blogger web statistics/a>
1WineDude | A Serious Wine Blog for the Not-So-Serious Drinker - Page 280

What They Got Wrong (Seeing Red in Long Island Wine Country)

Vinted on May 6, 2009 under best of, commentary, on the road, wine tasting
WP Greet Box icon
HiYa! If you're new here, you may want to Sign Up to get all the latest wine coolness delivered to your virtual doorstep. I've also got short, easily-digestible mini wine reviews and some educational, entertaining wine vids. If you're looking to up your wine tasting IQ, check out my book How to Taste Like a Wine Geek: A practical guide to tasting, enjoying, and learning about the world's greatest beverage. Cheers!

The best statement about what to do – and what not to do – to make and promote fine wine in Long Island comes from the LI wines themselves – and it’s a different story than the one that its winemakers are telling.

Before we get into what’s wrong with the current state of Long Island fine wine, we should talk about what’s right about it – which turns out to be quite a bit, based on my experience tasting and talking with several of the area’s best winemakers over the course of two and half days there as part of the first wine bloggers’ TasteCamp East event.

The Where

To say that Long Island has the potential to make fine wine is to offer a textbook definition of the phrase “gross understatement.” Long Island’s Maritime climate tempers the harshness of the Summers and Winters that can, at their worst, besiege the inland winemaking areas to the immediate west.  It’s best sites are built on top of sandy subsoil, similar to Right Bank Bordeaux, making even nearly imperceptible differences in elevation vitally important in terms of the drainage and aspect needed to develop concentrated, ripe fruit on the vine.  In other words, LI has better potential than just about anywhere else on the East Coast to consistently achieve the ripeness that is essential to making fine wine.

Long Island also has Burgundy-like weather variations – as Joe Macari, the North Fork’s tireless promoter of all things organic and biodynamic, told us, “It’s probably just as hard to grow grapes here as it is in Burgundy – harder, even.”  This makes ripening grapes maddening in difficult conditions, and also means that, like Burgundy, vintage variations have a larger impact on wine quality than in warmer regions like the Left Coast.  It also makes the results in the final wine more rewarding – even if an obscene amount of fruit needs to be rejected in the process.

The How

There’s no question where the muse for Long Island wine originates, and it’s not the lushness of California wines.  Just about everyone making wine in LI is looking to the East – specifically, France. The ghost of France is inescapable here, and it haunts most aspects of Long Island winemaking.

“I’m not ashamed to say it,” Richard Pisacano, the amicable and quietly passionate force behind the North Fork’s Roanoke vineyards, told me when I asked him where he looks for his winemaking benchmark.  “It’s France, and Bordeaux.  I use their clones.  I use their barrels.  The wines are unfined and unfiltered, with extended maceration.”  In other words, he uses their modern techniques as well.  After visiting Margaux in 2000 to taste their wines in their natural French habitat, “I just wanted to go home and cry,” he said.

Modeling after the French seems to make sense, given the (burgeoning) terroir in LI, and it permeates the wine-making philosophies of almost all of the wineries in both the North Fork and the Hamptons to the south. The favorite word of Eric Frye (Lenz’s eccentric and un-quietly passionate winemaker), based on my few hours sampling his finished – and his fermenting – wines, is “Burgundian.” In the Hamptons, the warm and approachable German-bron winemaker Roman Roth has clearly modeled Wollfer’s “Premier Cru” ultra-premium Merlot on the high-end Right Bank Bordeaux offerings based on the same variety.  Even the Long Island cafe’s have a French flair.

The Who

Spending time with Macari. Roth, Piscano, Fry, or the charming folks at the helm of Shinn is a lesson in Long Island terroir and winemaking, all of them being different in terms of detailed approach, but identical in terms of a shared passion to collectively and collaboratively improve Long Island wine. There is mock competition between the North Fork and the Hamptons (in my view, Hamptons is currently in the lead), but there is great camaraderie as well between the producers.  Put another way, you are unlikely to find any winemakers in LI who don’t care deeply about their region, and their wines.

What Is Wrong.

Now that we’ve established that the Where, the How, and the Who seem to all be dead-on correct in the world of Long Island wine, we can talk about the What, which might be the only aspect that isn’t right.

Long Island is extremely fond of its Merlot, to the point that they brought together five of the region’s wineries to make a collective offering called Merliance (rhymes with alliance, though Francophilia runs so deep here that some of its members pronounce it as mer-lee-AHNZ, as if it were based in France).  But just because you’ve got sandy subsoil, doesn’t make you Pomerol, and it certainly doesn’t mean you should be charging Pomerol-like prices.  It might be precisely this Bordeaux Merlot love-affair that is holding Long Island back from its true winemaking destiny.

Russell Hearn, the Australian-born Pellegrini winemaker, described the Merliance initiative like this:

“The goal isn’t to make the best Long Island wine – that was never the goal, nor will it ever be the goal – it’s to make the best representation of what Long Island wine is; not Califronia, not ‘more like Europe,’ but like Long Island.”

The sentiment is dead-on, but the trouble is that it might not be quite true that Merlot is the quintessential Long Island wine offering – at least, the wines themselves are giving a different story about the future of Long Island’s terroir than the one many of its winemakers are telling.

The best reds in Long Island are enchanting, and ridiculously expensive even in poor vintages, where they might better be described as ‘Under/Over’ (Under-ripe & Over-priced).  The consistent quality comes from the area’s whites, which can run the gamut from racy and laser-focused, with downright beguiling ripe fruit aromas anchored by svelte minerality and food-worthy acidity, to all-out oaked fruit bombs that dial up the aromas, the acidity, and the structure for long-haul aging.  And they don’t need ultra-ripe landmark vintages, like 2007, to achieve high-quality in their whites.

The trouble is not that Merlot doesn’t offer great potential here – it’s that it doesn’t offer the same consistent potential as their racy Chenin Blancs, or their elegant Sauvignon Blancs that combine lemongrass, mild grapefruit, and mouth-watering acids in near-perfect balance. In terms of reds, their superb and spicy Cabernet Francs will likely offer more consistent quality year-on-year than chasing after the sublime ripe red fruits of Right Bank Bordeaux ever will (not that the Hanmptons aren’t coming close). [ Thanks to Lenn Thompson over at Lenndevours.com for rightly pointing out that my snapshot of LI wines was not deep enough to fully support this last statement. ]

In that way, Long Isalnd’s terroir future seems to have more in common with The Loire and Northern Italy than it does Burgundy and Bordeaux. Only Christopher Tracy, the celebrated former chef and now Master of Wine candidate winemaker at Channing’s Daughters Winery, seems to really embrace this.

It’s hard not to like Tracy.  He’s energetic, anchored, and at ease when talking about his wines, and despite being a walking fountain of SWE and WSET wine geekdom, he is approachable and down-to-earth.  He’s also not chasing after points/ratings (Channing’s itDaughters wines are not sent out for reviews), which means that he has the freedom – and the ability – to experiment.  And experimentation is exactly what Long Island needs to find its true terroir expression.  A a result, his whites are outstanding.

Tracy’s model?  Northern Italy’s Fruili.

It’s not that Fruili, the Loire, and Long Island share the same weather and terroir – they don’t.  It’s that their wines, at their best, share the same unique balance of ripe, linear fruit, elegance, and racing acidity.  The best wines of LI are telling us something about their highest potential, and they’re not speaking with Bordelaise or Burgundians accents.

If offering very good wine at increasing price-points is Long Island’s ultimate goal, then they need do nothing, and can happily continue their near-obsession with Right Bank Bordeaux wines made via Burgundian viniculture techniques.  But if the goal is to offer the best-quality wines possible, with a pure representation of unique place, transferred faithfully from vine to glass, then Long Island may need to stop seeing so much red.

Cheers!

(images: 1WineDude)

Changes in Latitude, Changes in Gratitude (Reflections on TasteCamp East)

Vinted on May 4, 2009 under on the road

TasteCamp East, the first-ever gathering of Right Coast wine bloggers, is now freshly behind us.

I came.

I saw.

I nuked my palate tasting hundreds of wines in a two-day whirlwind tour of Long Island wine country.

You will read more ( a lot more) from me regarding my take on the current state of Long Island wine – and some very, very good wine is being made in the North Fork, and even better wine is being made in the Hamptons. 

But that is a topic for another entry on this blog.

Today, I only want to give thanksto the wineries of Long Island, for their generosity and hospitality; to Lenn Thompson, for doing the yeoman’s work of pulling together the first TasteCamp, and for providing the broadest, deepest, and most comprehensive introduction to Long Island wine that I could have ever hoped to have had; and most of all to my my fellow Right Coast wine bloggers.

After spending a few short days with that group, I’m humbled and deeply grateful for having had the opportunity to be included among the ranks of such a knowledgeable, talented, passionate and fun group.

Those aren’t just the fuzzy Kumbaya words of a slightly-inebriated wine lover – to me, they underscore an important aspect of how wine “media” are interacting with wine consumers. 

The online community of wine writers is a vibrant group, with a viability and relevance that is increasing nearly every day as a new generation of wine consumers (and those older generations that are increasingly influenced by them) not only demand a new, more immediate way of interacting with wine, but also join our blogging ranks.  These newcomers to the world of wine don’t give a crap about our pedigree, our credentials as writers, or our proven experience-levels with respect to wine (as measured in traditional ways such as certifications and the like).

They only care that we’re transparent, and that we prove consistently that we know what we’re talking about and are dedicated to passionately improving our craft and giving them solid advice.

It’s a bit of a scary prospect sometimes, because once you start to get an interactive readership on a blog, you can’t help but to want to try live up to those standards.  Knowing that you’ve got so many colleagues (and friends) on the Right Coast who are living up to those standards is, simply put, inspiring.

Much more to come, both on the topics of Long Island wine and that demanding generation of new wine lovers.  But for now, here’s to Long Island, here’s to Lenn, and here’s to many more TasteCamp meet-ups with the folks who are inspiring me!

Cheers!

Weekly Twitter Wine Mini-Reviews Round-up for 2009-05-02

Vinted on May 2, 2009 under twitter, wine mini-reviews
  • 07 Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc (Napa Valley): Granddaddy of modern CA wine going strong. More lemongrass & vanilla than a Vietnamese dinner. #
  • 07 Crane Lake Cabernet Sauvignon (CA): Cab?? Yeah, & I’m the Pope. Amazingly unbalanced for its low abv. To be served to your worst enemies. #
  • 05 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Blackberry & chocolate. Probably overdone, but with grilled steak you won’t mind one bit #
  • 04 Cornerstone Cellars Howell Mtn. Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Sublime balance btw focused black fruit & silky tannic structure. Drool #
  • 08 MontGras Reserva Carmenère (Colchagua Valley): Black, spicy & peppery enough to stand up to blackened swordfish. Tasty, if not exciting. #
  • 06 Martin Codax Ergo (Rioja): New world in terms of forward berry fruit, old world in terms of acidity & raging, massive Rioja oakiness. #

Powered by Twitter Tools.

3 Easy Ways to Get to 100 (Wine Varieties, That Is)

Vinted on May 1, 2009 under learning wine, wine appreciation

Did we really tell lies
Letting in the sunshine
Did we really count to one hundred
?”

- Jon Anderson, Long Distance Runaround

If you’ve been on the “global interwebs” for any appreciable amount of time, and you like wine, you’ll already be familiar with the Wine Century Club.  If not, here’s a short primer: the WCC is an organization that seeks to promote wine appreciation by offering you bragging rights after you successfully taste 100 or more wine varieties.  Download the application, fill it in, send it to the WCC, and then you’re a member.

Of course, there is the matter of tasting the required 100 or more wine varieties. 

I’ve got a buddy who I’ve known for over 30 years (since I was five years old, actually) who is not a wine geek per se, but he does enjoy wine and he loves to learn, and he especially likes collecting categorical experiences.  He recently asked me about the Wine Century Club after seeing that I was a member, generally inquiring about how to go about tasting the 100 different wine grape varieties required to gain membership

My buddy is not the kind of guy to get daunted by a challenge like tasting 100 different wine grape varieties, but while being a fantastic idea and also clearly in the camp of spreading wine appreciation to the masses, the WCC doesn’t exactly do itself any favors in terms of encouraging membership when it publishes this sort of warning on its website:

“It’s a simple idea, but it’s not as easy to become a member as you may think. One Master Sommelier could only come up with 82. Of the thousands of applications downloaded, less than 3% are completed. If you feel up to the challenge, have a look at the application!”

With all due respect to the WCC founders, I’ve got to go ahead and disagree on that.  I think my buddy is exactly the kind of person that should be shooting for WCC membership.

In fact, it’s my belief that anyone who wants to learn more about wine should become a Wine Century Club member.

It’s not difficult at all to do this (hell, even I did it).  It just takes patience (I said it wasn’t difficult – I didn’t say it was quick).

If you’re someone who wants to learn about wine, you’d do far worse than seek out 100 different grape varieties to try – you’ve got nothing to lose except time (and a little bit of money), and you stand to gain an immeasurable amount of quality wine experience along the way.  There is no faster way to learn about wine, after all, than to taste it.

So I thought I’d offer some advice on how you can get to the 100 and join the WCC yourself.  The competitive among you (like me) won’t have any trouble motivating yourself (“I will get me 100 grape varieties, dammit!!!”), but if you need even more incentive, how about this: did you know that one of prog rock pioneers Yes’ greatest songs, Long Distance Runaround, from their landmark 1971 LP Fragile, was written about the Wine Century Club (even though the WCC wasn’t founded until decades after the album’s release)?*  How friggin’ cool is that?!??

* – This statement has not been verified by any reputable source and is probably totally false.  But Yes kicks ass, can we just agree on that?

 

Anyway, onto the advice…

3 Easy Ways to Get to 100 and Join the Wine Century Club

1) Take Stock

If you’ve been drinking wine for a while, likely you have tried more grape varieties than you realize (if you suffer from having a spouse / main squeeze that only drinks one style of wine… I feel for you but you need help if you’re gonna get crackin’ on the 100).  For WCC membership, blends count, so take a few minutes to think back on how many varieties you can check off from those blended wines.  If you’d had a Southern Rhone wine anytime in the recent past, look up that sucker on the web, because you may have tasted upwards of a dozen varieties in that one glass.

2) Take a Class

Wine classes are a great way to up your wine IQ (well… duh…), but they’re also the kind of setting where you often get to try wines that are off the beaten path.  If you don’t know much about a particular wine region, it’s a great excuse to get yourself to a wine class and get educated.  It’s also an opportunity to tick off a likely more than a few varieties on your way to the 100.

3) Take a Trip

When you travel, try wine – preferably local wine.  Tasting wine in its home region, paired with its “home” food, is really experiencing wine in its natural element, and it will seriously expand your wine knowledge.  Of course, traveling is also an opportunity to try funky local wines that might not otherwise be available to you.  Here’s an example: Italy has hundreds of wine grape varieties, so a short time in Italy would get you ticking off wine varieties on your WCC application like… well… like a thing that speedily checks stuff off applications.  Anyway, if you lived in Italy, you should be able to complete the WCC application before your twelfth birthday.

So there you have it – nothing difficult about it.  Well, nothing difficult apart from having the patience to let your wine journey unfold naturally so that you experience the wonderful world that it has to offer you…

 

 

Cheers!

(images: amazon.com ,1WineDude, melaman2.com)

The Fine Print

This site is licensed under Creative Commons. Content may be used for non-commercial use only; no modifications allowed; attribution required in the form of a statement "originally published by 1WineDude" with a link back to the original posting.

Play nice! Code of Ethics and Privacy.

Contact: joe (at) 1winedude (dot) com

Google+

Labels

Vintage

Find