(This column originally appeared in the 6/10 issue of Dan's Papers)
In a recent issue of Wine Spectator, columnist Matt Kramer wrote a thoughtful piece discussing large wineries versus smaller ones, concluding (convincingly) that smaller really is better. Though Kramer doesn’t define what a “small” winery is, you can take my word for it – most, if not all, Long Island wineries qualify.
Of course, being a small winery doesn’t automatically mean your wines are any good. Anyone who has tasted wines from some of our lesser local wineries can attest to that. After all, doing the wrong things in the vineyard or in the cellar will lead to poor wines, regardless of how big your operation is.
Salvatore Diliberto, owner and winemaker of Diliberto Winery in Jamesport, is doing all the right things – and doing them himself. He’s truly a one-man winemaking show.
He planted his first vines in 1998 and first harvested fruit in 2001, a locally well-regarded vintage and one that led to two of the three gold medals he won at last summer’s New York Wine & Food Classic. Diliberto isn’t new to Long Island fruit, however, having used it to make wine in his Queens basement since 1986.
I tasted all four of his current releases, all reds, and found each of them appealing and extremely food friendly. The Diliberto Winery 2002 Merlot ($20), one of the gold medal winners, is a charmingly soft and straightforward wine with plum, cherry and light raspberry flavors. It’s medium bodied with fairly low tannins and a slightly lingering finish that offers faint hints of vanilla. I’d serve this with pasta and red sauce and similar Italian fare.
While still relatively simple, the Diliberto Winery 2001 Merlot ($22) is richer and more extracted in the glass. Rustically elegant, it is fuller flavored and offers more intense cherry and raspberry flavors with earthy notes in the background. The tannins are firmer than in the 2002, but still well integrated. This wine, another award winner, has better aging potential and can stand up to more serious meat dishes. This was my favorite of the lot, getting a B+ in my notes.
The last of the gold medal wines, the Diliberto Winery 2001 Tre ($25) is a Bordeaux-style red blend that offers a bit more complexity. Though still offering black cherry flavors, this wine shows a spicy, black pepper character that makes it stand out. I think this blend would benefit from another year or so in the bottle to round out its flavors and tannins.
The Diliberto 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon ($25), while maybe overpriced, is another enjoyable, food-friendly wine. I enjoyed its nose, which offers raspberries, blueberries and vanilla. On the palate, it’s fuller bodied than Diliberto’s other wines and while nowhere near a California Cabernet, it out-flavors many local bottlings.
Until their tasting room opens in early 2006, you can contact Diliberto directly to set up an appointment to taste and purchase his wines. Call 722-3416 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.