Bordeaux. It’s the region most often used to describe our unique climate. It should come as no surprise then that many Long Island winemakers focus mainly on Merlot, one of the most important grapes in Bordeaux.
Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehampton is delightfully different. Do they make Merlot? Sure. In fact, they make a few different ones, depending on the growing season, each with its own distinctive character.
But, Merlot is certainly not winemaker Christopher Tracy’s focus. And Bordeaux isn’t the only region he thinks of either. Instead, he looks east to the Friuli region in Italy.
“Like Friuli, we are a maritime, cool-climate wine-grape growing region. This is an excellent opportunity for white grapes to achieve optimum ripeness, flavor and acidity levels year in and year out. The soil and the landscape of the Isonzo region in Friuli especially bears these resemblances,” Tracy said.
Don’t believe him? Stroll through their fields and you’ll see Tocai Friulano, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Bianco.
Aside from these unique-to-Long Island varietals, they also grow ligoté, malvasia bianca, and muscat ottonel.
Why experiment so much?
Allison Dubin, Channing Daughters’ general manager, answered that question easily. “We are always seeking to make the absolute highest quality wines we can, and what better way to achieve the best results than to experiment? We always are striving to find what’s best for our climate, our soil and our cellar.”
If there’s any drawback to this artisanal experimentation, it’s the small production runs. Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to get your hands on the wines because the best ones sell out to wine club members before being released to the public.
Of the wines that are available to those who walk into the tasting room, one of the most welcoming on the Island, a few charmers stand out.
The Channing Daughters 2004 Scuttlehole Chardonnay ($14) is a delightful white made completely in stainless steel. It’s filled with crisp citrus fruit flavors and shows a nice mineral quality that you don’t usually see at this price point. Perfect with local shellfish and goat cheese, it’s absolutely appetite whetting.
The soon-to-be released 2004 Channing Perrine Mudd Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($18) is one of the stars of the portfolio. Ninety-percent of this wine is from grapes grown in Long Island’s oldest Sauvignon Blanc vineyard, planted in 1975, with the other ten percent coming from equally old vines of chardonnay musqué clone. It’s elegant and complex like quality Sancerre but offers some of the zestyherbal character of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
If you prefer red wine, do yourself a favor
and go to the tasting room right now and pick up a bottle
or twelve of the Channing Daughters 2003 Blaufrankisch ($22). Grilled porterhouse steak sprinkled lightly with salt and black pepper dominates the early nose with black plum and black cherry beneath. The first sip is equally rich, with more obvious cherry flavors revealing themselves. The tannins are very soft, barely noticeable, but they contribute a spiciness that adds a lot to the wine. This is an “Old World”
wine with constrained fruitiness and bright acidity.
Buy some today. It won’t last.
For more information or to join Channing’s extremely popular wine club, visit www.channingdaughters.com or call 537-7224.