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New Boys on the Long Island Wine Block.

By Roy Bradbrook, Christopher Davies & Marlene Rossman (Wine Country International)
Now that Long Island, New York, is firmly established as a region that produces wines that match up on a world ranking ...

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By Roy Bradbrook, Christopher Davies & Marlene Rossman
(Wine Country International)

Now that Long Island, New York, is firmly established as a region that produces wines that match up on a world ranking level, expect more and more visitors there, especially as it is so close to so many attractions including, of course, the premier attraction, Manhattan. Wine lovers demand good food as well as wine, and expert restaurateurs such as Dick Ehrlich, owner of the 'Seafood Barge' in Southold, have not only set the trend with great places to eat but have kept up with the changing pace and demands as eager wine lovers tour the area. The Seafood Barge really has it all, from being close to many of the top wineries such as Lenz, Raphael and Bedell, to having one of the most picturesque water views sitting right on the shore of the beautiful Peconic Bay.

Determined to continue to raise the bar, Dick recently brought in Executive Chef Americo Mintegui, a young man with an already very impressive resume. Americo trained in Baltimore and New York, and after working with David Bouley at three of his top places, he went to Europe with David's encouragement, and ended up working at Ferra Adria's now legendary 'El Bulli' restaurant. Back in the US, after spells at L'Espinasse, Union Pacific and Restaurant Daniel, he was persuaded to bring his talent to his native eastern Long Island. He has already built up a great reputation there in the course of one season. To gain knowledge of local produce, on his days away from the kitchen, Americo worked in vineyards and in the fields where local organic salad greens are farmed and went out harvesting scallops with local fishermen. Back in the kitchen, this knowledge translates into a menu focused on the very finest seafood and local produce with always something on the menu for carnivores and vegetarians alike.

Another not so new face but one in a very new and different situation is Michael Meehan, a chef who already has a great following on Long Island but who now is involved in the planning and creation of the proposed new restaurant complex at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue. Subject to planning approval, Peconic Bay hopes to have a new 55 seat restaurant plus a 65 to 70 seat outdoor summer dining area some time next year. The whole project is being designed to ensure that it is fully in keeping with the surrounding vineyards. While being very closely involved in the planning stage, Michael, who was appointed culinary director a year ago, is also busy blending his cooking with Greg Gove's wines, as they stage wine dinners at restaurants across Long Island. Michael commented how much he is enjoying working with the host chefs, many of whom are old friends, and how well the evenings have gone. They now are well advanced with plans to take the events into Manhattan in a few months time.

Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue brings new faces to one of the oldest wineries on Long Island. Rose Pepia and her son, Joe, whose family owned vineyards in Sicily, recall many years growing up when he 'holidayed' with the family in Sicily and spent long hours working in the vineyards. Anyway, Joe decided on a change of career from his truck rental business to running a winery and they bought the long established Bidwell Winery and renamed it Vineyard 48. Initially, Roman Roth of Wolffer Vineyards was the consulting winemaker, but Mathew Baez, who was at Pindar, is the new winemaker. Joe is looking forward to their first full harvest under their ownership and their 27-planted acres include some of the oldest vines on Long Island. They grow Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay varietals. Look for the release of the 2004 barrel fermented Chardonnay due out the first week of October.

Long Island's food and wine industry is thriving and the influx of new faces and ideas bodes well for the future, especially now that, thanks to changes in New York State laws, wine lovers will be able to have Long Island wines shipped to their out of state homes.

Long Island Wine Tasting Notes

By Marlene Rossman

Duck Walk Vineyards Pinot Noir 2003


Only 200 cases of Duck Walk's Pinot Noir were made, and this smooth, elegant red has true Burgundian character. The wine is unfiltered and has flavors of raspberries, blackberries and blueberries.

Duck Walk Vineyards Chardonnay 2004


Lovely lemon and cream flavors with beautifully balanced acids. The sweet fruit comes shining through. The finish is long and complex.

Duck Walk Vineyards Pinot Grigio 2004

If not totally varietally true, this Pinot Grigio is still delicious and has lovely aromas and flavors of tropical fruits and flowers.

Duck Walk Vineyards Blueberry Port 2003


The wild mountain blueberries from Maine that are used to make this wine are small, concentrated and sweet. This is a thick, complex port-style wine with great flavor. You can almost eat it with a fork.

Jason's Vineyard Merlot 1999


Smooth, medium bodied, deep and easy-drinking Merlot. With a couple of years of age, Long Island's Merlots, like this one are really something to crow about.

Laurel Lake Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve 2002


Laurel Lake's 2002 Chardonnay is the first vintage made by Winemaker Claudio Zamorano. It showcases his interpretation of Long Island terroir. A winner for winemaker Claudio!

Laurel Lake Vineyard Pinot Noir Reserve 2003


The winery's first Pinot Noir release shows aromas of earth, mushrooms and cherries. Stainless steel fermented and aged for 12 months in mature French oak barrels, this Pinot is smooth, rich and ripe. Only 100 cases made.

Laurel Lake Vineyard 2001 Ice Wine


Sweet honey in the rock. This is made from 100% Chardonnay with smooth rich ripe pears and apricots on the palate. You do not need dessert, this IS dessert.

Macari Bergen Road 2001


I have always loved Macari's Bergen Road! A great blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, this is barrique aged for 20 months. The wine is a beautiful inky color with flavors of blackcurrant, plum and a restrained hit of French oak.

Macari Sauvignon Blanc 2004


This Sauv Blanc has just been released, so grab it when you see it! It has lovely sweet citrus and new mown hay aromas and flavors and does not bite back with too much acid, like other Sauv Blancs.

Macari Ice Wine Block E 2003


An exquisite dessert wine with a bouquet of lychee, melon and flowers and a palate of mango and passion fruit leading to a long finish.

Peconic Bay Riesling 2004


Off dry and refreshing, this delicious Riesling has citrus, pear and apple flavors. It was my first taste of North Fork Riesling, and those top-rated Finger Lakes Rieslings had better watch out for this one!

Peconic Bay Chardonnay 2001 La Barrique


Great, deep Northeastern flavors of apple and pear, paired with creamy vanilla and yeast. A rich, marvelous Chardonnay made complex by the judicious use of French oak and aging.

Peconic Bay Cabernet Franc 2002


A Cab Franc with aromas of pencil lead, bell pepper and sweet herbs. This is, "frankly," a top contender in New York's Cabernet category.

Pindar Sunflower Chardonnay Special Reserve 2002


Pindar's Sunflower Chardonnay can stand up to the best! From a vineyard site of only 2.9 acres, this special reserve was barrel fermented in new French oak for 8 months.

Pindar Viognier 2004


From one of my favorite vintners of red Meritage blends, this is a new varietal for Pindar and a first for Long Island. This Viognier has gorgeous flavors of melon and pear with a looooong, smooth finish.

Raphael Merlot Estate 2002

This young beauty can be enjoyed already, but, judging from how delicious the 2000 is, try to cellar it for a year or two.

Raphael Sauvignon Blanc 2004


Fermented both in small French oak cooperage and stainless steel, the wine has a lovely floral edge. Good acidity makes it a perfect accompaniment to shellfish and other seafood.

Vineyard 48 Riesling 2002


From the former Bidwell Vineyards come two marvelous white wines. The Riesling is an off-dry aromatic white with a floral nose and peach and apricot flavors. It's luscious.

Vineyard 48 Chardonnay 2003


Lovely and plush, it sends toasty vanilla, apple and lemon to the palate. The finish is elegant and almost Chablis-like.

Water's Crest Chardonnay 2004

Light, lemony and lovely, this is a Burgundian-style Chard that you want to glug with a piece of sauted salmon.

Wolffer Estate Vineyards Merlot 2001 Hamptons Estate Selection


Roman Roth's Estate Merlot is delicious with berries, vanilla, minerals and hints of chocolate. Medium/full-bodied with a soft finish, tannins which displays hints of tobacco, spice, and toasted oak.

Wolffer Estate Vineyards Rose 2004


Made from a blend of Merlot. Pinot Noir and a bit of Chardonnay grapes, it's salmon-colored, with a nice hit of tea rose and citrus flavors.

Wolffer Estate Vineyards Late Harvest Chardonnay 2003


Done in the classic Eiswein style, this late harvest Chardonnay makes a fabulous dessert on its own. If you must add dessert, try a lemon tart with it...heaven!