(This column appeared originally in the 5/20 issue of Dan's Papers)
Peconic Bay Winery has always been a bit of an enigma to me. On one hand, they make sweetish blends that appeal to the masses and some hit-or-miss varietal reds. On the other, I love their Steel Fermented Chardonnay and their Riesling. I guess it’s smart to appeal to the widest audience possible, but I think it’s possible that serious wine drinkers get turned off by the plonk at the top of the tasting list.
Last weekend, I tasted four recent and new releases, with positive results overall. Maybe Peconic Bay Winery is just hitting its stride?
Peconic Bay Winery’s 2004 Riesling ($15) is bone dry, racy and deliciously crisp. Citrus dominates the nose with faint hints of stone fruit and a grassiness I wasn’t expecting. It’s simple, light and a perfect summer sipper. As always, winemaker Greg Gove hits the mark with my favorite of all white grapes. It wasn’t bottled all that long ago, and I expect it to be even better with a little more bottle time, giving the stone fruit flavors time to step forward. This is a terrific summer wine.
Most everyone can appreciate a gulpable, affordable red to serve at parties or with grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. Peconic Bay Winery’s latest Local Flavor Merlot ($17 for a magnum, $10 for 750ml) fits that bill nicely. Made with grapes from the 2002 vintage, it offers deliciously drinkable dark and red berry fruit with hints of soft oak. If you’re looking for complexity or a wine to ruminate on, this isn’t it, but if you want to eat, drink and be merry, give it a try.
Another red worth serving with more serious grilled fare is the Peconic Bay Winery 2002 Cabernet Franc ($22). Six percent Cabernet Sauvignon and three percent Merlot round out this complex wine, which shows cherry and raspberry flavors layered with cedar, spice and super soft tannins. I love Cabernet Franc and this is definitely a good one. Serve it will grilled pork or spicy-sweet chicken.
Typically, I find Long Island Cabernet Sauvignon too lean, a bit green and lifeless. I think it’s because some winemakers try to do too much with this hard-to-ripen-on-Long-Island grape. Peconic Bay Winery’s 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon ($22) dodges such over-reaching, however, resulting in an Old World-style wine that is highlighted with blackberry, cherry and vanilla flavors. Refined, smooth tannins and a little earthiness make this a nice wine, even if it’s a bit overpriced.
For more information on Peconic Bay Winery, call 734-7361 or visit www.peconicbaywinery.com which also provides a calendar of events, including the roster of live music this summer.