As the resident wine aficionado (or geek) at Dan’s Papers, I’m “forced” to taste several wines each and every week. In just under a year with the paper, I’ve already filled up one whole notebook with notes and comments and have started another. It’s hard work, but someone has to do it, right?
Through hundreds (thousands?) of sips, I’ve learned that when I taste a winery’s new releases, I can almost always find at least one I enjoy. Just about every winery on Long Island has at least one noteworthy bottling, or at least something that shows potential. It’s truly rare that I dislike everything I try. This week, as I sampled wines from Sherwood House Vineyards in Mattituck, something even more rare and extraordinary happened – both were remarkable and delicious. In fact, for the first time, each release scored an A- in my blind tasting.
Owned and operated by Charles and Barbara Smithen, Sherwood House Vineyards is the manifestation of an intense passion for both wine and the East End. A cardiologist and vintage jewelry dealer, respectively, they purchased their 1860 farmhouse in 1996 and planted their vines soon after. In 1999, after selling off their grapes to local wineries for a few years, the Smithens decided to make their own wine, a Chardonnay. Since then, they’ve focused solely on Merlot and Chardonnay, and have developed a bit of a following among those who have tasted them. After tasting these wines, I’m a believer, too.
The Sherwood House Vineyards 2001 Merlot ($22) is a well-extracted and rich example of Long Island’s showcase varietal. The nose offers ripe raspberry aromas with a mineral background and light oakiness. On the palate, the raspberries are joined by vanilla cream and more minerals. This medium-bodied wine is highlighted by sultry tannins, a soft-but-rich mouthfeel and an indulgent, lingering finish. 600 cases were produced.
While garnering the same grade in my tasting, the Sherwood House Vineyards 2001 Chardonnay ($20) is even better. A light, shimmering gold in the glass, its nose is refined and light, offering Bosc pear, vanilla and hints of toast. Full-bodied but far from heavy, this exceptionally balanced chardonnay displays lithe pear flavors with hints of tropical fruit as well as butter, toast and minerals. I don’t think there’s a better 20-dollar chardonnay on the North Fork and few will cellar as well, either. 645 cases were produced.
Because they don’t have their own tasting room yet, these wines are available for tasting and purchase at both The Tasting Room locations, one in Jamesport and one in Peconic, or at www.tasting-room.com. The Smithens do have plans for their own tasting room however, opening in the next 18 to 24 months.
Sherwood House Vineyards will also be releasing its 2002 Chardonnay in the fall and a 2002 Merlot in the early winter. They are also working on their first Cabernet Franc bottling, which will be released sometime in 2006.
For more information on Sherwood House Vineyards, visit www.sherwoodhousevineyards.com or call 298-2157.