One great way to identify the best wineries in any given wine region is to taste the wines from lesser vintages. You can use any number of cliches here—the cream rises to the top, separating the wheat from the chaff, whatever—but it’s true. The best wineries make good, even great, wine in even the most challenging years.
There is little doubt 2018 was a challenging grape-growing season—particularly for red wine grapes. “Sugars were pretty low and we didn’t get a high level of extraction,” says Kelly Koch, winemaker at Macari Vineyards. “The wines we made all have great flavors and are easy-drinking, but don’t have the depth and complexity that we demand for our reserve-level wines.”
So don’t expect 2018 Bergen Road or Alexandra—the winery’s high-end red blends—to make their way to your cellar. It just wasn’t the year for that sort of wine on the North Fork.
You won’t even find the winery’s under-the-radar standout Lifeforce Cabernet Franc from 2018—at least not if you’re expecting it to be a red wine in the traditional sense.
Though the Macari Vineyards 2018 Lifeforce Cabernet Franc isn’t labeled as such, it’s really a darker-style rosé. Folks at Macari have been referring to it as a fall rosé, which makes sense. It’s juicy and fresh, but also more weighty and complex than most of the rose that floods the market every summer.
The funny thing is that Koch didn’t intend for it to be a rosé.
“My original intention was to make a red wine but as the fermentation went on it became very clear what direction the wine was going in,” she says, adding, “I wasn’t going to try and manipulate the wine to make it different than what it was going to be.”
The result has been a tasting room hit—but its popularity doesn’t surprise Koch. “This style of wine is so easy to like—easy drinking, lower alcohol and just plain delicious. I am not surprised that it is popular. This was our little secret in the cellar for a long time before it was bottled.”
It’s currently available in the winery’s Mattituck tasting room. They even have a few magnums (double bottles) that would be very at home on your Thanksgiving dinner table next month.