Gems in My Glass . . . November 2009

Tasting Notes

The North Fork: Showing Growth, Depth, and Heaps to Crow About

Traveling to the North Fork Wine Region (Long Island NY) after a 5 year hiatus showcased both a step back in time and a step forward into the future. Among a region full of rolling hills, roots in agriculture, fresh produce stands, wine tasting rooms built from potato barns, and vineyards both old and new; there were plenty of pleasant and down right remarkable producers and wines uncovered:

Castello di Borghese

A tour of the vineyards and property with Marco Borghese was a pure joy. Marco was born and raised in the countryside in Italy and feels right at home in the vineyards. He and wife Anne-Marie purchased Long Island’s oldest winery in 1999, making it there own; and are clearly producing an impressive line up of wines:

2007 Chardonnay: This stainless steel fermented Chardonnay boasts expressive tree fruit aromas and stays focused on the palate with flavors of juicy apple and creamy pear laced with citrus notes. Beautifully balanced with a hint of honey on the lasting finish.

2007 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc: Several months of aging in new French oak adds richness to this Sauvignon Blanc displaying peachy, toasty aromas and broadening expansively on the palate with melon and citrus notes. Elegant and clean with bright, tantalizing acidity.

2008 Fleurette: Made from Merlot, this delightful Rose opens with pretty floral notes and fills the mouth with freshly picked strawberries alongside cranberry flavors. A bit of residual sugar is present, but it is oh so pure and clean, and feels dry on the palate. Fresh, delicate and simply delicious.

2005 Estate Pinot Noir: Dark and deep with spicy cherries greeting the nose. Plenty of complexity here with earthy, leathery, forest floor notes melding nicely with the dark cherry core. Good depth and structure with a nice dose of acidity holding up the fruit. Finishes long with a pleasing vanilla accent.

2005 Cabernet Franc: Earthy, herbal notes in the nose that hold nicely on the palate and frame layers of blackberry, olive and tobacco at the core. The loamy soil and leather characteristics shine through and add depth and complexity; stunning example of North Fork Cab Franc!


Located in the picturesque Peconic, Raphael’s tasting room is wide open and spacious, nicely appointed and offers beautiful vineyard views. Their red blend and Cabernet Franc were especially nice:

2007 La Fontana: A blend of 40% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Malbec, this blend opens with wild cherry and blueberry aromas. Big juicy red and black berry fruit with plenty of acidity fills the palate with a nice dollop of fresh herbs adding complexity.

2007 Cabernet Franc: A smoky charcoal and herbal essence fills the nose, and makes you think of fresh roasted green bell peppers. Upon entry black cherry notes with a sprinkling of fresh black peppercorns round out the herbal notes that remain persistent through the finish. Nicely structured with a good wallop of acidity!

Martha Clara Vineyards

The Entenmann family planted several acres vitis vinifera grapes about 15 years ago on the North Fork of Long Island and now run a 200 acre farm. Winemaking at MCV is in the hands of Juan Micieli-Martinez, a native of Long Island. Most impressive wines here were among their line up of whites including:

2008 Viognier: Essence of tree ripened white peaches greet the nose, and citrus infused peaches and nectarines fill the palate, with celery notes adding further dimension. Fresh and balanced with a pretty texture; finishing clean and bright.

2008 Gewurztraminer: All about florality and spice rising from the glass, you can happily linger here for a long while before the first sip, the aromatics are so enchanting. Lychee fruit, orange blossom and honeysuckle bloom on the palate; and the combination of sweet and tart flavors with a dash of spice meld harmoniously.

2007 Ciel: A tasty dessert wine made from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Viognier that fills the nose with toasty, honey notes and expands on the palate with ripe tropical fruit and candied orange peel dotted with caramel. A good backbone of acidity keeps it well balanced.

Pindar Vineyards

A native New Yorker, founder and owner Dr. H. “Dan” Damianos purchased 30 acres of farmland in the Long Island town of Peconic in 1979 and began planting shortly thereafter; releasing Pindar’s first vintage in 1982. Today, the Damianos family’s planted vineyards cover 400 acres. The impressive team, including Winemaker Les Howard, and Vineyard Manager and Director of Viticulture Pindar Damianos, produces more than 70,000 cases of first class wine. Here is just a snapshot of my favorites:

2008 Sunflower Chardonnay: Inviting oak notes greet the nose and hold your attention. The use of 100% new French oak is evident from the start, and remains attractive through the sumptuous palate to the lip-smacking finish. Perfectly balanced with layers of fresh pear, baked apple, butter and vanilla meshing deliciously.

2007 Riesling: Wow, apricot and floral notes waft from the glass and transition smoothly to the stone fruit, citrus, minerality and honeysuckle on mid palate. Well structured with a delectable burst of honey on the finish.

2008 Sauvignon Blanc: Nice touch of grassiness and pretty herbal notes in the nose open to expressive kiwi and succulent tropical fruits with a big splash of fresh squeezed key limes on mid palate. Nicely balanced, juicy and lively with a clean, lingering lime peel finish.

2007 Merlot: Blueberry and exotic spiced aromas frame the dark plums, blueberry and spice that explode on the palate. The pleasing layers of sweet fruit and spice, with a subtle hint of oak and smooth, supple tannins make this Merlot oh so approachable now.

2007 Mythology: A stunning blend of 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Cabernet Franc, 18% Merlot, 8% Petite Verdot and 5% Malbec. Opens with a wallop of fresh dark fruit on the nose that broaden gloriously with delectable dense pluminess, tobacco, chocolate covered cherries, vanilla extract and beautiful oak integration filling the mouth and lingering persistently on the finish. Complex with a firm backbone of acidity and well structured tannins that suggest plenty more life ahead, if you can manage to put it down!

2008 Late Harvest Riesling: Fragrant honeysuck1e aromas flourish in the nose followed by succulent ripe apricot, pineapple and honey flavors swirling delightfully on the palate. Lush and deliciously sweet with a good dose of acidity to keep it from being cloying; and a heavenly finish that is smooth and memorable.

Bedell Cellars

At first glance you can’t help but be impressed with the classy tasting room showcasing art and other handsome decor; and venturing further into Bedell Cellars opens up a revelation of classy skillfully crafted wine as well. Hospitality Director Andrew Mestler guided us through a fine array of wines:

2007 Chardonnay: Fermented in stainless steel and aged in 40% new oak, this noteworthy Chard boasts spice drenched baked pear aromas that intensify on the palate alongside layers of fresh green apple and a splash of citrus. Creamy and bright with nice oak integration and a touch of vanilla on the finish.

2007 Bedell Gallery: Five lots of Chardonnay were blended with Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier to create an ultra rich, mineral laden wine. Toasty oak and a hint of florality up front pave the way for a viscous, complex mouthful of white plums, green apple, shortbread cookie and nice accent of French oak add a delightful finishing touch.

2007 Reserve Merlot: Brooding, earthy, dark fruit aromas greet the nose and open to layer upon layer of tart Bing cherry, brown spices, bittersweet chocolate, and blackberry notes unraveling wonderfully on the palate. An interesting note of real maple syrup adds complexity and lights up the finish.

2006 Musee Bordeaux Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot are combined into this predominately Merlot blend that results in a darkly hued, briary wine with a firm muscular structure and tons of depth. Boysenberry, blackberry, plum and black currant flavors weave nicely with the pleasing oak, earthiness and Asian spices and captivate the palate. Plenty of tannins suggest good ageability with this full bodied Bordeaux blend.

Paumanok Vineyards

Founded 26 years ago by Ursula and Charles Massoud and managed by the couple and their three sons, Paumanok sits upon a 103 acre estate, producing about 10,000 cases from estate grown fruit. Ursula’s charming accent identifies her old world roots; and she says wine has been a part of their lives forever. My favorites include:

2008 Sauvignon Blanc: Aromas of freshly squeezed grapefruit lead to a first sip full of gooseberry, melon, citrus notes and herbs melding with aplomb. Stays focused on mid palate with vivid fruit nicely offsetting racy acidity; finishing clean and bright.

2008 Semi Dry Riesling: Love the florality in the nose; and the palate follows equally nice with gobs of apricot, nectarine and tart applesauce flavors pleasing the taste buds. Zingy acidity and just the right touch of sweet honey on the finish.

2007 Festival Red: Displaying satisfying whiff of red fruits on the nose, this soft and enjoyable wine flows onto the palate with juicy raspberry, ripe strawberry and a touch of sweet cherry accents. Pleasantly dry with a nice fruit to acid ratio, this is a nice and easy quaffing red.

2005 Assemblage: This blend of 44% Merlot 34% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Petit Verdot is complex and very well balanced with firm long lasting tannins. Dark black currant aromas lead to dense dark wild berries, cassis, herbs and chewy licorice filling the palate. Just a touch of earthiness pulls it all together strikingly in this big, bold ageworthy Bordeaux blend.