(This column appeared in the 6/17/05 issue of Dan's Papers)
Ever since the release of the movie Sideways, pinot noir has been the “it” wine. Even here on Long Island, I’ve been told stories about customers walking into a tasting room and buying bottle after bottle of pinot noir – without even tasting it or knowing how much it costs.
As difficult as Pinot Noir can be to grow and make (well), that sort of impulse buying seems a little silly to me. But of the handful of Long Island wineries that make it, most do it well, including Castello di Borghese, Broadfields Wine Cellars (under the Tasting Room label) and Wolffer Estate.
Laurel Lake Vineyards in on Main Road in Laurel can now be added to the list. The 2003 Laurel Lake Vineyards Pinot Noir ($30), the winery’s first pinot noir release, offers classic aromas of wet earth, grilled mushrooms and cherries. In the mouth, this seductive wine is velvety and smooth with stylish cherry flavors. The finish is lengthy, and as these vines (planted eight to ten years ago) age, I expect Chilean winemaker Claudio Zamorano to craft wines that are even more complex and intriguing. He only made 100 cases this time around, so make sure you try it before it’s gone
While the pinot is the standout of the wines I tasted, Zamorano’s 2002 Chardonnay Estate Bottled Reserve ($16) isn’t far behind. It is complex on the nose with tropical fruit aromas of pineapple and papaya mingling with hints of toasty oak, vanilla cream and spice. Medium-to-full bodied, it displays a nice balance between clean fruit character and toasty oak influence on the palate. The finish, which starts with pineapple and cream, finishes with hints of sweet spices. At $16, this is a very good buy and at $11, the 2003 Chardonnay is an even better one if you like less oak and more pineapple and citrus flavors.
The 2000 Cabernet Franc ($15), slated for a July release, is a little rough and angular right out of the bottle, but with a few hours to breath, its substantial tannins open up some to reveal spicy, peppery cherry flavors underneath. A year from now, I plan to taste this one again.
A respectable 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon ($15) is fuller bodied and fruit forward with raspberry and blueberry flavors, but I found the finish to be a little raw with oak, though it was also sprinkled lightly with cinnamon.
It’s not a new release, but the Laurel Lake Vineyards 2002 Syrah ($19) is a promising, full-bodied red that is another varietal to watch at Laurel Lake Vineyards. It’s one of the best ones made locally.
In a few years, I also look forward to trying the first Laurel Lake Vineyards sauvignon blanc. They just planted four acres this year.
Laurel Lake will be hosting two harvest festivals this fall – one on Saturday, September 25, and another on Saturday, October 5. Festivities include a gourmet lunch, special vineyard tours, hay rides, barrel tastings, grape clippings and cheese pairings.
For more information on Laurel Lakes Vineyards, its wines or its harvest festivals, visit www.liwines.com or call 631-298-1420.