I got quite a few emails last week asking if I saw the pieces in the New York Times on Long Island wines. Of course I did!
For those of you that didn't, however, the two main links are:
I read Asimov every week and I'm beyond pleased to finally see him turn his eyes just slightly east to Long Island. But, as someone who drinks and writes about Long Island wines a few times a week, I'd like to comment on some things he says in these two pieces.
Opinions are like tastebuds of course, everyone has different ones, but there are a few thingsworth discussing. (By the way, I'm also planning to contact him directly -- once I can acquire his email address -- about some of the things I'm going to mention here.)
"Their region has yet to make a name for itself with much of the public, and they have been hard-pressed to extend their market beyond New York City."
This is true, but it's not entirely because of wine quality. And, as he says later in the story, Long Island has only recently started to get good at this wine thing. Of the Island's 30-plus years of commercial winemaking, only in the last ten or so has the overall quality really improved (with exceptions of course).
I think it's extremely difficult to break into the minds, wallets and palates of wine drinkers...especially when you're shooting for higher-end, quality wines. I mean, I still know people that only drink French wines...ignoring California and every other region.
I ask you, would Australia be as big as it is without bargain wines like Yellow Tail making it a real force? Maybe, but it would have taken a lot longer. Without bargain wines as the initial 'hook'...it just takes longer I think.
As for extending their market beyond NYC...that has much more do do
with interstate shipping laws than the quality of the wines, I think. By not mentioning that roadblock, the story implies that it's wine quality that holds them back. That's just not the case.
"The region is not yet ready to stake a claim for great wines, but it is making quite a bit of good wine these days."
I do agree with this statement but only half way...there is quite a bit of good wine here. However, given the wines he sampled, I'm not sure he's tasted the right wines to decide whether or not there are great wines. There are a few reds he missed that I think rival the best of his list, no matter how much I love Shinn Estates' Merlot (and I do love it).
Moving on to the second piece...the tasting panel and their notes. Most of
what's written I find intersting, such as comparing the wines to the
Loire Valley and smaller, somewhat lesser regions within Bordeaux.
I don't have much experience with Loire wines, so this is definitely an interesting perspective...and means I'll be buying more Loire wine in the near future.
I would never "argue" with someone else's tasting notes. Every reviewer has a different palate and this tasting panel is pretty impressive. However, there are a few discrepancies that I think take away from the tasting a bit.
First, Lieb Cellars' Merlot Reserve (which is the bottle they tasted based on the picture and name) is a $20ish bottle, not a $14 bottle as listed. If they paid $14, it was their Bridge Lane Merlot...their second label.
Similarly, Lenz Winery's 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon is $15 and just not that good in my opinion. If they paid $35 for their bottle (as printed), it had to have been the 2000, which is infinitely better. I'm going to email him asking for clarification on this one in particular.
Also, if they did review the 1999 from Lenz...I'd like to ask why.
The 1999 at $35 is a horrible value...and it sure looks like one from the
write up. The 2000, however, earns the price tag in my mind. So, as
written, the wine looks like a rip off.
I'd love to find out how they chose the wines for the tasting. The
inclusion of Rivendell is interesting...and I've never tasted this Rivendell offering (their Riesling is awesome though).
It's made with Long Island grapes and I believe it's vinified at
Premium Wine Group (our only custom crush facility)...but the tasting
room is actually in the Hudson Valley. I guess it is a Long Island wine.
Of the 25 they tasted, only ten are listed, and I wish I knew what the other 15 were. Maybe if I email him he'll let me know. I'd like to know if either of Comtesse Therese's wines were included or if they included a bottle of Roanoke Vineyard's Merlot, Martha Clara's 6025 Meritage or Broadfields Wine Cellars' Merlot. Plus, where's the Bedell wines? They must not have done very well, eh?
I'm also curious if they tasted any Pinot Noir...
Regardless, it's great to see L.I. wines get the press...even if they aren't presented in as good a light as I (and most winemakers) would like.
If you've read the stories...what did you take away from them? As non-Islanders...what impression of L.I. wines are you left with?