(This column appeared in the 7/1/05 issue of Dan's Papers)
Over the Barrel...With Lenn Thompson
Contrary to popular belief (okay, maybe just in my own wine-induced fantasies), I don’t own Lenz Winery in Peconic. That would be Lenn’s Winery anyway, even if the “z” would be a much more MTV-esque spelling.
Lenz Winery is one of the North Fork’s most respected producers and employs one of the regions most gifted and charismatic winemakers – Eric Fry. If you’re at the Lenz tasting room and see a guy in overalls with a long ponytail and beard, that’s Eric. Say hello and, if you’re lucky, as my fiancé Nena and I have been, you’ll spend an afternoon talking about and tasting different vintages of sparkling wine.
I’ve written several times before about Fry’s spectacular sparklers, so we’ll not uncork that topic today. But know that Fry has a hand in much of the Island’s best bubbly – both at Lenz and at the other wineries that hire him to make their sparkling wines.
Last week, I had the pleasurable opportunity to sample several of Lenz Winery’s current releases, and Fry’s ample talent shines through in each.
His Lenz Winery 2003 Gewurztraminer ($20) continues a tradition of mastery with this varietal. The nose is classic gewurz – lychee, rose petals, slightly nutty and accented by faint mineral notes. Fermented to complete bone-dryness, it’s crisp with bright acidity, extremely stylish and offers intriguing spiciness. Gewurztraminer is often a “love-it-or-hate-it” varietal. I love it and I love this one. It scored an A in my tasting notes and goes nicely with classic Alsatian dishes as well as spicy Thai food.
Just about every Long Island vineyard has Chardonnay planted in it, and Lenz’s are no exception. In fact, Fry uses this grape to make three different Chardonnays, two that are quite different and one that combines the best of the other two.
The Lenz Winery 2003 White Label Chardonnay ($12) is one of the best Chardonnay values on the East End. Fermented in stainless steel and then aged in oak, its nose is light with apple and pear aromas accented by vanilla cream and toasty hints. It displays an excellent balance between fruit flavors, oak influence and crisp acidity. The texture is sleek and the finish is nice. Serve as an aperitif.
Fry’s “top level” chardonnay, the Lenz Winery 2001 Gold Label Chardonnay ($23), is at the other end of the chardonnay spectrum. Fermented and aged in oak, it’s rich with a nose of buttered popcorn, cream and caramel. Full bodied and tongue-coating, this complex white would be reminiscent of a California chardonnay if it didn’t have slightly balancing acidity. Instead, think Burgundy. I don’t particularly like barrel-fermented Chardonnay with food, and this one is no exception.
Between the White and Gold label wines (in both price and style), the Lenz Winery 2001 Silver Label Chardonnay ($15) has a nose similar to the Gold Label, but it’s lighter with butterscotch replacing the caramel and a roasted apple fruit component. Fresher than the Gold Label but more complex than the White, this is really the best of both worlds. I graded it a B-plus, the highest of the three chardonnays.
Of course I’d be doing you, my readers, a disservice if I didn’t mention Fry’s rich, complex reds. The Lenz Winery 2000 Estate Selection Merlot ($23) is outstanding, and a good bargain. And the Lenz Winery 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) is the single best Cabenert Sauvignon I’ve tasted from the East Coast. Make sure you get the 2000, though – the 1999 isn’t nearly as good.
For more information, call the winery at 734-6010 or visit www.lenzwine.com.