”. Now for people of a certain age, an app was something you had before the Veal Parmigiano came out. So I basically had to scribble notes on any business card I could get my hands on. Also the glasses the provided were “surgical grade” plastic stemless glasses. As a rule, I don’t like to drink wine from plastic but I suppose at an event liek this with a lot of amateurs and unlimited wine for four hours, it was probably for the best. I hate the stemless glasses. They are awkward to hold and I’ve spent a lot of years perfecting the proper twirl with a stem glass. No food was provided but there were some vendors selling food.

There were few familiar names at the event but I had a few favorites. Steele Winery from Lake County appellation in California had some nice wines. Their 2010 Pinot Blanc was creamy, buttery and toasty. The 2011 Shooting Star Chardonnay (their second label) had tropical fruits on the nose and was much leaner than the Pinot Blanc. The 2009 “Writers Block” Malbec was tight with notes of roasted coffee. Their 2009Outcast” red blend was black in color with a big nose of chocolate mint and crushed blackberries with roasted coffee on the finish as well as some heat peeking through on that finish.

I liked the 2009 Garnacha from Las Rocas, Spain. Juicy and earthy with a firm, crisp finish.


Merlot World Classic At Lenz Winery

Saturday night I travelled out East to Lenz Winery which is located on Route 25 in Peconic, to attend their 23rd annual Merlot World Classic. Not surprisingly it was a tasting event that featured about 50 different Merlot from the East End and from other states and countries. Lenz  winery established in 1978, is one of the founding fathers of the Long Island wine industry and are known for their Merlot.

It was a beautiful late Summer afternoon and the tasting took place in a tent outdoors. Other than the wines being poured, they served some cheese and salami although a nice steak would have went really well with all that Merlot being poured.

I made a bee-line to the California table and started the day tasting the most expensive wines at the event. Past experience has taught me that those were the wines that would be gone first, I had a trio of some very nice juice.

The 2007 Twomey Napa Valley Merlot was very nice, dark red with a nose of crushed blackberries and mint with dusty mouth filling fruit but restrained with great tannins/acid balance on the finish.

The 2010 Plumpjack Napa Merlot was much more of a  fruit bomb than the Twomey. Black, thick and jammy with firm tannins on the finish. I think it needs more time in the bottle for everything to come together.

The 2009 Shafer Napa Valley Merlot was medium dark red with red floral notes on the nose, chewy velvety fruit with nice balance on the finish.

After sampling the three high-end Cali Merlot I made my way to the French table.  I enjoyed a couple of the right-bank Bordeaux. The 2001 Chateau Simard was showing very well. Brick red with a nose of stewed red fruits and mint, nice dusty fruit on the palate with good balance. It’s nice to try wines with some bottle age and there were a few of those at this tasting this afternoon. This wine was drinking nicely now and I wouldn’t hold on to it for much longer. The 2009 Chateau de Sales had a nose of  green olive and toasty oak with tight and concentrated fruit.

I then decided to sample  the local wines. Since I was at Lenz Winery I started at their table first. They poured the 2002 Old Vines Merlot. Another wine with some bottle age, this one was dark red with stewed bright fruits on the nose, velvety fruit with a nice balance of tannins and acids on the long finish. Nice job.

Mattebella Vineyards is pretty new on the LI wine scene, they opened their tasting room this year.  They poured the 2007 Old World Blend which is 84% Merlot with the rest Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Dusty cinnamon and spice on the nose, woodsy fruit and nice balance. The 2008 Old World Blend came from a leaner year which explained the tighter fruit.

The 2005 Jamesport Estate Merlot Block E was medium to dark red with a nice nose of dusty black cherry, the fruit on the lighter side with crisp acids on the finish.

Wolffer Estate Vineyards poured a couple of interesting wines. Their 1998 Estate Selection Merlot was dark red with elegant fruit with some alcohol peeking through on  the finish, it is aging well.  They poured the 2010 Christian’s Cuvee which will be available next year. At $100 a pop I had some high expectations for the wine. 100% Merlot made from their oldest vines, very big nose of black cherry, silky fruit with a hint of acid on the finish but a smooth long finish. Very nice wine.

Barrel Samples On Long Island

This past holiday weekend I decided to take a road trip to Long Island wine country on Sunday. Before I start I just have to mention one of my pet peeves when it comes to wine drinking. Wine glasses. The wine drinking experience is enhanced with the proper glass. The same wine will always taste better in a proper wine glass than in a plastic cup. Some wineries insist on pouring their tastings in thimble sized wine glasses. You can’t swirl, you can’t sniff, you can’t observe the color of the wine. You would think that wineries would want to showcase their product in the best light possible and I don’t mind paying to taste the wines, the least they can do is serve the wine in the proper glass.

My first stop of the day was at Waters Crest Winery at 22355 Route 48 in Cutchogue. The under the radar tasting room is the only one on Long Island located in a strip mall. The owner/winemaker Jim Waters is a negociant, he doesnt’ own any vineyards but buys grapes from local growers. I started the tasting with a sample of their 2011 Rose. What caught my eye was the bottle had the same shape as the prestigious Domaines Ott Rose. The bottle was nice and the wine wasn’t bad either, salmon color, dry with a clean, crisp finish. As I was sipping the wine, I heard the sounds of a crowd coming from the barrel room in the back. I asked the pourer what was going on and she told me they were there for the barrel sample tasting. I asked if that was still available and it was, so I made my way to the back room where Mr. Jim Waters and his wine thief gave out samples of four of his 2010 red wines. 2010 was a great vintage for Long Island so I had high hopes. The wines didn’t disappoint. The 2010 Merlot was harvested at 1.5 tons per acre and was dark to black, dense and chewy with some mint and cinnamon on the nose with moderate tannins. The 2010 Cabernet Franc was black with a nose of dried herbs, dense, with great fruit and silky tannins and moderat acids on the finish. The 2010 “Book Ends” was 90% Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot and Cabernet Franc rounding out the rest. It was dark and concentrated with a huge aromatic nose of crushed blueberries and dried herbs, great balance with a moderate to long finish. The last wine poured was the 2010 “Campania Rosso” and it is 85% Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc filling out the rest. It was black and concentrated with a nose of vanilla, cinnamon, crushed blueberries concentrated fruit with firm tannins and acids. I did get some heat on the finish but still a tasty wine. And they did serve the wines in a proper glass, small to medium with the upper part of the glass tapered in.

Next stop was Anthony Nappa’s Winemakers Studio located at 2885 Peconic Lane, Peconic. Many of the local winemakers have side projects and bottle wines under a second label. They are poured at this tasting room which is in a former 19th century general store. They had two new red wines they I haven’t had before both made by Anthony Nappa.

The 2010 “Dieci” is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. It was dark red to black with dried red fruits on the nose, chewy, chocolatey fruit with good balance. The 2010 “Blackbird” is 100% Merlot. It was dark red to black, ripe red cherry on the nose, tight fruit with firm tannins on the moderate to long finish. Nice wines. They do serve in a small wine glass but at least the shape was correct.

My last stop of the afternoon was at Clovis Point Winery located at 1935 Main Road in Jamesport. I’ve been here a few times before but only had their whites, today I had their red flight. And they served them in real Riedel wine glasses! The wines I enjoyed:


The 2005 Merlot had a nose of dusty prunes and spice with dusty fruit and good balance on the finish. The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon was black with toasty oak and mint on the nose with fruit of crushed blackberries.  The 2008 Cabernet Franc was medium red with white pepper on the nose, tight fruit with a peppery finish. The 2006 “Vitners Select” Merlot was unusual. It was made from free run juice, that is the grapes were not run through a wine-press. Medium dark with a nose of stewed fruits, tight with mouth filling tannins and crisp acids on the finish.

After the tasting I grabbed a glass of their NV Rose (100% Cab Franc) and relaxed out back before heading home.