How often have you heard, “The wine should stay in the bottle another few years” or “It’ll get better with age”? But—will it? Two recent events focused on Long Island and New York wines provided an answer—a resounding Yes!
We have already discussed in these pages a recent vintage tasting of LI wines from Gristina, Jamesport, and Bedell and the strength those wines had after 15 – 25 years. A couple of weeks ago, at NY Drinks NY at the Astor Center Anna Lee Iijima, contributing editor, Wine Enthusiast, hosted a panel on Ageability in New York Wines. As we will see, the result was similar, with older New York wines again shining brilliantly once the cork came out of the bottle.
Following a regional overview given by Anna Lee to show why New York State wines are climatically and physically (i.e., think terroir) well-adapted for ageable wines, six New York winemakers presented and discussed vintages for 1997 and 2005, highlighting the background for each, and leaving pleasant results all around.
One factor that turned into a common theme for the day delved into the climate. New York has a cold climate for growing grapes. The cold climate, as presented, plays to the advantage for aging wines. In describing wine region climates, Anna Lee graphically showed a chart positioning the Finger Lakes regionally with Champagne, Burgundy and Mosel, and the North Fork of Long Island in there with Bordeaux and Piedmont. Other slides gave some basics on the structural components relating to ageability, charting alcohol, flavor precursors, sugars, and barrel maturation, as well as sensory components to how wines age. All served to show that based on nose, oxidation, esterification, hydrolysis, and polymerization structurally sound, high-quality wines get better.
This was all soon put to the test as Steve DiFrancesco from Glenora Wine Cellars kicked things off with a 2005 Méthode Champenoise Brut that blended Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, lending a nice complexity to a very well-aged, tasteful sparkling wine.
Roman Roth from Wolffer Estate was up next. Roman presented a superb 1997 Estate Chardonnay while giving a bit of background about the wine, concluding with a teaser about a newer vintage, proclaiming that the 2013 vintage will be “the greatest vintage Long Island ever had,” touting as potentially comparable to ’45 in Bordeaux!
Meaghan Frank then presented a 2005 Gewürtztraminer from Finger Lakes’ Dr. Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars, best-known for Riesling, but producing such white wines as Grüner Veltliner, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and, of course, Gewürtz, as well as first-class reds including Pinot Noir, Lemberger, and Cabernet Franc. Gewürtz does well in New York, with superb wines made all over the state. This ’05 was no exception!
Meaghan was followed by Macari Vineyards‘ Kelly Urbanik Koch, who poured their 1997 Bergen Road Blend.(a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec). Kelly, who admitted that this particular wine was not one of hers (current Sherwood house winemaker Gilles Martin holds that distinction), explained that ’97 was a warm vintage, but noted that this wine retained a fair amount of fruit and a tremendous nose. She pointed out that it is “a great example of what can be done with aging,” adding that “it could age for another 10 years.”
Channing Daughters’ Christopher Tracy was up next to present 2005 Blaufränkisch. The grape, a popular variety in Austria, is not as common on Long Island as it is in the Finger Lakes (where it is often called Lemberger), but Christoper has made it work consistently well. This vintage proved exceptional. As Christopher said, “with 4 – 5 – 6 years of bottle age the wines can really blossom.” Before wrapping up he added a note that the region’s wines have truly evolved, saying “Long Island doesn’t make wine in the image of anyone else anymore.”
Kareem Massoud from Paumanok Vineyards was last up. He discussed his 2005 Assemblage, a blend the winery has only made a few times in good years. The 2005 was a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. Kareem noted that “2005 was a very rainy year, but it was cool and dry right after.” The sunny, cool, breezy days, he explained, saved the vintage.”
Each of the six wines presented showcased the ageability of NY State wines. Each maintained excellent characteristics. Each was enjoyable and eminently drinkable. As with the previous event, this group showed true staying power. And that—along with the absolute drinkability and overall excellence of current regional releases all ready to drink now—speaks volumes about the quality and future of New York wines.