Time to Toast and Taste

Forty years ago a car ride down the Main Road on the North Fork meant something quite different than it does today. The landscape was still agriculture, broken at intervals by small towns. But it didn’t mean wine country: there were no tasting rooms nor grape vines to the horizon.

Opsrey MerlotReserveOur A-Z guide to wines that capture 40 years of Long Island Wine Country.

Forty years ago a car ride down the Main Road on the North Fork meant something quite different than it does today. The landscape was still agriculture, broken at intervals by small towns. But it didn’t mean wine country: there were no tasting rooms nor grape vines to the horizon.

Today, the business of wine and the pleasure of wine drinking have become an integral part of living on the East End, with wineries dotting both forks. To celebrate the anniversary of the first plantings of vinifera vines in 1973, we extend a high-five to all the wine growers, investors, vineyard managers, wine salespeople and winemakers who came, saw and conquered. Some moved their entire families out here to start a tenuous, at best, proposition. Others, locals, jumped in with both feet, ripping out their cauliflower and potatoes to see if they could keep up with the changing tastes of Americans.

On the following pages, with the help of all the members of the Long Island Wine Council, we have assembled a list of those wines that each producer feels best represents their winery on this anniversary. It’s not an easy choice, of course, not unlike a parent naming their favorite child. But reasons are given: for some it has to do with a great vintage, for others the use of a new type of oak. Still others chose their best seller or the bottle that has won the most awards. In this sense, the list captures a moment in Long Island winemaking history, and offers prodding for curious tasters to try sipping from A to Z.

Many of these wines are still available, waiting to be tasted during a visit to Long Island Wine Country. Which is the perfect thing to do in the fall. If you can’t make it to the East End, look for local wines at retail shops and in restaurants. If they don’t have them, ask. Forty years from now, the men and women working our farmland will thank you.

Eleanor Duke contributed reporting to this article and list.

 Click here to view the list of wines in full-page form, along with photos of the wines.

2012 ANOMALY
Anthony Nappa Wines

TASTING NOTES:
This 100% pinot noir is a white wine made from red grapes: un-oaked rich, full bodied with white cherry and strawberry fruit aromas and flavors, long, dry finish and a zing of acidity. 90 points Wine Enthusiast Magazine September 2012

REASON CHOSEN:
Our most important and widely available wine.

$20

2010 TASTE RED
Bedell Cellars

TASTING NOTES:
An opulent and juicy red from estate merlot, syrah, petit verdot, cabernet franc and malbec, with aromas of blueberry and violets with forest floor: 12 months in new and older French oak, will age for 10 years.

REASON CHOSEN:
Taste 2010 is part of our artist’s series and was chosen because we believe the vintage was extraordinary and unlike any other in Long Island’s 40-year history.

$60

2010 RED VELVET
Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard

TASTING NOTES:
Red Velvet is a balanced, sensuous blend of select merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, with dark fruits, coffee and peppery nuances aged in French oak: best served at 63°.

REASON CHOSEN:
We only produce this wine in our best years with our best fruit.

$34.99

2012 ROSÉ
Bouké

TASTING NOTES:
A formidable rosé with aromas of red currants, pomegranate, strawberries and raspberries. Soft and round with a lingering finish.

REASON CHOSEN:
All of our wines are very crisp, aromatic and food-friendly. When we opened in 2007, we started with rosé, so it is a specialty and a customer favorite.

$15.99

2008 MOTLEY CRU
Brooklyn Oenology

TASTING NOTES:
The 2008 vintage combines petit verdot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah and merlot for a rich, velvety mix of black fruit, pepper, violet, tobacco and leather.

REASON CHOSEN:
Motley Cru is our flagship red blend, embodying what BOE is all about. We use some of New York’s best grapes in an unconventional, interesting and experimental blend.

$24.99

2010 MOSAICO
Channing Daughters Winery

TASTING NOTES:
Texturally delicious, dry and aromatically unique with complex flavors and aromas of citrus, pears, stone and tropical fruit, beautiful notes of flowers, honey and brown spice.

REASON CHOSEN:
Mosaico is a field blend from a co-planted block on our Bridgehampton estate. With ambient yeast, the wine was fermented in a stainless steel tank and a new French oak puncheon.

$29

2010 CABERNET FRANC
Castello di Borghese Vineyard & Winery

TASTING NOTES:
Cabernet franc thrives in the region’s sandy loam and grows true to character with a violet and raspberry bouquet; French and Hungarian oak add a pleasing profundity to the cinnamon, plum and blackberry core.

REASON CHOSEN:
2010 was a great year for this grape. We, and our customers, agree, it was the best vintage yet.

$27

2007 ARCHEOLOGY
Clovis Point

TASTING NOTES:
Ripe red fruit from an outstanding vintage; 56% merlot, 21% cabernet sauvignon, 11% cabernet franc, 6% petit verdot and 6% syrah; firm acidity, ripe tannins, dark cherry flavors, subtle oak nose, full body and long finish.

REASON CHOSEN:
Our most ambitious red blend, made to be drunk now or be delectable in a decade. A truly collectable wine.

$60 Clovispointwines.com

2008 MERITAGE MERLOT
Coffee Pot Cellars

TASTING NOTES:
Merlot heavy with cabernet sauvignon for structure, and dollops of petit verdot and cabernet franc for balance and complexity. Aromas and flavors of blueberry, cassis and dried basil; sufficiently structured for aging.

REASON CHOSEN:
The wine is our first release and pride and joy. “Meritage” is for a winery’s highest-quality red blend using the traditional varieties Bordeaux.

$21.99

2012 ‘SAUVAGE’ MERLOT ROSÉ
Croteaux Vineyard

TASTING NOTES:
This rosé was fermented with ambient yeast. Sauvage (French for “wild”) is our lightest rosé with delicate flavors of fresh tea leaves and minerals.

REASON CHOSEN:
This soft seductive rosé, produced in very small quantities each year, is one of our favorites and sells out within a few weeks of release.

$25 Croteaux.com

2007 CANADIAN OAK CABERNET SAUVIGNON
Comtesse Thérèse

TASTING NOTES:
Our first wine aged in Canadian oak barrels, and we believe the only red wine in the U.S. aged this way.

REASON CHOSEN:
Ripe rich fruit from a very good year.

$30 Comtessetherese.com

2007 TRE
Diliberto Winery

TASTING NOTES:
Wonderful year and wonderful blend of 65% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon and 15% cabernet franc; well balanced and velvety.

REASON CHOSEN:
Tre is only made in the years when these grapes come together best. The 2008, 2009 and 2010 are on sale now.

$39 (sold out) Dilibertowinery.com

2010 PINOT NOIR
Duck Walk Vineyards

TASTING NOTES:
This 100% pinot noir opens on the nose with rose petals and a bacon smokiness. On the palate dark wild berries, clean finish due to balanced acidity; drink now, will be at prime in six to eight years; 50% new French oak.

REASON CHOSEN:
This limited production wine was chosen because it demonstrates Long Island’s ability to produce a pinot noir with depth of character and for the soft, approachable nature of the varietal.

$49.95

2007 MERLOT
Grapes of Roth

TASTING NOTES:
Dark red, almost black; vibrant ripe cassis and sandalwood aromas; full bodied with fantastic fruit and ripe tannin concentration with elegant structure. Layers of berry; lush, ongoing fruit and velvet tannins wrapped in well-integrated toasty oak; great minerality.

REASON CHOSEN:
This is a powerful statement that merlot is king on Long Island and can make a wine that can stand up to the best in the world

$50

2008 MERLOT RESERVE
Gramercy Vineyards

TASTING NOTES:
Dark black, classic aromas of cassis, red cherries, toasted sandalwood and vanilla. The mouthfeel is rich yet elegant, with wonderful prune and ripe black cherry notes, beautiful texture, minerality concentration and tannins; aged in French oak.

REASON CHOSEN:
My most robust merlot, grown in a low yield crop year. It is also the first year that I took over the vineyard farming and management.

$45

2010 HALLOCK LANE MERLOT
Harbes Family Vineyard

TASTING NOTES:
100% merlot from estate-grown fruit; barrel aged 19 months in French oak. Undertones of cedar and clove, enriched by silky texture of vanilla. Spicy black cherry and plum flavors supported by deep tannins.

REASON CHOSEN:
This wine was served at my wedding to my beautiful wife in July 2012, and it is the most full-bodied expression of merlot our estate vineyard has produced.

$49.95

2007 JUBILANT RESERVE
Jamesport Vineyards

TASTING NOTES:
Aromas of spiced fig, macerated cherries and anise; full bodied with notes of sarsaparilla, Bing cherries, tobacco; will age for vintages to come. 68% cabernet franc, 18% merlot, 14% cabernet sauvignon, 2.5% syrah, and 2.5% petit verdot.

REASON CHOSEN:
This wine was chosen for its full-bodied flavor and motif of positivity. “Jubilant” means to show great joy, satisfaction or triumph. This 2007 reserve is truly jubilant!

$44.95

2009 CABERNET FRANC
Laurel Lake Vineyards

TASTING NOTES:
This opaque, substantial wine bursts on the palate with peppery flavors and hints of toasty cedar; well balanced with intense aromas and a soft, velvety finish. Note the deep ruby-red color and smooth, rich tannins.

REASON CHOSEN:
This customer favorite is our most award-winning and highest-rated red wine; rated 92 points “Exceptional” in the Beverage Testing Institute 2011 World Wine Championships.

$20 LLwines.com

2009 MALBEC
Jason’s Vineyard

TASTING NOTES:
Only 230 cases produced of the estate-grown malbec; currants, black cherries, cola and white pepper; stainless steel fermented and aged in one-year-old French oak barrels for 13 months.

REASON CHOSEN:
This is the first malbec from Jason’s Vineyard, an exciting and special wine for the estate. Chosen for its rich nose, complex bouquet, abundant mouthfeel and wonderful finish.

$28.95 Jasonsvineyard.com

2011 PINOT BLANC
Lieb Cellars

TASTING NOTES:
Our signature wine is made from some of the oldest vines on the North Fork (circa 1982); fermented in stainless steel for varietal character; notes of apple, pear and rose petals open to honey; palate is balanced and crisp with long finish of fruit and minerals.

REASON CHOSEN:
We are one of two vineyards producing pinot blanc on Long Island. Our reserve has been an award-winner for the last several years.

$22

2006 MERLIANCE
Long Island Merlot Alliance

TASTING NOTES:
Merliance is the only cooperative wine on Long Island; 100% merlot, made from two barrels of finished wine from Pellegrini Vineyards, Raphael, Sherwood House Vineyards, Shinn Estate Vineyards and Wölffer Estate Vineyard. Only 250 cases produced.

REASON CHOSEN:
2006 was cool, resulting in elegant, well-structured wines with strong aromatics and food-friendly acidity. This wine is drinking beautifully, demonstrating “lesser” vintages can produce great wines over time.

$35 Longislandmerlot.com

2007 BEN’S BLEND
McCall Wines

TASTING NOTES:
This blend combines merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot; rated 91 points in Wine Spectator. “Supported by well- integrated tannins and kept lively by fresh acidity. There’s plenty of fruit and oak, but the wine stays graceful.”

REASON CHOSEN:
Only bottled in the best vintages, Ben’s Blend is named for our first vineyard manager, Ben Sisson, who loved the outdoors, sustainable agriculture, North Fork wine country and his family.

$48

2012 SAUVIGNON BLANC
Macari Vineyards & Winery

TASTING NOTES:
100% stainless-steel fermented pale-yellow wine; grapefruit, green melon, pear, lemon and thyme nose with fresh and elegant flavors and acidity; 2,030 cases produced.

REASON CHOSEN:
We believe in this variety on Long Island. Its great acidity and varietal characteristics shine and represent our region and terroir.

$23

2012 ESTATE RESERVE RIESLING
Martha Clara Vineyards

TASTING NOTES:
Floral and kaffir lime leaf on nose; palate of white tea leaf and wistful acidity perfect with the residual sugar. Drink now through 2020.

REASON CHOSEN:
This wine has received many high honors, including the coveted Jefferson Trophy and the Governor’s Cup; it demonstrates the potential our vineyard and the North Fork offers for this regal varietal.

$25.99 Marthaclaravineyards.com

2005 OLD WORLD BLEND
Mattebella Vineyards

TASTING NOTES:
This classic Bordeaux Blend is an elegant, rich and smooth wine with feminine tannins; 75% merlot, 17% cabernet sauvignon and 8% cabernet franc.

REASON CHOSEN:
Served in fine restaurants like Jean Georges and Gotham Bar and Grill, this wine garnered a 90-point score from Wine Spectator.

$55

2007 GREAT BLUE HERON
Onabay Vineyards

TASTING NOTES:
Bordeaux inspired this blend of 68% merlot and 32% cabernet franc; aromas of plums, raspberries and a hint of licorice; medium-bodied, with elegant tannins and bright acidity.

REASON CHOSEN:
Our Great Blue has received critical acclaim for being a spectacular blend of two red varietals that have proven to be well-suited partners on the North Fork of Long Island.

$19.99 Onabayvineyards.com

2007 COMMODORE PERRY MERLOT
The Old Field Vineyards

TASTING NOTES:
Only our most exceptional vintages are called Commodore Perry. This 100% merlot tastes of deep dark cherry, ripened fig and bay leaves ending in a long, chewy finish.

REASON CHOSEN:
This wine marks an ancestral connection to Matthew Calbraith Perry, who opened Japan to the West. Handcrafted by Olive Perry Weiss, named for Matthew’s brother, Oliver Hazard Perry, another famous U.S. Naval Officer and hero of the Battle of Lake Erie, War of 1812.

$40 Theoldfield.com

2011 GRÜNER VELTLINER
One Woman Wines & Vineyard

TASTING NOTES:
Stainless steel fermented; jammy notes of apricot, ripe melon, green apple and a white pepper finish.

REASON CHOSEN:
We are currently the only growers on Long Island to make grüner veltliner. Claudia’s meticulousness in the vineyard has helped this vine thrive and produce superb-quality fruit that she then crafts into this medium-bodied yet dry white wine.

$23

2007 RESERVE MERLOT
Osprey’s Dominion

TASTING NOTES:
Balanced and dense; ripe plum and black cherry flavors framed by smoke and mineral notes, supported by firm, well-integrated tannins. Sleek, focused and expressive.

REASON CHOSEN:
An Atlantic Seaboard gold medal winner in 2010, the winner of Best Merlot in New York State at the New York Wine and Food Classic, and a 90-point recipient from Wine Spectator.

$35

2010 MALBEC
Peconic Bay Winery

TASTING NOTES:
The 2010 Malbec is medium full bodied; a violet, leather, plum and lavender scented wine with an exotic complexity. The taste is soft, plump with black fruits and floral undertones, lightly gripping tannin.

REASON CHOSEN:
We chose it because it was the first fruit issued from the malbec vines we grafted onto merlot roots, originally planted in 2000.

$29

2012 SAUVIGNON BLANC
Palmer Vineyards

TASTING NOTES:
Classic characteristics of grapefruit, lemongrass and green apple with notes of mineral and lemon peel. Clean palate with honeydew melon, good fruit weight and intensity.

REASON CHOSEN:
Rows of sauvignon blanc planted from east to west; we remove leaves on the north side to receive morning sunshine but are still shielded from the scorching afternoon sun. This method lends itself to a fresh, elegant flavor profile.

$20.99

2005 RESERVE
Pellegrini Vineyards

TASTING NOTES:
Opulent berry and cherry on palate, anise aromas. Full-bodied, velvety tannins and medium-long finish. Nicely crafted and well balanced. 94% merlot, 4% cabernet sauvignon, 2% petit verdot.

REASON CHOSEN:
Our first reserve bottling, this has been one of our best-rated wines. It is also a testament to the dedication and belief that we can make world-class wines on the North Fork

$69.99 Pellegrinivineyards.com

2012 SAUVIGNON BLANC
Pindar Vineyards

TASTING NOTES:
89% sauvignon blanc, 11% semillon stainless steel fermented. The magnificent 2010 vintage has an unusually big profile with rich mouthfeel, aromas of gooseberry, lemongrass and a crisp, clean finish.

REASON CHOSEN:
Grown on the bluffs, less than 100 yards from the Long Island Sound, the north-south sloping vineyard produces a sauvignon blanc of distinct flavors and aromas reminiscent of the great wines of Bordeaux.

$18.99

2011 PINOT GRIGIO
Pugliese Vineyards

TASTING NOTES:
Only 300 cases produced, this pinot grigio is delicately fragrant and mildly floral with lightly lemon citrus flavors.

REASON CHOSEN:
Most of our customers love the pinot grigio, and it’s also my favorite. It was my father’s idea to plant the pinot grigio—that’s why it’s so special to me.

$17.99 Pugliesevineyards.com

2005 FIRST LABEL MERLOT
Raphael

TASTING NOTES:
Full of ripe, complex fruit exhibiting the strength of an outstanding vintage. Dark fruit flavors with mint, eucalyptus, leather and tobacco aromas. Dense and jammy yet supple and harmonious, with layers of floral freshness integrated with toasty oak and vanilla.

REASON CHOSEN:
First Label is reserved for our finest wine, aged in French oak barrels. The 2005 is the product of a near-perfect growing season providing us with grapes harvested at peak ripeness.

$49.99

2003 MERLOT
Reilly Cellars

TASTING NOTES:
Light-bodied wine with mature dark cherry fruit from a veteran grower. Leather notes, elegant finish.

REASON CHOSEN:
This is the first year I saved some of my own grapes to bottle under the Reilly label. Now licensed, the vineyard’s wines will be available retail.
$15 no website available

2010 GABBY’S CABERNET FRANC
Roanoke Vineyards

TASTING NOTES:
Crafted by Roman Roth from the remarkable 2010 vintage; spent short time in new and one-year-old barrels; exhibits depth and complexity. Deep color and solid structure indicate a long-lived wine. Floral nose; cherry, currant, and elegant plum on finish.

REASON CHOSEN:
This wine was selected because we haven’t released it, so we still have some (!), and the wine was recently reviewed in winelinesonline.com: “This is World-Class Cab Franc.” So, we think it is probably OK, eh?

$34

2010 MISTURA
Scarola Vineyards

TASTING NOTES:
The wine spent 22 days macerating on the grape skins; stainless steel fermentation then oak barrels; bottled unfiltered and un-fined. Pronounced aromas of dark plum and black cherry lead to a full-bodied and lush mouthfeel; balanced acidity, moderate tannins and ripe savory overtones.

REASON CHOSEN:
Mistura (blend in Italian) is our Bordeaux blend. The great vintage allowed us the luxury of blending the perfect combination of wines.

$24

2010 SPOTLIGHT PETIT VERDOT
Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard

TASTING NOTES:
Petit verdot, 85%, complemented by 15% cabernet sauvignon. Deep, dark color. Aromas of cedar and smoky spice; dense, dark, concentrated blackberry, black cherry and ripe plum; lingering finish.

REASON CHOSEN:
This wine is a great representation of a Long Island petit verdot. Howard Goldberg of the New York Times said, “The 2010 Spotlight petit verdot is a charmer. It is smooth, with a flower-garden scent that is nearly sweet, and its flavor is vividly grapey.”

$45

2010 CHARDONNAY
Sherwood House Vineyards

TASTING NOTES:
From a superb vintage, this barrel-fermented chardonnay is well balanced, complex and delicious. Aromas of pear, vanilla and apricot; lush and lively flavors of citrus, apple and hazelnut. Drink now or hold for one to two years.

REASON CHOSEN:
Barrel-fermented chardonnay is our flagship: the reason we planted our vineyard, the first wine we produced, our most critically acclaimed wine and the wine that we cannot wait to taste and share every year.

$30

2009 NINE BARRELS
Shinn Estate Vineyards

TASTING NOTES:
Estate blend of nine different barrels of merlot that best express the vintage. It is finished with a splash of petit verdot and malbec; 20 months in French oak. Rich, concentrated and brooding. Drink it now or over the next 15 years.

REASON CHOSEN:
We chose it because it is the kind of wine we imagined crafting when we first planted our vineyard in 2000.

$42

2010 RED
Suhru Wines

TASTING NOTES:
75% merlot, 13% petit verdot, 8% cabernet franc, 3% shiraz, 1% cabernet sauvignon; lush blackberry, dark plums and cassis fruit and full-bodied fine tannin; big and bold, with moderate alcohol.

REASON CHOSEN:
2010 was a special growing season with hot and dry weather, producing exceptionally ripe fruit. We are excited about the quality of this red blend, which is why we picked the 2010 Suhru Red.

$19.95

2003 BRUT SÉDUCTION
Sparkling Pointe

TASTING NOTES:
Deep gold, this mature sparkler has fantastic aromas of brioche and toasty almonds; tiny bubbles tickle and refresh; wild berry and floral aroma delivers a rare, rich and complex cuvée.

REASON CHOSEN:
Sparkling Pointe Brut Séduction is the prestige cuvée of the house and has been rewarded with many accolades and ratings. This is a great example of the potential New York State has as an award-winning, world-class wine region.

$60

2007 RESERVE RED
T’Jara Vineyards

TASTING NOTES:
Six red varieties come together in seamless harmony; lush dark stone fruit aromas and flavors dominate; ripe elegant tannins fill the mid-palate and linger to a plump, rich finish. Drink now or cellar.

REASON CHOSEN:
Blends are the finest expression of a vintage, where vintners can show their skill and creative flair. This wine reaches for the pinnacle in quality that can be achieved on the North Fork of Long Island.

$34 Tjaravineyards.com

2007 CABERNET FRANC
Waters Crest Winery

TASTING NOTES:
Aged 18 months in new French oak; earthy bouquet, silky mouthfeel with jammy plum and well-integrated spice and pepper. After the meticulous harvest, a three-day cold soak helps the juice take on a vibrant garnet color and develop intense tannins.

REASON CHOSEN:
Cabernet franc was one of the most interesting varietals of 2007. As always, it was harvested by hand ensuring the selection of the the finest berry clusters.

$49.99

2010 CLALETTO
Wölffer Estate Vineyard

TASTING NOTES:
Dark red, almost black; intense aromas of prunes, blackberry jam, vanilla, cedar and fine leather; ripe plums, figs and black cherry; layers of velvety tannins, wonderful acidity, concentration and balance. Huge, complex finish, with lush dark chocolate, elegant tannins and great minerality.

REASON CHOSEN:
Due to the partial drying of the fruit, this concentrated wine embodies the food friendliness and the longevity of our wines and pushes quality to new heights.

$85

Come toast with us. Twenty wineries from this list will be pouring at the launch party of Edible Long Island on November 6. 

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