Monday, February 18, 2008

Long Island Wines: Some Reviews

One of my other major stops during the Boston Wine Expo was to the New York Wines section, primarily Long Island wines. Despite the closeness of Massachusetts to New York, you still don't see many New York wines available in the local wine stores. So I wanted to give them a try, to see if I could find any gems.

Though I tried Long Island wines from several different producers, about nine wines in all, none of them truly impressed me. I found some good wines but nothing exceptional. I only tried a tiny fraction of New York wines so that is certainly not indicative of the general state of their wines. I am sure there are impressive wines produced there. They just were not the ones I tasted.

I was pleased to note though that nearly all of the wines I did try were only around 13% alcohol content. It does not seem that they have followed California's lead in producing the higher 15-16% alcohol content wines. I was not pleased that several of the wines seemed overpriced. Though some of the wines were good, they were just not good enough for the price they were asking.

Of the wines I tasted, I found those from Bedell Cellars were generally the best. Bedell Cellars is located on the North Fork of Long Island. It has a state-of-the-art winery which has custom designed open-top fermenting tanks and a gravity-driven regime to minimize pumping and filtering.

I first tried their 2006 Bedell Cellars Estate Merlot, which had just been a bottled a few weeks before. This wine is made from 100% Merlot and was aged six months in French oak, about 33% new. It has an alcohol content of 13% and only 1900 cases were produced. I found this wine to be a bit tight and I think it needs either time to breathe or maybe a bit more cellaring. I did taste some good fruit and it certainly has potential but I don't think it was showing its best yet. I certainly would like to try this wine again in a few months.

I moved on to the 2006 Bedell Cellars Taste Red ($35). This is a blend of 62% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah and 9% Cabernet Franc. I note that the 2006 vintage has more Merlot than the 2005. The wine was aged 15 months in French oak, 50% new, and has an alcohol content of 13%. Only 631 cases were produced and it is not due out until March 1. I enjoyed this wine and found it to have nice dark berry and plum flavors mixed with plenty of spice and a bit of vanilla. I think this wine will improve with age though it is clear this will be a very good wine.

I finished up with the 2005 Bedell Cellars Musee ($65), their elite wine. This is blend of 78% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. It spent 15 months in French oak, 50% new, and has an alcohol content of 12.9%. 962 six-bottles cases were produced. This was another wine that I enjoyed. It is dark red in color with bright fruit on the palate and a complex structure. There is an interesting collection of flavors that come out, from cococa to vanilla, from spice to currant. It seemed a bit tannic though and needs time to breathe or cellar. I am not sure that this wine though warrants the high price. It was not exceptional enough for me to consider buying it at its price.

Pellegrini Vineyards are also located on the North Fork of Long Island. I tried two of their wines, one which I liked and the other which was ok but probably not something I would buy.

The 2002 Pellegrini Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($20) is made from 93% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Merlot. It spent eighteen months in French oak and has an alcohol content of 13.3%. Only 814 cases were produced. I found this to be a rather ordinary Cabernet, even a bit tart, and nothing special.

I was more pleased with their 2001 Pellegrini Vineyards Merlot ($20) which is made from 98% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot. It spent eighteen months in French oak and has an alcohol content of 13.8%. Only 2396 cases were produced. This wine was light red in color yet was a big wine, full bodied with dark berry flavors and a good structure. It had a decently long finish and was a good example of Merlot. A good wine that is worth the price.

I was very disappointed with the 2004 Castello Di Borghese Estate Pinot Noir ($27.99). Though the winery feels this was an excellent vintage, the wine did not impress me in the least. It seemed to me a generic Pinot with a short finish. I would not have bought this at half the price.

The 2004 Waters Crest Winery Private Reserve Merlot ($34.99) was a nice Merlot but I did not find it to be that complex. It had good fruit and a balanced structure but it was not good enough to me to justify its price. I might have paid $20 for this wine but no more than that.

I also tried two wines from Martha Clara Vineyards, which is owned by Robert Entenmann of Entenmann Bakery fame. I tried their 2005 Martha Clara Five-O Red Blend (about $23) and the 2004 Martha Clara Estate Reserve Syrah (about $27). The Five-O is a blend of primarily Merlot with some Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. It was an interesting wine but ended harshly on the finish. Maybe it needs breathing or cellaring. The enjoyed the Syrah more as it seemed better balanced and had vibrant berry flavors. But, I think it is a bit overpriced.

Overall, I was disappointed that none of the wines impressed me but pleased enough that I had found some good wines.

For more more detailed information and many additional reviews on Long Island Wines, you should check out Lenn Thompson's Lenndevours wine blog which concentrates on Long Island wines.


Anonymous said...

Much to Lenn's dismay, I find that LI wines are generally underwhelming when you consider how much they cost. Sorry you didn't find any real gems!

Richard Auffrey said...

I have had a few exceptional LI wines in the past but this year's selection at the Expo was definitely lacking.