(This column will appear in an upcoming issue of Dan's Papers)
Over the Barrel…with Lenn Thompson
New Releases from Lieb Family Cellars
If you love Long Island wines like I do, you might have a love-hate relationship with autumn on the East End. You love it because its grape harvest season, often called "crush" in California. The wineries and tasting rooms are filled with the smells of fresh grapes and winemaking. But, especially on the North Fork, roads are packed and parking lots are overflowing with people snatching apples from orchards and scurrying through corn mazes. More time in your car sitting means less time sipping your favorite wines--never a good thing in my book.
Last weekend, I navigated through the pumpkin pickers for Lieb Family Cellars' Annual Warehouse Sale and Vineyard Tour, an exclusive event for wine club members. While there, I was able to taste all of their current releases, each of the nine paired with delectable food from a local caterer.
Along with the always-delicious Merlots (my favorite is the 2001 Reserve), I tasted three new releases that were particularly interesting.
The 2003 Pinot Blanc Reserve ($17), Lieb's signature varietal, has a rich, floral nose filled with citrus and peaches. On the palate, the peaches give way to delicious Anjou pear, citrus and mildly melon flavors. The impressive finish is much longer and much more complex than you'd expect from such a young wine. This mouthwatering white is great with food and I think it would make an interesting foil for sushi and sashimi.
Lieb's 2002 Chardonnay Reserve ($18) is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes and is a light straw in the glass. A complex, serious wine, it was whole cluster fermented in steel and then aged in French Oak, giving it a toasty, slightly vanilla nose without any overbearing, raw oakiness. Its flavors start with pear but move toward cinnamon apple toward the finish.
Not quite a buttery California Chardonnay yet not quite a white Burgundy either, it's still perfect for meatier fish dishes and, of course, lemon roasted chicken.
Before I even headed to Cutchogue for the event, I knew I'd get to try the Pinot Blanc and the Chardonnay Reserve. They are available at Lieb's Mattituck tasting room and in several wine shops on the Island. And, because previous vintages were top notch, I knew there was a good chance they'd be just as delicious. I was right.
What I didn't know, however, was that I'd be getting to try an unreleased wine, their 2002 Cabernet Franc ($28). This is Lieb's first Cabernet Franc release, having previous only used their Cab Franc for their Bordeaux-style 2001 Meritage blend ($55) and their other Merlots. Only 150 cases were made.
Dark plum in the glass, this still-young wine was still pretty closed right out of the bottle. With some time to breathe however, it opened up, offering enticing raspberry and plum aromas. Taking a sip, I was treated to even more dark berry flavors with a nice layer of chocolate and just a hint of herbal character. The tannins were full and powerful, but not too overpowering. Their power, I expect, will start to fade in the next few months, resulting in another great red from Lieb.
This wine will be excellent served along side roasted Long Island duck by the time it's released in early December.
To buy these and other wines from Lieb Family Cellars, call the tasting room at 631-298-1942.