Wine has many components that offer pleasure to the drinker. There is the simple pleasure found in the indulgence of fruit and texture that is wine. Then comes the layer of complexity – a drink that offers a chance to pause and observe. The next layer is that of knowledge – of terroir, vintage, and variety. And finally – the layer of storytelling.
To me, a wine with age has that final stage. It can tell the story not only of its own making but also of the years that it spent carefully cellared away. When I open a well-aged bottle with friends, I recall when it was bought, where and why.
Call me sentimental, I will gladly take it as a compliment.
Thus, being invited by Paul Brady of New York Wine & Grape Foundation to taste an array of wines with a decade or more of age from Long Island was extremely exciting to me. I was looking forward to seeing how they have developed and was pleasantly surprised – as the majority of the wines showed that Long Island does indeed produce age-worthy red wines, wines that benefit from the cellar and become the storied gems that I, personally, seek out.
But first things first. We met on a Monday afternoon in Craft’s newly renovated private room. We were welcomed in by Paul and Brooks Frasier, Craft’s Beverage Director. With the large open kitchen and a bar, it is a cozy, cool space, and the food was simply fantastic, as always. The duck was fantastic, but the octopus stole my heart. Perfectly tender, with the spicy and savory notes and matched by the creamy chickpeas. One wouldn’t immediately think of octopus with aged red wines, but the combination of savory herbs and spices made it an excellent pairing.
2010 Lieb Cellars Cabernet Franc North Fork
Dark red berry on the nose, with time – mint, a hint of cedar and tobacco. On the palate – ripe soft red cherry, rich chocolate note leaning to a hint of balsamic touch toward the finish. With the 60/40 % of French to Hungarian oak and 15% new – I would say that the oak is well balanced here. It adds a richness to the palate and some spice to nose and finish but never takes over. While I would think this is a good time to drink the wine, there is no hurry. Secondary notes are well balanced by the primary fruit. Powerful red wine, but retaining cool climate markers that keeps it fresh.
2010 Suhru Wines New York State North Fork Red Blend
The wine (a mainly Bordeaux blend, with a small percentage of Syrah) opens with black cherry and cedar, adding notes of herbs and spice. The palate is generous, with plush dark cherry and hints of savory tones showing development. The oak is well managed though quite present here, adding a velvety texture to the tannin. The hint of warms leads to a savory and juicy finish. Definitely drinking well now – and opening up in the glass.
2010 Bedell Artist Series Taste Red, North Fork
A unique blend of Merlot and Syrah (60%/20%, with 12% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Malbec), it showed as a dark and powerful wine, with blackberry joining the sweet cherry tones on the nose. Richer palate, plusher oak, and fruit, but with a bright note to keep it fresh. Tannins are quite resolved, adding to the texture but not intruding. Otherwise, no signs of age – perhaps the most age-worthy wine in the flight. Sweet ripe fruit in the mid, balanced by the power of the finish keep one coming back to the glass.
2010 Macari Vineyards “Bergen Road”, North Fork
This Bordeaux Blend (56% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec and 2% Petite Verdot) was easily one of my favorite wines of the day. Having tasted this wine 6 months ago – I must say it has not moved much. The hint of savory notes on the nose is the only indicator of age. Rich ripe plum, spice, and herb on the nose. Mid is quite ripe – black cherry, plum, and blackberry, but the earthier tones and the structure keep the wine quite fresh. The finish is long, with savory herb and juicy black fruit. This wine needs a lot more time to get to its peak – I would give it at least 5 years but I can see it showing at peak long after that. Simply excellent.
2010 Channing Daughters Petit Verdot, Long Island
the wine opened funky and earthy on the nose, showing leather and tertiary development. With time – showing balsamic notes as well. The palate was fresher, with tangy red fruit, herb and surprising tannin (well – partially surprising knowing that this is PV). Mainly red fruit on the palate, with a nice texture and a medium-long tangy finish. This was the most developed wine from the 2010 group.
2007 Lenz Merlot Old Vines, North Fork
Savory, with rich herb and cherry tones. The nose shows mainly secondary notes, but quite compelling and the fruit balances out the spice and smoke. The palate shows ripe cherry, with leather and savory herb. With time – the wine began to show a note of plum and sweet dry cherries. While clearly in its drinking window, it is balanced and retains fruit as well as structure. Quite classic and classy.
2005 Paumanok Assemblage, North Fork
This is Paumanok’s signature Bordeaux Blend (44% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Petit Verdot), I have consumed my share of these over the years, and it was a pleasure to have it out of magnum – and with winery storage to boot. Still showing young, with bright cherry, red fruit, hints of herb and tobacco. The palate is classic, mineral, and acid-driven but with great cherry and raspberry tones. Still has a lovely tannic grip, and the tangy finish is quite refreshing. An excellent showing.
2001 Wölffer Estate Merlot 1er Cru, South Fork
The grapes were picked very late – on October 31! Moreover, this small cuvee (142 cases) was aged in 100% new oak. The wine was fully resolved, but showing well for its age. Nose was herb, cedar, and leather. The palate is light, with red fruit and bright, crunchy acidity balanced by the structure. Savory tones rounded out the finish – very enjoyable.
2001 Palmer Vineyards Merlot, North Fork
Absolute surprise of the tasting -–this was the “regular” Merlot from Palmer Vineyards – not the reserve. And yet, it showed quite well, an elegant, refreshing example of a well-aged, cool-climate red wine. Still well structured, with fresh acidity, red fruit and a zip of spice. The crunchy red berry follows through to the finish. Perhaps lacking a bit of intensity – but not at all tired.
In the end, several conclusions could be drawn. First and foremost, 2010 was a fantastic vintage for Long Island wine, producing bottles that will likely effortlessly age another decade. I will be on the lookout for more of these wines, as well as from other recent excellent vintages.
Overall, the wines showed well, with the cool climate red fruit showing more clearly with age, but also retaining the signature freshness that makes these wines such excellent pairing with the fresher, acid-driven modern cuisine. They paired well with both the octopus and the duck dishes – and I must praise the team of Craft for an excellent meal. The octopus was perfectly grilled, with just the right amount of char and yet, soft and luxurious. The duck… was perfect. The breast, cooked medium rare with crispy skin and the leg confit, perfectly tender.
I also want to thank Paul Brady and the New York Wine and Grape Foundation for the opportunity to taste these wines – and yes, please, how about a few flights of aged white wines as well? After the 2009 Riesling Kareem Massoud opened this summer, I would be intrigued to try more!