(This column appeared in the 11/26 issue of Dan's Papers)
This summer, if you drove east on Sound Avenue toward wineries like Lieb Family Cellars, Martha Clara, or Macari Vineyards, you probably saw an “Opening Soon” sign for a new winery in Riverhead – Roanoke Vineyards.
“Soon” ended up being a couple months longer than owner Richard Pisacano hoped, but after stopping in last weekend, I’d say it is well worth the wait.
A Long Island native, Pisacano has worked with vines and wines on both the North and South Forks since high school, including stints at Mudd’s Vineyard in Southold and at Jamesport Vineyards. Today, along with Roanoke vineyards, he works at Wolffer Estates in the Hamptons as their vineyard manager, a position he’s held since 1997.
Working at Wolffer has paid off in many ways as Roman Roth, general manager and winemaker at Wolffer, has signed on to craft the wines at Roanoke.
Roanoke’s new tasting room, which opened only a few weeks ago, features lots of wood and provides a rustic, barn-like setting for wine tasting. The shop area of the room features riddling racks filled with wines from Roanoke Vineyards, Wolffer Estates and Atwater Estates in the Finger Lakes (Pisacano is friends with the winemaker there)
When I was there, they were offering two flights (each $5), one with five whites and another featuring four reds. Each of the wines were good, but a few stood out from the pack
The Atwater 2003 Vidal Blanc ($9) was a pleasant surprise. Extremely crisp and just off dry, it featured tart Bosc pear and green apple flavors with just a little sweetness. The Atwater 2003 Riesling ($14.50) is also off-dry but offers the more rich, tropical flavors of mango and melon. Both would pair well with spicy Chinese to Thai food. The Fingers Lakes really produce some yummy off-dry whites and these are no exception.
Wolffer’s 2003 Late Harvest Chardonnay ($35) is pure pleasure in a bottle A deep, luxurious gold, this ice wine overflows with peach and apricot sweetness but retains a bright freshness because of expertly balanced acidity. I bought some on the spot. Wolffer’s 2001 Reserve Merlot ($22) is a full-bodied, sophisticated example of Long Island’s marquee varietal. Dark crimson in the glass, it’s a well-structured wine with layers of dried fruit.
The only Roanoke wine currently available, the Roanoke 2000 Merlot ($38), was easily my favorite of the tasting. Toasty and spicy, this 100 percent Merlot shows amazing amounts of lush berry for a wine that spent 20 months in oak. Its lingering, layered finish is highlighted by a touch of mint at the end. It rivals any Merlot on the Island, making it a great value, even at this price.
I look forward to tasting future Roanoke releases, including the varietal they plan to focus on, Cabernet Sauvignon. Pisacano and Roth are a great duo and we can be grateful that they have brought their well-grown and well-crafted wines to the North Fork.
For more information on Roanoke Vineyards, call 727 4161 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Lenn Thompson is a contributing wine writer for Dan’s North Fork. Email him at email@example.com