In 1994, Harold Watts, a former economics professor at Columbia University in New York, bought five acres of land on Alvah's Lane, just off Route 48 in Cutchogue, NY. Not long after, he planted his vines -- merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. And, in 1997 Ternhaven Cellars was born when he opened his tasting room and production facility in Greenport, NY...in a rennovated gas station.
I guess you could say he's a New York garagiste.
Last night, I tasted three of his current releases, all from the 2000 vintage (he ages his wines more than many local winemakers do before releasing them.).
Ternhaven Cellars 2000 Claret D'Alvah
Eyes: The wine is a deep, semi-opaque crimson with nice extraction
Nose: Black fruit aromas are joined by cedar, cocoa and something that reminds me a bit of green olives. This wine (and the other two) are extremely aromatic right out of the bottle.
Tongue: A full-bodied wine with some heft, this Bordeaux blend offers refined fruit flavors with hints of pencil shavings and dusty, softly gripping tannins, which give it an appealing mouthfeel. Background acidity makes this a great food wine as well.
Overall: I gave this wine a B in my notes and I think it will only get better with age. Watts clearly likes oak (in all of his wines) and this wine is no exception. It's very European in style...though this reminded me a bit more of an Italian wine than Bordeaux.
Ternhaven Cellars 2000 Merlot
Eyes: Medium-dark crimson in the glass, this wine is uniform from center to rim.
Nose: Plums and black fruit are joined by faint aromas of vanilla and both savory and sweet spices. Oak is apparent on the nose as well...but not overdone.
Tongue: Medium-to-full bodied and with medium, slightly astringent tannins, this bottle benefited from some time to breath. Flavorful, but not overly complex, it did offer a nice finish of sweet fruit.
Overall: B/B- I look forward to tasting this one again tonight after it's been open a day. I expect this one to improve with age as well. Longevity seems to be important to Watts.
Ternhaven Cellars 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon
Eyes: Well-extracted and deep ruby, this wine has a subtle purple/blue tinge to it as well.
Nose: Extremely aromatic. The aromas were apparent long before my nose was anywhere near the glass -- raspberries, blueberries and cedar.
Tongue: This wine's oak is much less obvious, hiding further in the background, resulting in an almost-juicy wine filled with raspberry and sweet oak flavors. Tannins were lower as well.
Overall: B-/C+. The most easy-drinking of the three, this may have received a higher grade if I had tasted it first rather than last. More of a quaffer than a complex, stern wine...but not unpleasant in the least.