Merlot is often touted as Long Island’s “signature” grape — the
varietal and the wine that is going to put the region on the world wine
stage. I’m not one hundred percent sold on that notion — some of the
Cabernet Franc here is just too good — but the consistency and
ripe-ability of Merlot makes it somewhat of a safer choice.
At Le Clos Therese in Aquebogue, owner and winemaker Theresa Dilworth, makes two interesting and decidedly different merlots with good results. These wines, along with her cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and rose are produced at Premium Wine Group, the custom-crush winemaking facility in Mattituck. In my experience, Dilworth always shows a deft hand and desire to make truly hand-crafted wines.
Her recently released Comtesse Therese 2003 Hungarian Oak Merlot ($16.50) spent 14 months in Hungarian and French oak (mostly Hungarian) and begs to be enjoyed with food. Ruby red in the glass, it has an aromatic nose of black cherries, raspberries, black pepper and smoky burnt sugar. Soft and spicy, with gentle tannins and a little acidity, its smoky and peppery-sweet berry flavors accented by almost floral notes make this a great wine for with burgers, BBQ chicken and even pepperoni pizza. Only 130 cases were made, so make sure you pick some up for your Labor Day BBQ.
Dilworth’s Comtesse Therese 2002 Traditional Merlot ($18) is a wine of a totally different color — both literally and figuratively. Much darker in the glass, the differences brought about by four extra months in mostly French oak (with a little American thrown in) are obvious. The nose is less peppery, but still fruit-driven with blackberries and cherries dominating. On the palate, it’s denser and more substantial with more, fuller tannins framing its berry flavors. The finish, while long, offers some still-raw oak character that will likely fade with more aging. Drink this red with more substantial red meats, like steak, lamb or venison. 188 cases were made.
I’ve long been a fan of Dilworth’s rose, because she always avoids overuse of sulphur dioxide in the winemaking process, leading to a wine lush with fruit flavor. The Comtesse Therese 2004 Rose ($14) continues this tradition. While many roses are bright, Kool-Aid pink, this one is an appealing salmony orange color. The nose is light and straightforward, with lime and strawberry aromas. The first sip is a little tight (this is a young wine) but with time it opens up nicely revealing strawberry, apricot and cherry soda flavors. The acidity is lively but not abrasive, resulting in a well-balanced summer sipper. I think you can drink good rose with most any food, and this certainly qualifies. 150 cases were made.
The Tasting Room, in Jamesport and in Peconic, carry these and other Comtesse Therese wines. Visit www.tasting-room.com for more information.
For more information about Le Clos Therese and Comtesse Therese wines, visit www.lctwinery.com or call 871-9194. Dilworth also plans to open a small French bistro in Aquebogue. The menu will feature Long Island wines, locally grown produce, New York State cheese and even Long Island-brewed beers. She’s hoping to open sometime in 2006.