You’ll often hear Long Island’s better wines compared to those from the Bordeaux region of France, purportedly because of the similarities between the East End’s climate and that of Bordeaux. But while there are some similarities, it’s a bit of a marketing spin, too.
According to Roman Roth, winemaker and general manager of Wolffer Estate in Sagaponack, “The Long Island climate is close to Bordeaux when compared to the hot climates of Australia or California. (But) Long Island is unique. We are much further south.”
In describing the differences between Bordeaux and Long Island, Roth continues, “Old World wines are not always fruit-driven and balanced like ours. Also, we are allowed to grow Chardonnay next to Merlot, which they can’t do in Bordeaux.”
Roth is one of the Island’s most respected winemakers and his wines are widely regarded as elegant, refined and well balanced. Wolffer Estate’s recent and current releases are no exception.
Roth’s 2004 Rosé ($13.50) builds on the fine tradition of fun, distinctive rosé from Wolffer Estate. More copper-orange than pink, this blend of Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay has a fruity nose layered with strawberries, cherries and hints of apricot and grapefruit. Extremely fresh and fruity in the mouth with red berries and citrus, it’s crisp, but doesn’t feature as much acidity as the 2003, giving it a slightly fuller mouthfeel that is almost creamy on the finish. Roth suggests serving it with almost any food, including your Thanksgiving dinner.
The Wolffer Estate 2001 Cuvée Sparkling Wine Brut ($33) is a light, golden-yellow in the glass and features fine, elegant bead (bubbles). The nose is yeasty with hints of vanilla cream and white peach. Classy and refined, its palate is lively and fresh with a creamy mouthfeel and a complex array of pear, apple and berry flavors. Don’t call it Champagne, that name’s reserved for sparkling wine made in that French region, but this sparkler is made with the same grapes (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) and is clearly comparable. Roth likes it with chilled shellfish or cream-based soups.
Last month, Roth added a new varietal wine to his impressive portfolio – a 2004 Pinot Gris ($22) made with grapes from the North Fork’s Indian Neck Farm. If you’ve had wines bottled under this grape’s Italian name, Pinot Grigio, you were likely disappointed by its lack of true character beyond a summer sipping wine. Roth’s version is much more similar to Pinot Gris from the Pacific Northwest. Its nose is crisp with Bosc pear, lemony grapefruit and light hints of toasty vanilla. Each sip is a treat, with lush pear, honey and toasted nut flavors balanced by just enough acidity. This white is lush and silky with medium body and a delightful, lingering finish. Make sure that you don’t over chill this one and it will reward you alongside most any fish or white meat dish.
If you enjoy Chardonnay that has some oak character but isn’t like licking a butter-covered plank, you should try Wolffer Estates’ 2002 Reserve Chardonnay ($20). As with the rest of his wines, Roth uses acidity to balance this stylish, polished white. The nose is light and toasty with marshmallow and crisp pear aromas that continue to the palate, joined by citrus and honey. The acidity is bright and surlees aging gives this wine an indulgent mouthfeel and a nice lingering finish that is quite creamy. This wine is the perfect accompaniment for white meat dishes.
In these parts, everyone makes Merlot and Roth is no exception. His 2002 Reserve Merlot ($22) will benefit from another year of bottle aging, but offers blackberry, black cherry and oak on the nose with gripping tannins and a mineral finish that lingers slightly. With time, more fruit will step forward on the palate. Roth suggests serving this red with lamb, steak, stews and even paella.
While a bit lighter than the stellar 2003 vintage, the Wolffer Estate 2004 Late Harvest Chardonnay ($35 for a 375ml bottle) still offers a nose that’s lightly floral and filled with ripe peach and apricot aromas. This stone fruit character carries over to palate, with balanced sweetness and superb acidity.
Taking advantage of New York State’s new shipping laws, Wolffer Estate has recently launched a new website with an upgraded wine shop. Visit www.wolffer.com or call 537-5106 to learn more about the winery or to order wine.
(This story appeared originally in the 8/5/05 issue of Dan's Papers.)