Jamesport Vineyards – 1995 Merlot

I’ve been attending wine functions at Jamesport Vineyards and talking grapes with owner & winemaker Ron Goerler for more years than I can remember.   So, when Steve Bedney and Ray Riordan (both longtime members of their wine club) were invited to a wine club pickup party organized by their retail manager Laura Hoch and wine club coordinator Meghan Cereola I decided to tag along.

Flashback to December.   While exploring a few  East End wineries with a friend between Christmas and New Year’s, when the entire East End was cold, windy and desolate; through a series of fortunate events we were given a couple of old wines from Jamesport.    Included was a bottle of their 1995 Churchfield Merlot.  It’s always a gamble with an old wine, as you never know how it’s going to taste.   Is it corked?   Was it subjected to wide temperature variations?   Has the wine peaked?   This is especially true when you are given a bottle and have no idea of its history.   But I decided to tempt fate and bring it to the pickup party and share it with Ron, Laura, Meghan, Steve, and Ray.

00 jamesport old merrlots

A friend, who had a mediocre experience with a bottle of the 95 merlot from Jamesport at a tasting of old wines at Empire State Cellars, warned me that this vintage may have passed its prime.    But I ignored his advice and decided to bring it to the pickup party anyway.    Why not?   It’s all part of the adventure of tasting wine.    The cork broke when Ron attempted to open the bottle.   My heart sank.  “Oh, boy!   This could embarrassing.”      But Ron was able to extricate the cork on the 2nd attempt and poured a few glasses.    The first thing we noticed about the wine was the color, a deep ruby with no browning on the edges.   Definitely a good sign.   Not much of an aroma at first, but after a few minutes it started opening up and the fragrance of dark fruit filling the air as we all began swirling our glasses.    And then we tasted it.   Not bad.   A little green, but not bad.   A minute or two later, we tasted it again.   Even better!   And by the time I had my 2nd tasting, the wine had warmed up to room temperature and it was starting to show real character:  Earthy overtones, the taste of raspberries & blackberries and hints of leather on the finish.     I started to feel a sense of satisfaction (and relief!) as I realized that I had hit the jackpot.     The wine wasn’t just good, it was great!

We then did a comparison with the 2001 Merlot, which Ron was opening up as a treat for the Jamesport wine club members.   Also quite good, but did not quite approach the smoothness and depth of the 1995.   But considering how the 1995 developed I wondered how the 2001 will taste 5-6 years down the road.   Ron cautioned that not only is every vintage different, but winemaking techniques have evolved over the years and that it is difficult to extrapolate the results of one vintage to another.  But of course it will be interesting to see how the 2001 develops over time.

After the success of the 1995, I am now anxious to taste the 2nd bottle, which is the Jamesport Merlot from 1993.    If I remember my history of Long Island viniculture, 1993 was not quite as a good a year as 1995, but hopefully this bottle will be another success story.   Stay tuned.

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