The Other Cabernet On Long Island

 

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Cabernet Franc is one of the major red varietals of the world and the parent grape to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It is medium bodied with medium to high acidity and in its historical home, France, it is one of the grapes used in the classic Bordeaux blend and the primary red grape in the Loire region. It’s also a major grape varietal in both the Finger Lakes and Long Island wine regions of New York State.

Out in the Long Island wine region, the early (than Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) ripening grape was thought to be a perfect fit for the cooler climate on the North Fork.  It hasn’t dethroned Merlot as the primary grape varietal but most wineries grow it either for blending or bottling on its own.

On a quiet Sunday afternoon I took a drive to wine country to sample a few.

 

Roanoke Vineyards Tasting Room  165 Love Lane, Mattituck

This is their satellite tasting room as the tasting room at the winery is now members only. On a two block long commercial area with a cheese shop next door and an Italian deli across the street.

2016 Cabernet Franc: “The Twelve Rows”:  98% Cabernet Franc from the site specific Twelve Rows block. Cloudy medium purple with a purple rim, camphor, crushed red fruit, licorice and dark chocolate on the nose, bright dark fruit with raspberry notes on the crisp finish. 

 

Bedell Cellars  36225 Main Road, Cutchogue

A family owned operation with vines planted in 1980 using sustainable farming and “artistic blending”.

2017 Cabernet Franc:  From estate grown grapes fermented with indigenous yeasts, opaque black with a purple rim, cooked berries, raspberry and mike chocolate on the nose, bright red fruit with firm acidity, I thought the finish dropped a bit at the end. 

 

Paumanok Vineyards  1074 Main Road, Aquabogue

Founded in 1983 and entirely owned and managed by Ursula and Charles Massoud, the tasting room is in a turn of the century renovated barn.

2016 Cabernet Franc: 100% Cabernet Franc, opaque dark red, purple rim, slate, crushed rocks and wet dirt on the nose, bright red cherry fruit with wet earth notes on the fruit, low tannin, firm acidity, on the light side. 

 

 

 

Outlier Wineries Of Long Island

 

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The Long Island wine industry has grown tremendously since the first vines were planted in the early 1970’s. Now there are 2,000 acres devoted to growing grapes and 55+ vineyards and wineries on the North and South fork of the island with three of those are on the South Fork and the rest of the bulk of them on the North Fork AVA. The North Fork is a 30 mile long peninsula that’s not very wide. It was inevitable that vineyards would be planted west of the two forks and a handful of new wineries have opened for business. I spent an afternoon on a touring a few.

 

Harmony Vineyards  169 Harbor Road, St. James

This winery established in 1999 has to be one of the most scenic wineries on Long Island. After a drive along rolling hills you arrive at the winery and the tasting  room is in an historic circa 1690 home built by one of the original European settlers. It’s like being in a museum. The back patio overlooks a vineyard sloping down to Stony Brook harbor. All their reds are a Bordeaux blend consisting of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with vintages from 2005-2016. On this Sunday afternoon I had to place all to myself.

2015 Harmonious Blend

Opaque black with a purple rim, black licorice on the nose, dark and concentrated, chewy with mint and slate notes on the nicely balanced finish.

 

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Whisper Vineyards  485 Edgewood Avenue, St. James

First vines planted in 2004. The tasting room is in the Borellas Farm Stand which sits across the highway from the vineyard., very low key. Another tasting room all to myself.

2008 Merlot

Unfiltered 100% Merlot matured for 18 months. Opaque dark red with an amber rim, roast hazelnuts on the nose, tight and concentrated with chewy, black fruit ending with firm, silky tannins with a touch of astringency at the finish.

 

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Del Vino Vineyards  29 Norwood Road, Northport

The first winery on the north shore wine trail as you travel East. This family run winery was built on an old apple farm. The previous two tasting rooms were a much more sedate experience since I was the only one in the room drinking, this tasting room was completly polar opposite experience. The villa type building which was opened in 2018 is a restaurant as well as a tasting room and it must be a popular restaurant because on this Sunday afternoon the place was mobbed. I was able to find a spot at the bar to sample a glass of wine and listen to the live music.

2018 “Ultimo”

They call this their Cabernet blend but in previous vintages they included Merlot and Tempranillo. Clear medium to dark red in color, toasty red cherry and crushed rocks on the nose, rustic, with toasted nuts at the beginning and finishing with a big hit of dark chocolate.

 

 

Women Winemakers Of Long Island

 

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With over 55 vineyards and wineries out on Long Island there are a lot of winemakers being kept busy. On this cloudy Sunday afternoon I decided to take a winery run to the North Fork of Long Island and sample wines made by women winemakers.

 

The Old Field Vineyards 59600 Main Road, Southold

Winemakers: Rosamond and Perry Bliss

Haven’t been to this out of the way vineyard for a while. They planted vinifera grapes in 1974 which makes it along with the old Hargrave Vineyard (now Castello di Borghese) which was established in 1973, the oldest vineyards on the Island. At this family run winery, you get the full rural experience. You’ll be surrounded by barns with chickens running around the property and you sample their wines made by a mother and daughter winemaking team in a rustic 1860’s tasting barn.

NV Rooster Tail

Mostly Merlot with about 10% Cabernet Franc. Opaque dark red to black in color, closed nose of slate and crushed black fruit, thick, chewy and dusty fruit with firm acidity at the finish.

 

One Women Winery 5195 Old North Road, Southold

Winemaker: Claudia Purita

One of my favorite wineries to visit when I’m out East. Another family run operation with probably the smallest tasting room on the wine circuit. When I walked in I spotted a bottle of Petite Vedot on the table which was a new bottling for them so I had to give it a try.

2016 Petite Verdot

Inky black with a purple rim, dried rosemary and crushed rocks on the nose, tight, dusty fruit with mouth coating tannins on the finish.

 

Peconic Cellar Door 2885 Peconic Lane, Peconic

Winemakers: Robin Epperson-McCarthy, Alie Shaper

One of the newest tasting rooms out East, it’s an off-site tasting room in an old general store featuring the wines from a pair of women winemakers. It’s also next door to another tasting room, the Winemaker Studio.

2017 Saltbird Sauvignon Blanc “Migratus”

Barrell fermented, gold in color, cooked asparagus on the nose, very viscous for a white with cooked fruit on the finish, moderate to low acidity.

 

Macari Vineyards 150 Bergen Avenue, Mattituck

Winemaker: Kelly Urbanik Koch

And another family run winery, this one established in 1995 with a couple of tasting rooms on the North Fork wine trail.

2016 Cabernet Franc “Lifeforce”

This wine has been fermented in a concrete egg. It’s a lighter version than most  Cabernet Francs you find on the Island, closer in style to what you would find in the Loire. Clear light red in color, roasted nuts on the nose, crisp red licorice fruit.

 

 

 

Unoaked Chardonnay Long Island

 

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During the warm Summer months I’ve a fan of rosé wine, but sometimes I’m not in the mood for pink so I’ll have a glass of white. To sip on a hot day those big, fat, oaky and buttery whites won’t cut it in the warm weather so my go to wines will be the lighter, crisper versions with no or minimal oak treatment.

Chardonnay is the queen of white wines on the east end of Long Island. Wine makers love it since it’s malleable enough to make it in several styles. Most of the wineries on the east end make an oak and non-oaked version.

I spent a cloudy afternoon out east looking for non-oaked white Summer sippers.

 

 

Laurel Lake Vineyards  3165 Main Road, Laurel

Established in 1984 it’s one of the older wineries on the east end, off the radar winery with consistent wines and a nice deck out back overlooking the vineyard.

2017 Estate Chardonnay

Medium to light gold in color, asparagus, crushed rock and cotton candy on the nose, tight with surprisingly buttery notes on the finish with nice acidity.

 

Lenz Vineyards  38355 Main Road, Peconic

One of the granddaddies of the wine industry on the east end being established in 1978. They are more known for their reds, especially their Merlots.

2014 Chardonnay “White Label”

An older vintage than expected. Dark gold in color, canned peaches and green herbs on the nose, tight, peachy fruit with lemon notes on the balanced finish. Holding up well.

 

Macari Vineyards  150 Bergen Avenue, Mattituck

A family run operation established in 1995 with a large tasting room and an outdoor deck with sweeping views of the vineyard.

2016 Estate Chardonnay

Served in a proper wine glass, medium yellow with greenish tints, green apple on the nose, dry, crisp with mouth watering acidity and green apple notes on the finish. Nice Summer sipper.

 

RG/NY  6025 Sound Avenue, Riverhead

This is the former Martha Clara winery that was recently purchased by the Mexican winemaking family Rivero Gonzalez. They are bottling wine under their label now.

2018 Scielo (Heaven) Chardonnay

Medium to light yellow, watermelon on the nose, peachy, melon notes on the full fruit with lime notes on the firm finish.

 

 

Rosé Long Island

 

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With the warmer weather approaching that means that rosé season is upon us. It’s not surprising that on an island with miles of beaches and beach towns that drinking rosé wine would be very popular, in fact in the Hampton’s this year they are talking about a rosé shortage.

Every east end winery bottles a rosé which usually sells out quickly. While you won’t be drinking any of the grape varietals used to make rosé in the south of France such as Mouvedre, Cinsault or Grenache, they make do with Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc.

One recent Saturday afternoon I drove out East to try a few.

 

One Women Winery 5195 Old North Road, Southold

Small production winery, a real mom & pop operation with excellent wines. Small, cozy tasting shack with knowledgeable staff, not much space inside but there are tables surrounding the tasting room.

2018 Rosé

A blend of Merlot and Pinot Noir, recently bottled.  Light copper in color, watermelon on the nose with light melon notes on the fruit, nice balance with refreshing acidity at the finish.

 

Corey Creek Tap Room  36225 Main Road, Cutchogue

Owned by Bedell Cellars, as the name suggests they serve only small batch wines on tap, “fresh from our cellar”. The tasting room has a nautical décor with an outdoor seating area overlooking the vineyard.

2018 Rosé Syrah

Light pink in color with sweet melon on the nose and fresh peach notes on the fruit with some residual sugar coming through at the finish.

 

McCall Wines  22600 Main Road, Cutchogue

McCall is not only a vineyard but a cattle ranch as well. They raise grass-fed Charolais cattle, a heritage European breed, on the adjacent ranch and is one of the few vineyards that bottle a pinot noir. The rustic tasting room is a former potato curing barn. There’s always one of the owners on hand overseeing the tasting room and pouring.

2018 Marjorie’s Rosé

A blend of Syrah and Merlot, light copper in color, sweet kiwi on the nose, funky melon on the full fruit with crisp acidity on the finish.

 

 

Pét-Nat On Long Island

 

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Pét-Nat (pétillant natural) wines are how they made sparkling wines in the old country (methode ancestral) before they came up with the methode champenoise method. Simply, after the wine undergoes its initial fermentation, it’s put in a bottle and capped while the wine continues to ferment and releases carbon dioxide into the wine. That’s simpler than the two-step process used in making Champagne. The wines are usually not disgorged or filtered which gives them a cloudy look with sediment at the bottom of the bottle.

This type of wine is trendy right now so it’s not surprising that some wineries on Long Island would produce them though they are in limited production as I found out when I went out for a tasting. I showed up at a couple of wineries that I knew poured pét-nats from previous visits only to find they were all out and the current inventory were still in the cellar.

I was still able to find a few to try. Anyone who enjoys a nice Lambrusco from Italy would like these wines. The ones I tried were crisp and refreshing and would be perfect for the upcoming warmer days.  

 

Peconic Cellar Door 2885 Peconic Lane, Peconic

This is a small tasting room opened by the wine makers from BQE and Saltbird Cellars and is adjacent to another tasting room (Winemakers Studio). They pour wines from small producers who don’t have their own tasting facilities.

 

2018 As If Wines “GratitudeGewürztraminer

Orange hue, green apple on the nose, clear with sediment at the bottom of the bottle, dry and crisp with orange notes on the finish.

 

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Jamesport Vineyards  1216 Main Road, Jamesport

One of the first wineries you run into on the north fork wine trail as you drive East with one of the oldest vineyards on the North Fork. The tasting room is in a 165 year old barn.  

 

2016 Albarino

Cloudy medium yellow, lemon, pineapple and green apple on the nose, crisp and bone dry with flinty notes on the finish.

 

2015 Cabernet Franc

Clear copper with sediment at the bottom of the bottle, hints of strawberry on the nose, tight with lemony tartness on the finish. A bit more one-dimensional than the Albarino.

 

 

 

Winter Wine Crawl On Long Island

 

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It’s that time of year, after the holiday rush when things slow down a bit including social events, but not completely this is New York City after all. I decided to spend a chilly Sunday afternoon in wine country. Usually I have a theme that guides me in tasting decisions but this time around I had none. When I got to wine country I decided on Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

 

Mattebella Vineyards  46005 Main Road, Southold

Mattebella is a small, family farm whose motto is “wine, passion, craftmanship”and who make “old world style wines” using sustainable winemaking practices. To get to the tiny tasting room you walk through a garage-sale motif yard.

NV Famiglia Red Blend: 932 cases produced, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Dark purple to black in color with slate and crushed blueberries on the nose, thick and juicy with gun-metal and  dark chocolate on the balanced fruit with soft and silky tannins.

 

Lenz Winery  38355 Main Road, Peconic

Lenz winery was established in 1978 making it one of the founding fathers of the industry out east, the tasting room is an old barn. They are known for their old vine Merlot but today I sampled a Cabernet Sauvignon.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Estate”: 2014 was an excellent year on Long Island. The wine is black in color with dark chocolate and slate on the nose, thick and chunky with moderate tannins, red cherry and slate notes on the finish, an enjoyable glass of wine.

 

Pellegrini Vineyards  23005 Main Road, Cutchogue

Winery with an Italian cloister design courtyard and building with a cellar and barrel room that you can take a self tour of. You sample the wines in a two-story, cherub strewn, wood-beamed tasting room.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Estate”: Dark red to black with a purple rim, roasted coffee and ripe red fruit on the nose, thick and chunky with ripe red leather notes on the fruit with moderate tannins and acids.

 

Sherwood House/Hound’s Tree Vineyards  1291 Main Road, Jamesport

Finally, a tasting room with a proper wine glass and a nice one at that. I wish that tasting rooms would realize that their wines would show better in a wine glass that wasn’t thimble sized. The cozy tasting room is in a 1870’s farm-house with a fireplace and is attached to an antique/art store so there’s always some funky artwork on the property. They serve wines from two wineries.

2016 Hound’s Tree Cabernet Sauvignon: Dark red with an amber rim, roast bacon and hazelnuts on the nose, clean, fairly neutral fruit with moderate to light tannin and acids, easy drinking.