Category Archives: The Local Cellars

Six-year-old Long Island Merlot

I was at a friend’s house for dinner, she pulled out a bottle of wine her husband keeps for every day. Lo and behold, it was local and it was from our last good red wine vintage (if you didn’t pick to early or were growing something that happened reach peak ripeness around the second week in October) that’s already in bottle. 2005 made some awesome red for those who picked after the colossal rain around Columbus Day weekend. It was so hot and dry all summer long, that the rain really was Nature throwing a curve ball. (Unlike this year, when all we’ve got is curve balls.)

Anywho, about the Pellegrini 2005 Estate Merlot. They say on the label that it’s unfiltered and is 13 percent abv. Russell Hearn was definitely on the job then in the cellar. The wine is opaque, ruby red with black inflections and a thin pink rim, a nice bright color for a six-year-old wine. It has a lightly intense fruity smell, which I wish I could another way to describe, but it smells like those raspberry, blackberry candies that have small candy balls covering them so they look like fruit.

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Blending Pinot

sscn0531I got to accompany winemaker John Levenberg in the One Woman winery as he tested, tasted and planned his blends for the 2008 pinot noir grown by Russ McCall in Cutchogue.

We started with five samples from different clones and different barrels/tanks, tasted each separately, evaluated their strengths and weaknesses and then decided which would bring the best to a blend.

John, ever the modern winemaker, basically makes wine with his laptop filled with spreadsheets of tiny numbers and an indecipherable short hand — easily explained if you have a patience for numbers. Continue reading

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Christian Wolffer dies

Christian Wolffer, owner of Wolffer Estate Vineyards in Sagaponack, was killed New Year’s Eve while swimming on vacation in South America. He was 70 years old.

The accident was reported in the New York Post.

The fate of the winery is unknown. Employees are meeting today to learn of any plans already in place.

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Money makers

sscn04681Made a quick visit to Roanoke Vineyards Monday, and for sale in the tasting room were wreaths made from the discarded canes from different varieties. You could get a cab franc/merlot blend wreath for $5, or go for the straight cab franc. The woman in the tasting room said they were selling briskly, and the running joke was it was the most money they’ve yet made off their vines. Cute.

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Wölffer expanding south, and …

According to a post on winespectator.com (subscription site) on James Molesworth’s blog, “A Stirring of the Lees,” Christian Wölffer is expanding his holdings to include vineyard land in Argentina. The goal is to make more money. Molesworth writes:

Wölffer, whose eponymous Long Island winery produces around 16,500 cases annually, makes no bones about his frustration with that region’s wine industry.
“You can’t make money here doing quality,” he said bluntly. “You can only make money here if you do volumes.”

This is certainly contrary to Mr. Wölffer’s past actions including selling his Premier Cru at $100, the first, and only, Long Island wine to enter the “one buck” territory occupied by California cult cabs. The first vintage of this wine, a 2000, was released in 2003 with a press release:

WÖLFFER ESTATE CHALLENGES BORDEAUX TO A DUEL

WITH THE LAUNCH OF PREMIER CRU 2000

NEW YORK, May 13, 2003—Luminaries of the wine world gathered recently at Daniel restaurant in New York City to taste the much-anticipated first vintage of Premier Cru, an ultra-premium Merlot from Wölffer Estate Vineyards & Stables, located on Long Island’s South Fork in the heart of the Hamptons. A rare gem, only 200 six-bottle cases of Premier Cru 2000 were produced and to date, only 30 cases remain unsold, 20 of which will be kept in Wölffer’s Library for aging to showcase the wine’s longevity.


The Spectator gave that wine an 88.  Molesworth’s post after the jump.

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Words on Premium

I have an article on Premium Wine Group in the Fall issue of Edible East End magazine. It’s the one currently on the street now with the Brussels sprouts on the stock quote pages on the cover.

At right is Russell Hearn, co founder of Premium, the only custom crush operation east of the Mississippi, right here in Mattituck on the North Fork.

From the article:

Premium opened in 2000 with nine cutomers and processed 545 tons of fruit to create approximately 360,000 bottles of wine. In 2007 they had 15 customers and turned 1,093 tons of grapes into 740,00 bottles.

I just quoted myself.

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Chardonnay coming in

This week, between the rains, Bedell Cellars is machine picking their chardonnay. The picture shows the last gasp of a pressing of the chard from the winery’s horizontal pneumatic press. The juice is sticky and sweet. Up until now, Bedell has only handpicked grapes mostly so triage can be exercised in the vineyard. The damp growing season has resulted in a lot of botrytis, and stink rot, says Donna Rudolph, the assisstant vineyard manager. I’m not sure what stink rot is. The Oxford Companion to Wine lists 14 different kinds of rot, including sour rot.

a breakdown of mature grapes caused by a mixture of fungi, bacteria, and yeast which invades damaged berries. The fruit takes on the smell of vinegar, and juice from rotting berries can spread the infection, as can fruit fly. Common entry points for the mixture of microbes are bird pecks as well as splits in berry skin caused by rain. Some organisms involved are the fungi Aspergillus, Botryosphaeria, Cladosporium, Monilia, Penicillium, and Sclerotinia and the yeast Saccharomyces. The rot is encouraged by rain and high humidity, and control relies on avoiding fruit damage as well as encouraging fruit aeration.

Sounds like a challenge. Continue reading

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