It’s not obvious to the general (wine-drinking) public, but the notorious single-varietal guy, Eric Fry, winemaker at the Lenz Winery, does make some blends. He does it for amusement, for interest, for subscribers. But soon the general (wine-drinking) public will be able to taste what Fry says will never be more than 5 percent of the wineries output: wines such as a merlot blended with malbec, or a cabernet franc–malbec blend or the triple threat: a malbec–cabernet franc–petit verdot.
Since the fall of 2010, Lenz has released red blends as part of its Subscriber Series, which has been made available for purchase only to members of their wine club. Each year, so far, the wines have sold out, which has led Fry (at right) and Dorothy Dean Thomas, a consultant who manages the club, to consider upping production, offering the wine to subscribers first and then releasing the rest to visitors in the tasting room. Thomas says the winery has quarterly pick-up parties for subscribers. Usually attendance is around 70 people. The last one, she says, was 150. The wine is not available in retail or restaurants.
“I’m not going in whole hog,” says Fry, “with something silly with a silly name.” (The man has never been shy with his opinions.) “We name our wines after what they are. If it’s a merlot-malbec, that’s what we put on the label.”
Also since 2010, subscribers have been able to purchase a single-varietal pinot gris; in one year Fry only made 35 cases of it. The first red was a blend of merlot and malbec from the 2006 vintage. Late last winter they released a 2007 cabernet franc–malbec. Both of these bottlings have sold out. But for February 2013, Fry is working on a blend of malbec, cabernet franc and petit verdot, what he calls the three minor varieties. Which means of the five grapes approved for the production of Bordeaux, those are the three least used. (The major varieties are merlot and cabernet sauvignon.) All the fruit for these wines are estate grown and bottled on site.
Steve Gonick, a resident of Albany who just bought a vacation home in Southold to be near Wine Country, has been a member of the Lenz wine club since 2010. When the ’07 cabernet franc–malbec came out, he bought six bottles. “It’s one of my go-to’s,” he says.
The praise and the success of the blends will not sway Fry’s core beliefs in single varietals. It’s not dogma or ideology, he just likes the way they taste. “I’ve always been very traditional varietal,” he says. “Merlot should taste like merlot, cabernet sauvignon should taste like cabernet sauvignon. The blends are fun, but still, primarily, I like what merlot tastes like.”