Random House Webster’s Dictionary defines balance as “a state of equilibrium or equipoise; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc.” To wine lovers, the concept of balance isn’t all that much different. A wine is said to be balanced when all of its individual components — alcohol level, acidity, tannins (in red wine), flavors and sugars (if present) — are in perfect harmony and none overwhelms the others.
At Castello di Borghese Vineyard and Winery in Cutchogue, winemaker Stan Schumacher is crafting just these types of wines — clean wines with class and poise. I recently sipped some of his latest releases and came away impressed. In general, they are so well balanced that he may have been a world-class gymnast in a past life.
Often slandered because of its decidedly sweet cousin, white zinfandel, rosé has made a bit of a comeback locally, with many producers making crisp, refreshing versions that have infinitely more character than their West Coast brethren. The Castello di Borghese Fleurette ($9), a non-vintage rosé made with Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc, is a bright, pink-magenta that may look a bit like Koolaid, but it’s not your trashy aunt’s rosé. The aromas and flavors are simple and fruity with strawberry and cranberry, and while just off dry, subtle acidity brings balance while a slightly creamy finish lingers. This isn’t as light and refreshing as some rosé, but it’s nearly perfect with my wife’s spicy homemade bean burgers.
Compared to many local Sauvignon Blanc bottlings, which are super-tart and aggressive (a style I sometimes enjoy in the summer), Castello di Borghese’s 2004 Founder’s Field Reserve Sauvignon Blanc ($24) is controlled and clean. This pale straw yellow wine is slightly cloudy (it’s unfiltered) and has a nose of lemons and kiwi. On the palate, it is medium-to-full bodied and offers lemon, grapefruit and subtle baking spice flavors with just a hint of fresh herbs on a pleasant, clean finish.
If you’ve been reading this column for awhile, you’ve probably noticed that I tend not to like oak-and-butter-soaked chardonnay, which is usually the result of low-acid juice being barrel fermented and left to sit in new oak for excessive lengths of time. Shumacher’s 2002 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay ($22) does show significant oak character — toasty, almost hardwood charcoal scents on the nose and creamy, toasty vanilla flavors with hints of butter — but it’s not nearly as heavy or flabby as many. I enjoyed the roasted pear and apple pie flavors in the background and the long finish.
Far and away my favorite of CdB’s recent releases was the Castello di Borghese 2002 Reserve Pinot Noir ($35). As close to “old vines” as you can get on Long Island, the fruit for this wine came from Hargrave Vineyard, our region’s founding winery. Richly aromatic, its nose presents fresh cherries, wet gravel, sweet spices and vanilla. The flavors are elegant and complex with cherries, minerals, baking spice, cocoa and cedar intermingling in a smooth, refined structure. Absolutely delicious, this wine received an A- in my blind tasting against a similarly priced California Pinot Noir (which got a B+).
Castello di Borghese and its wines are yet another reason that I spend
so much time on Route 48 when I visit the wineries out east.
(This piece appeared in the 8/26 issue of Dan's Papers)