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Food & Drink

Wine, etc.: Rediscovering the wines of Long Island | COMMENTARY

When you think of Long Island, New York, what comes to mind? Maybe the one-tenth of one percenters who flaunt their wealth in the Hamptons? Aside from that, what is there to interest those who live outside of the New York megalopolis?

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We had lost a wisp of interest in the budding New York wine industry when we were first writing about its wines in the 1990s. Then we tasted a few wines from Long Island that we recently stumbled upon, and enthusiastically read an autobiographical account of the first commercial winery on Long Island founded in 1973 by Louisa and Alex Hargrave. Their story, “The Vineyard,” is a must read for any daydreamers contemplating starting a winery on a shoestring. But after these brief encounters, the region went dark to us.

Flash forward to this year, and lo and behold, we were contacted with an offer to taste a selection of Long Island wines. We were in. Before tasting the current offerings, we researched a bit of geological history to illuminate the landscape.

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Long Island which includes the New York boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn as well as Nassau and Suffolk counties, is home to more than 8 million inhabitants. Forming a rather narrow spit of land 118 miles by 23 miles at its widest, Long Island vaguely resembles an angry alligator with its jaws agape jutting into the Atlantic Ocean. The upper and lower jaws of our reptile constitute the bulk of the wine grape growing areas on Long Island. The island itself — as well as the soils of Long Island — are the result of at least two glaciations that peaked 20,000 years ago, depositing the scraping of ice masses and forming a jumble of rocks, soil and sand in Long Island Sound.

The upper northeast portion of the island is known as the North Fork and is the site of the first winery mentioned above. It houses the bulk of contemporary wine production. A combination of loose soils and cool maritime breezes contribute to the area’s affinity for commercial grape growing.

We tasted six wines in total and the following four were our favorites, with the Peconic Bay riesling and McCall pinot noir leading the pack.

G/NY Viognier North Fork of Long Island 2020 ($35). Very dry with a floral honeyed nose that developed over time. Rich in the mouth with pear fruit notes. Very crisp and clean.

Peconic Bay Vineyards Riesling North Fork of Long Island 2020 ($28). Classic riesling nose with hints of petrol. Rich and mouth coating with lovely peach elements and a hint of sweetness balanced by crisp acidity.

McCall Pinot Noir North Fork of Long Island 2015 ($30). This is the current vintage, according to their website. Classic aged Burgundian nose and flavors. Amazingly good and well-priced, this effort presented complex notes of dried cherry, truffles mushrooms and a nice gamey quality that rounded out the package.

Lenz Winery Estate North Fork of Long Island 2015 ($35). Again, this is the current vintage and is available on their website. This wine is in a real good spot now, presenting nice, aged qualities with a touch of oak. Pleasant cherry fruit notes, this wine is very drinkable.

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Argentina remains an oft-forgotten region for wine, yet it represents some of the best values in the wine kingdom. Although known most for its malbec, it also makes good cabernet, carmenere and blends of all three.

Here are a few we recently tasted:

Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2019 ($20). Using grapes from 80-year-old vines in a top region of the Mendoza, Trivento is a classic malbec with good depth and personality.

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Veramonte Organic Carmenere 2020 ($12). Bright red fruit characterize this simple but tasty treat from Chile. It’s a great barbecue wine.

Orfila Reserva Eco Valley Malbec 2019 ($20). Recently launched in the United States, this newcomer has fine tannins and generous blue fruit flavors. Its Classic Malbec ($13) is a great value as well.

Wine picks

Alma Rosa La Encantada Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Blanc 2020 ($35). We absolutely loved this pinot blanc for its clean fruit character, crisp acidity and flavors of pear and peach.

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Feudo Montoni “Rosé di Adele” Sicilia DOC 2021 ($23). Using only nerello mascalese grapes native to Sicily, this producer has an unusual yet delightful rosé. Effusive violet aromas with flavors of tart pomegranate and blackberry.

Pierre Amadieu La Grangeliere Vacqueyras 2019 ($30). We enjoy this region of southern France for well-priced wines from villages like Vacqueyras. A blend of syrah and grenache, it has ripe cherry and plum flavors with soft, approachable tannins and a hint of vanilla.

DuMOL Estate Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2019 ($108). Consumers are faced with soaring prices for good pinot noir. We liked this wine but felt it a shame that it is in a group of elite pinot noirs that are allocated and very expensive. If you want to elevate your pinot noir experience, this wine is impressive for its balance, weight, bright acidity and expressive fruit character.

Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have been writing a weekly, syndicated wine column since 1985. See their blog at moreaboutwine.com. They can be reached at marq1948@gmail.com.


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