I stopped by Raphael on the way to work Friday to pick up a couple of cases of sauvignon blanc to sell by the bottle. It replaces the Lieb Pinot Blanc, which always sells well. The Raphael barely had time to chill before people started ordering it.
Winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich had packed up some samples and then gave me a tasting of the 2007 reds he has in barrels. The cabernet franc is going to be delicious. We tasted some out of new American oak, made by French coopers and one from old French oak. The fruit got so ripe that the cab franc has a richness and little of that greenness that often is what cab franc is about. Rich said his cab franc was the best from Raphael’s vineyard, but that other growers and winemakers are saying their merlot was the best. “Every vineyard’s different,” he said.
What was really wild was the malbec. It had what I called a sachet and Rich said was lilac, flowery nose. But the tannins were really high. What he had learned from Paul Pontallier, said Rich, was to wait and not be afraid to leave wine in oak longer than you think you should. The tannins will drop out and become more mellow with time.
The 2007 cabernet sauvignon was surprisingly light. Almost as if one would have to add some merlot to give it structure.
Rich showed me merlot from three barrels. One contained wine made from Petrus clones that Rich said with eyebrows raised smells like a “wet horse.” He wasn’t kidding. The wine is brett infected and will definitely provide a small element to some blends. Which I got to try. He added some merlot from a new oak barrell and then some from aged oak and soon the wine was coming together.
He invited me to come over when they start blending. “I could use your nose,” he said. Some guys have said worse to me …
Of course, I’d be delighted.
We talked about the 2002 merlots, which are really drinking well, and doing better over time than the 2001s, which got a lot of buzz when they came out. “They’re under the radar,” said Rich.
He gave me a bottle of his 2002 merlot, which has a small percentage of malbec, and will soon be released by the winery. I opened it for a regular customer, Mark, who is a tried-and-true Bordeaux fan and gave it to him blind. The wine has that barnyardy smell, which identifies Rich’s wines, smooth tannins, a graphite middle that winemakers in cool climates are after and still fresh fruit on the finish.
Mark was wowed. “This is Bordeaux, right?” he asked. “It’s the best Long Island wine I’ve had.”
Another 2002 merlot to check out is Osprey’s Dominion’s Reserve. It has that chocolately, minty Pomerol smell that I love.