Alie Shaper asks and answers the question: What If?

2016-10-24-18-12-53 I first met Alie Shaper at a Women for Wine Sense event in February 2010. At the time, the President and Winemaker of Brooklyn Oenology, was four years into her Brooklyn-centric wine brand, which merges New York State agriculture with the vibrancy of New York City culture.

Now, as she celebrates Brooklyn Oenology’s tenth anniversary, she has ventured out with an additional range of wines: As If. The three wines that make up the new collection – a white, rosé and red – are respectively called Serendipity, Courage and Persistence and chart her foray into the wine industry. The Cornell alumna kicked off her career with an engineering degree and a military contract in San Jose, CA before returning to New York to start a life in wine.

This new wine line was conceived in 2014 when Alie received unexpected access to great grapes and saw the opportunity to tell her story – both past and present – through wine: from her serendipitous exposure to the world of wine; her courage to follow her passion; and the continued persistence to make her dreams come true.

Greeting me at the As If launch party, Alie explained that she wanted to, “Do something less about Brooklyn and more metaphysical,” this time around.

All the wines are labeled as New York State, likely for consistency, but the white and red are technically produced from Nork Fork of Long Island fruit and the grapes for the rosé were sourced from the Finger Lakes.

The As If Serendipity White 2014, New York State, (SRP $35.00) is a blend of 40% Chardonnay, 30% Viognier, 30% Sauvignon Blanc. It is fresh with melon, citrus fruit and apple notes, bright acidity and long length.

As Alie pours the As If Courage Rosé 2014, New York State, (SRP $28.00), she quips, “This is literally liquid courage.” The wine brings together 50% Cabernet Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 10% Syrah and 10% Petit Verdot. It is a deep-colored, dry wine with watermelon, spice and a meatiness/heartiness that make it a good autumn rosé.

Finally, the As If Persistence Red 2014, New York State (SRP $40.00), with 60% Cabernet Franc, 25% Petit Verdot, and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon was my favorite of the three, so I was not surprised when Alie revealed that the Cab Franc came from Macari, one of my favorite Franc producers. This stunning wine displayed complex aromas and flavors of toast, berries, and dried herbs, along with good acidity and long length.

The wines are available for purchase through Brooklyn Oenology.

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A Harvest Celebration: It’s Never Too Early

2015-11-26 11.50.46The third Thursday of November is Beaujolais Day – the day on which the new vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau is released. Georges Duboeuf, the largest producer, generally hosts a festive affair heralding the wine’s arrival on America’s shores with a bang; from chefs on motorcycles to trapeze artists to graffiti artists. This year, there wasn’t even a whimper. Instead, I received only a single email from retailer, Sherry-Lehmann to mark the occasion. I thought perhaps I had fallen off that invite list, but, in speaking with a colleague, learned that there was no party this year.

While many decry the quality (or rather the lack thereof) of Beaujolais Nouveau, I have always enjoyed the quasi-holiday and, if not the wine itself (which, in fact, I generally do), then what it stood for: a celebration of the arrival and completion of yet another harvest. Another year of toil in the soil and effort in the winery.

We can easily see the bounty of the year’s harvest in the cornucopia of fruits and vegetables in the farmer’s market. But, unlike fresh grapes (and other produce), which provide immediate gratification from vine to vendor, wine takes time to make.

Wines like Beaujolais Nouveau are the exception, going from grape to glass in just a few weeks. It may not be complex and age-worthy, nor is it meant to, rather, it is fresh and fruity and a reminder of what is to come with more time and effort… other wines from this vintage. A time to celebrate the season and give thanks for what Mother Nature has once again provided.

Without the usual Beaujolais Day hoopla, something seemed missing. But, the arrival of Macari’s Early Wine 2015 gave me my much-needed fix. The grapes for this Chardonnay wine were harvested in early September, making their way to bottle by the end of October and released during the first week of November.

On the evening before Thanksgiving, I took a moment to open up this wine and pause and reflect on my deep gratitude in anticipation of the following day’s holiday. I also took time to reflect on what was in the glass – white floral and peach aromas; slightly off-dry palate with vibrant acidity; citrus, peach and floral flavors; and a long finish.

And, more importantly, I took time to notice what the wine reflected back: the remembrance of the freshness of summer as we head into winter; the long days of toil and effort in the vineyard; the gentle care taken by Kelly Urbanik in the winery; and the promise of what is to come from the other fruits of 2015’s labor.

Island Wines: Long Island Edition

2015-06-30 16.43.09There is something special about visiting an island. The discrete borders, the intimate setting and the separation from the mainland all conspire to conjure images of a serene paradise. It’s why “Island Getaway” makes a much better headline than “Landlocked Getwaway”!

This summer, I had the pleasure of visiting several different islands, either in body (Long Island) or in spirit (Sicilia and Santorini), open to their charms through the lovely wines that are produced on each.

Close to home (aka New York City), Long Island provides a welcome refuge for city dwellers, with its beaches, farms and vineyards. We returned to the region after a two-year, accidental hiatus, stopping at some of our favorites for a brief refresher and to stock up our cellar, which we were about to deplete as a consequence of hosting our Meet, Meat & Merlot dinner, featuring a selection of aged Long Island Merlots.

The four-course dinner, held at our apartment, was an excellent opportunity to see how Long Island Merlot can develop with time. All of the wines, from the youngest at 12 years old (2003) to the oldest at 23 (1992), proved the point in spades. Between the chaos of cooking an elaborate menu and hosting 11 guests, I admittedly did not take notes on the wines, but the menu and wine selection are listed below.

Tasting notes for the various wines we tasted during our two-day visit to both the North Fork and The Hamptons AVAs are also included below.

Meet, Meat & Merlot Dinner Menu & Wines
Amuse Bouche: Frico Cheese Crisps with Hungarian Paprika

Wild Caught Salmon Sliders with Sage on Crispy Potato “Buns”
Shinn Estate Vineyards Estate Merlot 2003, North Fork of Long Island, USA
Shinn Estate Vineyards Six Barrels Reserve Merlot 2002, North Fork of Long Island, USA

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Coq au Vin 8 Hands Farm Organic Chicken Breast with Cipollini Onions & Mushrooms Lenz Estate Selection Merlot 2001, North Fork of Long Island, USA
Lenz Estate Selection Merlot 2000, North Fork of Long Island, USA

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Beef Wellington Organic Beef Tenderloin with Mushroom Duxelles and Foie Gras in Puff Pastry served with North Fork Squash and Sugar Snap Peas
Macari Vineyards, Bergen Road 1997, North Fork of Long Island, USA
Rivendell, Merlot 1990, North Fork of Long Island, USA
Rivendell, Merlot 1992, North Fork of Long Island, USA

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Dessert
Briermere Farms Raspberry & Peach Pie and
Briermere Farms Gooseberries and Wickham’s Farm Cherries

MACARI VINEYARDS
Macari Sauvignon Blanc 2014, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $23.00
This wine is fresh and bright, with crisp citrus, a hint of green apple and long length.

Macari Dos Aguas Blanc 2013, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $27.00
A blend of Chardonnay, Riesling, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc. The intense nose displays aromas of lush pear and tropical fruit, both of which persist on the palate.

Macari Sauvignon Blanc No. 1 2013, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $27.00 Macari has been actively experimenting with the use of concrete eggs and 60% of this wine was fermented in one. Compared to the regular Sauvignon Blanc, it was much rounder with lots of orange peel aromas and flavors.

Macari Cabernet Franc Lightforce 2013, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $N/A
This wine was also fermented and aged in a concrete vessel. It was fresher and lighter than regular Cabernet Franc, but still very Cab Franc in its characteristics, with beautiful earth and mushroom notes.

Macari Merlot Reserve 2010, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $36.00
From the near perfect 2010 vintage, this wine is absolutely gorgeous with rich notes of coffee and black cherry, culminating in long length.

2015-07-01 11.13.40LENZ ESTATE
Lenz Estate Blanc de Noir Rosé 2013, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $22.00
A light and pleasing rosé with fresh strawberry and slight herbal notes on the nose and palate.

Lenz Estate Old Vine Gewürztraminer 2010, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $30.00
More floral than spice, this dry Gewurztraminer is quite elegant with nice acidity.

Lenz Estate Malbec 2011, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $35.00
With intense and concentrated aromas of smoke, mulberry and blue fruit, this wine is more restrained on the palate, with elegant flavors of spice and blue fruit.

Lenz Estate Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $NA
This wine was showing some development with complex aromas and aromas of red fruit, black fruit and some meatiness. On the dry palate, it displayed ripe and concentrated flavors of blackberry, coffee and slight cedar; lovely.

McCALL WINES
McCall Pinot Noir 2012, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $28.00
This wine offers fresh, bright fruit with notes of cherries, herbs and earth.

McCall Pinot Noir Hillside 2013, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $39.00
This Pinot Noir is more complex and intense than the entry-level wine, with more meaty and spice notes.

McCall Merlot Reserve 2010, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $30.00
This pretty and elegant wine displays rich black cherry aromas that pervade the palate as well.

McCall Ben’s Blend 2010, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, $54.00
Bringing together, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, this Bordeaux-style blend provides velvety tannins and nice complexity with gorgeous black fruit aromas and flavors.
CHANNING DAUGHTERS
Channing Daughters Tocai Mudd Vineyard 2012 North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA, 24.00
A combination of minerality and salinity greet the nose, while the palate is rewarded with apple and mineral notes and long length.

Channing Daughters Rosato di Refosco 2014, The Hamptons (NY), USA, $20.00 This rosé is distinctly herbal with sour cherry and a hint of salinity that lingers throughout the finish.

Channing Daughters Envelope 2011, The Hamptons (NY), USA, $42.00
Produced from 62% Chardonnay, 28% Gewurztraminer and 10% Malvasia Bianca, which were co-fermented with ambient yeast on the skins, this wine offers up pronounced aromas of floral and spice. This wine is rich, with concentrated fruit flavors of floral and pear on the palate.

Channing Daughters Ribolla Gialla 2013, The Hamptons (NY), USA, $35.00
This wine displays rich aromas of honey and marzipan. Its palate is dry with flavors of honey and white flowers.

Channing Daughters Sculpture Garden 2011, The Hamptons (NY), USA, $30.00
A blend of Merlot, Teroldego and Blaufrankisch, this wine spent 22 months in oak and 18 months in bottle before release. It has soft tannins, with notes of cherries, cocoa, and spice, which persist through the long finish.

NB: While I don’t have precise tasting notes, we absolutely adored Channing’s range of VerVino Vermouths.

WÖLFFER ESTATE
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ölffer Estate Noblesse Oblige Extra Brut Sparkling Rosé 2011, The Hamptons (NY), USA, $54.00
This elegant sparkling wine was very yeasty on the nose, with flavors of berries and cream on the palate.

Wölffer Estate Rosé 2014, Long Island (NY), USA, $18.00
Considered among the official rosés of the Hamptons, this fresh, Provencal-style rose is the perfect wine for summer with its purity of melon and berry fruit and refreshing acidity.

Wölffer Estate Summer in a Bottle 2014, Long Island (NY), USA, $24.00
This white blend offered up ripe, lush fruit with flavors of floral, peach and pear.

Grapes of Roth Dry Riesling 2014, Long Island (NY), USA, $26.00
Produced by Wölffer’s winemaker and partner Roman Roth, this is classic Riesling with citrus, slight pith, mineral, just a hint of off-dry sweetness on the attack.

Wölffer Estate Descencia Botrytis Chardonnay 2012, Long Island (NY), USA, $40.00
A late-harvest Chardonnay dessert wine with medium-sweetness, this wine is beautifully balanced by its bright acidity along with notes of honey, spice and Asian pear, culminating in long length.

A Tale of Two Vintages

SAUV_BLANC_2012_web_1024x1024New York wine producer, Macari Vineyards, recently released the newest vintage of its Katherine’s Field Sauvignon Blanc – 2012. Produced from 100% Sauvignon Blanc fruit sourced from the winery’s estate in Mattituck on the North Fork of Long Island, the wine is made entirely in stainless steel tanks to preserve the fresh fruit character of this grape.

Since I had a bottle of the 2011 remaining in our cellar, I decided to taste the two wines (2012 and 2011) side by side to see how vintage variation and extra aging (for the older wine) might impact what I tasted in the glass.

Not surprisingly, the 2012 had a more pronounced nose given its (relative) youth, but the 2011 was still quite fresh despite its additional year in bottle. Instead, I attributed most of the difference between the two wines to their respective vintage conditions.

The 2011 growing year was among the wettest and rainiest in Long Island’s history, making it challenging to combat mold and mildew in the vineyard as well as to coax the grapes to full ripeness. Likely given these conditions, the citrus and herbaceous aromas, which are typically inherent in cool climate Sauvignon Blanc, were more prevalent in the 2011 vintage wine. With its slight age, the acidity in this wine seemed to have rounded out and a hint of earthiness was evident on the palate.

Conversely, during the 2012 season, Long Island was blessed with warm, dry days, which meant that grape maturity was achieved more easily. Thus, while the 2012 wine displayed notes of white grapefruit, it also offered some floral aromas and tropical fruit on the nose and palate. In spite of the warmer weather, this wine appeared to be more tart, likely due to its more recent bottling, and also offered some minerality.

I enjoyed the opportunity to evaluate these two wines together, closely comparing and contrasting their individual characteristics. And, although I slightly preferred the 2012 to the 2011, I certainly did not feel that the 2011 was over the hill, and, in fact, might have preferred the 2011 instead, if I had tasted the wines with food.

While it is more difficult to find previous vintages in the market, Union Square Wines & Spirits does appear to have the 2011 in stock. The newest release should be more readily available at retail (SRP $23.00) and is also available for purchase at the winery.

Celebrating the post-harvest season with Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais Crus and Macari’s Early Wine

Beaujolais Nouveau Day has come and gone. This annual semi-holiday celebrates the new release of a wine produced extremely quickly after harvest and I like it for that reason alone. Making wine is a lengthy process that starts not at harvest, but much earlier – from the first swell of buds on the vine. Accordingly, being able to literally taste the fruits of such labor only a few months post-harvest is a wonderful opportunity to rejoice.

While a variety of Nouveau events were held as usual this year, I only attended the Compagnons du Beaujolais Beaujolais Crus tasting. Equally festive, the Compagnons du Beaujolais had donned their official regalia, complete with tastevins hung around their necks, having ushered in the Nouveau wine earlier in the day.

But, now, it was time to taste the more serious Gamay. It was a pleasure to taste through the various crus (best village sites) including Brouilly, Julienas, Morgon and Fleurie as well as being able to compare different vintages –2009, 2010 and 2011. The wines showed quite nicely and I found a few that I particularly liked such as the Morgon Cuvée les Roches 2011 from Château du Chatelard, although I didn’t take any formal notes.

In a similar vein, there are a few other wineries that choose to produce a wine that hits the market soon after harvest. Macari Vineyards’ Early Wine falls into this category. Produced from 100% Chardonnay, the grapes for the 2012 vintage were picked on August 29 and quickly pressed and fermented with the wine finding its way into bottle on October 22. With its November 1 release, I received the wine about two weeks before Nouveau Day.

I chose to open my bottle on the day before the Nouveau celebrations (Beaujolais Nouveau Eve?) as a way to kick off the celebratory spirit of these wines. Showing pronounced floral, peach and tropical fruit notes, the wine was slightly off-dry with balanced acidity and flavors of pineapple, floral and a slight hint of spice. Despite its fall arrival, the Early Wine can be enjoyed year round, especially during the summer (if there’s any left by then – only 422 cases were made).

Cooking by the book

Like anyone else who’s ever gone away for more than a week, I came home to a lot of mail… most of it junk. But, having forgotten the promise made by a friend, I found a pleasant surprise amid the bills and circulars — a new cookbook. In fact, there was not just one, but two cookbooks waiting for me upon my return.

Now, I already have a lot of cookbooks. No, not as many as those folks who wax poetically that they’ve been collecting cookbooks since the year of the flood and have subsequently had to build a special wing on their home just to shelter them. But, enough that I don’t really need another cookbook; especially since lately I seem to use online recipe sites more frequently than reaching for one of my printed tomes. Yet, there they were.

The first came to me from wine colleagues, Jeff Jensen and Mike DeSimone, by way of their publisher. Their latest book –The Fire Island Cookbook – is a collection of menus, one for each weekend of the summer, along with suggested wine pairings. Although Fire Island is the title’s stated destination, the recipes are culled from around the world and are appropriate for any summer supper – whether enjoyed in your Hamptons share, island retreat or suburban backyard.

Flipping through the book, we picked a page at random and found ourselves preparing a shopping list for seafood and sausage paella. Since it was just the two of us, we chose to forgo the other menu items and also halved the recipe regarding the rice itself, while being more lavish with the seafood. Even with the revision, it was all paella all the time for the next few meals (but, since the dish was as tasty as it was, we had no complaints). If you’ve never made paella before (I’ll admit to having been a paella virgin, myself), it is actually made just like risotto, but with a lot of flavorful spices.

We chose to ignore Jeff and Mike‘s wine pairing recommendation simply because we had a lot of wine waiting to be opened, but it’s a nice bit of information for them to have included, making it easy for the wine novice to easily find a pairing for the meal. A few weeks later, we tackled two more recipes, pulling an appetizer of grilled romaine from one meal and a Tequila-marinated steak from another, and pairing the meat with a Malbec as suggested.

The second, extremely unexpected volume was a gift from my husband. He had attended a literary event at the New York Public Library during my absence (the quintessential bachelor, no?) and had obtained a signed copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s newest publication for me, At Home on the Range.

According to my husband, Elizabeth Gilbert does not look like Julia Roberts. I know that I shouldn’t be surprised the author doesn’t resemble the actress who portrayed her in the film version of her Eat, Pray, Love book, but I am. Regardless of whom she does or does not resemble, it was apparently quite a humorous event. John Hodgman (of the Mac commercial, and, perhaps to a lesser extent, The Daily Show fame) interviewed Ms. Gilbert, but since they have been friends for years, it was more like a conversation replete with inside jokes than a usual interview.

The important gist of the discussion is that, once upon a time, Elizabeth’s great-grandmother, Margaret Yardley Potter, wrote a cookbook, which was ahead of its time with its focus on nose-to-tail eating; reliance on fresh, local ingredients (as opposed to the modern conveniences of canned or frozen items); and unusual (for the period) cuisine such as, believe it or not, pizza. Curating recipes from unlikely sources such as shopkeepers and obstetric nurses, Potter crafted a cookbook that reads more like a letter from grandma than the Galloping Gourmet, but is made all the more entertaining for this novel approach.

Having only formally discovered this piece of family heritage recently, Elizabeth has republished At Home on the Range, along with the insertion of an Introduction and a few helpful hints with the recipes. With a goal of having these recipes reach a more amenable audience than when the book was first launched, rather than profit, all proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit Scholar Match. In this regard, you are helping you to feed the mind of the next generation while feeding yourself.

 

Grand Cru Classes Invites a Wild Child to Dinner

As former members of Channing Daughters’ wine club, we annually received a bottle of the winery’s L’Enfant Sauvage Chardonnay. We have been fans of this wild ferment wine since our very first visit to the winery way back when and so were always reluctant to open the wine since we wanted to save it. Well, if you do that long enough, you end up with a mini-vertical. Once we realized what we had amassed, we decided to taste the wines together to more easily compare and contrast them, but determined that drinking five bottles on our own was a bit much. Hence, we decided to host a dinner party featuring these wines.

Communication with Channing Daughters’ winemaker, Christopher Tracy, revealed that the wines were still showing quite well and that, yes, he would be interested in joining us for the dinner if he were available.

Planning ahead, we selected a date in early December – sufficiently past harvest, but before the holidays – and were able to host local winemakers and other members of the wine industry. Christopher graciously offered to bring the two vintages we were missing – the 2001 and the 2008, permitting us to complete the L’Enfant Sauvage set.

Attendees:
Hosts: Tracy Ellen Kamens and Jared M. Skolnick, Grand Cru Classes
Christopher Tracy, Channing Daughters
Juan Micelli-Martinez, Martha Clara Vineyards
Bridget Quinn Micelli-Martinez, Palmer Vineyards
Kareem Massoud, Paumanok Vineyards
Karen Kankel, Paumanok Vineyards
Kelly Urbanik, Macari Vineyards
Rob Koch, All-around nice guy
Kristina Szama, Michael Skurnick
Lenn Thompson, New York Cork Report
Remy Charest, Palate Press

We kept the wines top of mind when designing the menu:
Gougères – to accompany the sparkling wines poured upon arrival
Tuscan white bean soup and black bean soup garnish (see above image)
Deconstructed BLT – Smoked pork belly, wilted spinach and oven-dried tomatoes on a bed of polenta
Wild Mushroom Risotto
Swordfish with Butternut Squash Purée and Roasted Cauliflower
Flourless chocolate cake for dessert

My tasting notes are a bit abbreviated as I was focused on being a good host and getting each course on the table.
2001 – deep gold, oxidized note, bruised apple; bruised fruit, butter and nuts
2002 – medium+ gold, lightly oxidized character, citrus, apple, nuts
2003 – deep gold, oxidized character, slight sweet aroma, bruised red apple
2004 – deep gold, cleaner nose, spice, oak and apple
2005 – medium gold, perfume, oxidation, spice
2006 – medium+ acidity, citrus and green apple
2007 – medium gold, citrus and apple
2008 – medium gold, spice, citrus, medium+ acidity

 

HARVEST East End Wine Salon – Mad about Merlot

The second annual HARVEST East End – wine auction and celebration of Long Island’s wines – took place this month (September 2011). Kicking off on September 3, wine salons were held at various wineries and other locations for three Saturdays, culminating in the Festival Tasting on the evening of September 17, immediately followed by the Havest Moon Gala at The Ludlow Farm.

As we neared our destination, signage directed us not only to Ludlow Farm, but also to the corn maze. We thought that was an interesting idea, but, in fact, the festival walk-around tasting took place under several tents, away from husks of corn. While the wineries were not hidden among the maize, we did manage to miss a few.

Prior to the main festivities, Grand Cru Classes was pleased to sponsor this year’s event once again by hosting one of the wine salons. Accordingly, on September 10, I presented my Mad about Merlot class, with a twist. The class is usually comprised of 5 or 6 Merlots from around the world, permitting attendees to compare and contrast the aromas, flavors and structure of Merlot wines from a wide range of terroirs. However, given that the salon was part of a celebration of Long Island, the wine selection was restricted to Merlots from the East End. Of course, the term “restricted” is quite a misnomer as the line-up proved to be even more diverse than usual.

Starting with Pugliese’s deep red-hued sparkling wine, the session presented participants with an overview of this much-maligned grape, while lauding its virtues both on Long Island and elsewhere. Next, attention shifted to a blanc de noirs — a white wine crafted from a red grape — with Lieb’s Merlot Blanc. If tasted under different circumstances (i.e. you didn’t know you were only drinking Merlots), it would be easy to mistake it for a Sauvignon Blanc. Adding back some color, attendees then tasted Croteaux’s rosé produced from Merlot clone #314 from St. Emilion. The rosé was followed by a wine created by members of the L.I. Merlot Alliance, all of whom provide a barrel of their Merlot for the annual project. While the Merliance wine was from a recent vintage (2008), the other straight Merlot (from Lenz Winery) hailed from the 2001 vintage, showed some beautiful development and inspired a McCall beef dinner later that night. Finally, guests were treated to Channing Daughters’ Madeira-style Merlot called Pazzo (which translates as mad or crazy in Italian).

Who knew Merlot, and Long Island Merlot at that, could be so varied? If anyone says they don’t like Merlot, they have to be kidding. With five completely different styles of wine, one would be hard pressed not to find at least one to their liking.

  • Pugliese Vineyards, Sparkling Merlot 2003, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA
  • Lieb Family Cellars, Merlot Blanc 2010, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA*
  • Croteaux, Merlot 314 Rosé 2010, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA
  • Long Island Merlot Alliance, Merliance 2008, Long Island (NY), USA*
  • Lenz Winery, Estate Merlot 2001, North Fork of Long Island (NY), USA
  • Channing Daughters, Pazzo 2004, The Hamptons (NY), USA *

*With gratitude to the producers for their gracious generosity.

Aromatically Yours

Viognier – pronounced Vee-own-yay – is primarily associated with France’s northern Rhône Valley and to a lesser extent with Rhône-style wines of Australia. However, this grape is starting to get around.

Case in point, the Galil Mountain Winery Viognier 2009 (SRP: $15.00) from Israel’s Upper Galilee, situated at one of the country’s highest elevations – 3,280 feet above sea level. Located in northern Israel, near the borders of Lebanon and Syria, the Gaililee area, which also includes the Golan Heights, is generally regarded as Israel’s best wine producing region. Galil Mountain Winery was established in 2000 and is the sister winery to Golan Heights Winery, which was named best wine producer of the year at VinItaly in 2011.

Galil Mountain’s Viognier was classic in nature, showing floral, apricot and tangerine. While dry on the palate, it had rich fruit flavors of apricot, peach pit and spice. Not surprisingly, it was fuller-bodied than the Sauvignon Blanc. Although 40% of the wine had been barrel fermented in new French oak, the oak was not prominent on the nose or palate.

The Viognier was tasted with another equally aromatic grape, Sauvignon Blanc, from the North Fork of Long Island, representing interests closer to home. Sauvignon Blanc is probably most closely associated with New Zealand, but it is actually from France’s Bordeaux and Loire Valley regions, the former of which has a climate very similar to Long Island.

Produced from fruit from Long Island’s vaunted 2010 vintage, the Katherine’s Field Sauvignon Blanc from Macari Vineyards (SRP $23.00) possessed citrus, pith and mineral notes on the nose. The ripe vintage displayed itself on the palate with pineapple and continued minerality, along with vibrant acidity. The wine was released in early May with only 883 cases produced.

Both were welcome guests at the table when brought to a friend’s Hampton’s house in early July.