It’s easy to decry Long Island wine prices. Some of the wines — maybe even many of them — are overpriced. But while some observers are busy complaining about the the prices on the high end, something interesting has happened at the other end. Several wineries have started to put out delicious, distinctive wines that can be bought for less than $25 at wineries (and even less at local shops).
Partly, this is meeting a need. A casual visitor may not drop $55 on your reserve merlot on his or her first visit to your tasting room. It’s important to have wines available that are a bit more affordable. At the same time, I think it also reflects a winemaking shift that can be seen at nearly every winery: less new oak in red wine production.
Oak barrels are expensive, especially oak from the best coopers, who are most often French. If you’re keeping wine in expensive barrels for an extended period of time, the wines aren’t going to be cheap. But if you cut back on the new oak, perhaps eschewing it completely, and only keep wine in a barrel for a short period, you can pass that savings on to your customers.
And guess what? Many of these low oak footprint wines are better. You can actually taste the flavors that make local wines unique rather than the vanilla, charcoal and bacon flavors of new oak barrels.
Not all affordable Long Island wine is created equal, however — but here are five under $25 that are worth checking out.
Coffee Pot Cellars, 2014 “Beasley’s Blend” ($22)
Veteran winemaker Adam Suprenant, who is also the winemaker at Osprey’s Dominion, blended 60 percent cabernet franc with 40 percent merlot for this homage to his pug, Beasley. Brambly and fruity with raspberries and red cherries, there are subtle vanilla notes, but there’s also a dinner-ready savory edge thanks to subtle dried herb qualities.
Anthony Nappa Wines, 2016 “Bordo Antico” Cabernet Franc ($22)
This 100 percent cabernet franc doesn’t see a splinter of oak. It has a bit of a cult following among local cabernet franc lovers because it is a pure expression of that grape. Made using only ambient yeasts and without any other additives, it bursts with juicy red fruits that are accented by distinct basil, oregano and tomato leaf notes.
Channing Daughters, 2016 Rosso Fresco ($20)
Channing Daughters is perhaps best known for its extensive lineup of pink and white wines, but this fresh, unique blend of 33 percent dornfelder, 27 percent cabernet franc, 15 percent merlot, 13 percent syrah, 6 percent refosco and 6 percent petit verdot is another table-ready red at a great price. It spent eight months in old (and thus flavorless) barrels and delivers a melange of red and black berries with a spicy, earthy vein that runs right up the middle. You could even chill this one slightly on a warm fall day.
Bridge Lane, 2016 Red Blend ($20)
Bridge Lane, Lieb Cellars’ sister label, is always a place to look for great values. The merlot-heavy red blend is surprisingly weighty for its price, with ripe black cherry flavors and just a little spicy oak in the background. You can also buy a 3L box —the equivalent of four standard bottles — for $38.
Raphael, 2015 Cabernet Franc ($23)
Yes, another Anthony Nappa-made cabernet franc makes the list. Judicious use of oak makes this one a bit less rustic but with similar juicy raspberry flavors with herbs and anise. The fruity-savory balance here is near perfect.
A version of this story first appeared in the Suffolk Times/northforker