Long Island by the Bottle: Roanoke Vineyards 2018 “The Wild!” Chardonnay

Photo by Lenn Thompson

Long Island Chardonnay comes in many guises—from brisk, citrusy unoaked versions to the rich, buttery barrel-aged examples and just about everything in between. Quality varies greatly as well, but winemaker Roman Roth—known best for his work at Wolffer Estate—has a way with Long Island’s most-planted white grape. He makes many of my favorite local chardonnays.

He is also the winemaker for Roanoke Vineyards, and the current-release Roanoke Vineyards 2018 “The Wild!” Chardonnay ($24) is a long-time favorite of the winery’s large and loyal wine club. But, the 2018 is a bit different from past vintages. 

Roanoke’s Scott Sandell sums up the winemaking this way: “Very straightforward—wild ferment in stainless [steel tank],” he told me via email. By “wild” ferment he means that no commercial yeast was added to the grape juice for fermentation. Instead, fermentation was undertaken and completed by ambient yeasts on the grapes, in the juice and in the winery itself. 

There isn’t any Chardonnay in the estate vineyard at Roanoke, so grapes for this wine were sourced from Steve Mudd’s Mudd East Vineyard across the street from Sparkling Pointe. Roanoke co-owner Rich Pisacano planted the vineyard with Mudd in 1982. 

“Many of our members love [the] little residual sugar that characterizes the wine in years when the fermentation stops early,” Sandell said. “The 2018 went completely dry in its natural ferment.”

“We get a lot of ‘I don’t like Chardonnay, but I love The Wild!’ One of our mantras is to let the wine define itself, and with a wild ferment theme you’ll have wild vintage variations.”

Redolent of Golden Delicious apple, sweet lemon and pineapple, there is a faintly grassy floral notes on the nose. Lighter bodied but not lacking in flavor, the palate is more melon-driven with layers of citrus, pineapple and white flowers. There is nice balancing acidity here that lengthens the finish nicely. 

The Wild! from 2018 is a great seafood wine. It’s also fabulous by itself,” Sandell said. “I just served it at my art opening last Saturday. If it were chilly enough outside for a roast chicken, and you had a bottle of The Wild!, it may be a perfect moment.”