Osprey’s Dominion, the 2011 Carmenere

A vibrant and juicy variety is adding to the East End’s lineup.

Adam Suprenant has said it before and he’ll say it again: “We’re the Rodney Dangerfield of the East End.” The winemaker at Osprey’s Dominion in Peconic is trying to say, with the good-naturedness of the comedian, that the winery doesn’t get any respect. And why not? It wins awards for its lush reds and pure whites and covers the price spectrum, from its spice wine ($14) and Richmond Creek ($12-14)(its second label) to the $20 to $50 reserve wines it makes only in the best years. Its vineyards cover 90 acres, and the first wine bottled was in 1991.

So where’s the glamour? Where are the splashy write-ups on glossy paper about the tasting-room experience and the many satisfied brides? “You know, what’s important is in the bottle,” says Suprenant.

We know, Adam; there’s no denying that. Osprey’s top bottlings have been in the same range of scores as some of the better-known wineries since Suprenant started crushing grapes there in 2001.

But none of that keeps the winery from chugging along, being thorough in the vineyard and making traditional North Fork wines like merlot and chardonnay. But recently the Osprey crew has been pushing ahead into new varieties and blends.

Ten years ago, the owners, Bud Tyree, who died in 2012, and Bud Koehler, began an extensive reinvestment that included a revamped tasting room, new equipment in the winery, conversions to green energy (including biofuel and a windmill) and a major replanting, mostly to get rid of the overabundance of chardonnay and pinot noir that came with the property.

What has come out of that are three 
varieties Suprenant thinks should be East End staples: carmenere, petit verdot and malbec. Argentinian malbec has had a lot of exposure in the marketplace recently, but it is also the main grape in the French region of Cahors, where it makes earthy purple wine. The region’s residents walk around with blue teeth as a badge of honor. Carmenere and petit verdot are two of the five grapes permitted in Bordeaux; now Osprey has all five, with merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc already in the field. Suprenant uses these in the winery’s top cuvée, Flight, a Bordeaux blend that fulfills the requirements of the Meritage Alliance, a trade group founded in 1988. The Alliance’s aim is to provide parameters to help ensure quality. To be able to use the term “Meritage” on the label, the wine cannot contain more than 90 percent of one variety of the Bordeaux five. Suprenant’s faith in Meritage is unique on Long Island.

The carmenere, however, is his baby. At first he thought it was going to be a blending grape, but the first harvest, in 2007, produced such beautiful fruit, he decided to bottle it on its own with a 20 percent merlot to round it out. He made 125 cases using the fruit from three-year-old vines. Today the wine is still vibrant, juicy and complex. He was hooked.

The 2011 Carmenere will be bottled in the fall. In a challenging year, which saw Hurricane Irene and much more rain, the wine, says Suprenant, is leaner but spicier, with some flash. The 2010 is in the bottle, another warm year like 2007, but it’s displaying more of the herbaceousness that can be typical of the grape. The 2012 is still in the tank, unblended and young, but showing the same complexity that got the folks at Osprey excited in the first place.

After tasting through the carmeneres, Suprenant looks pleased. “We often joke, if you walk out of here without buying a wine,” he says, “you just don’t really like wine.”