Pindar Vineyards, one of New York’s most popular and widely-distributed wineries (they have great marketing), is known in some circles for its cheap, sweetish blended wines and its always-packed tasting room. But don’t be fooled. If you drink through the varied bottlings, there are a few gems to be tasted.
Personally, I’ve long been a fan of the 1999 Rare Cuvee Champagne ($28), despite the use of the term Champagne outside that region of France, and the consistently good Johannisberg Reisling ($15). Before recently, I thought these to be the only real gems buried in the impressively long tasting menu.
Winemaker Jason Damianos, son of Pindar founder/owner Herodotus “Dan” Damianos, is making some reds that may prove even better.
The 2001 Merlot ($15) was my least favorite of the three I tasted recently. Its nose was slightly sweet with plum, prune and black cherry aromas with sugary oak accents. Fruity and rather low in tannins, it offers more plum and some blueberry flavors, but its oak character is a bit raw for my taste. Even still, I’d serve it with charcoal-grilled burgers.
Damianos’ reserve wines are where his talents really shine through. The Pindar 2000 Merlot Reserve ($19) is darker and denser in the glass – crimson and nearly opaque. The first sniff is dominated by toasty oak, but subsequent ones filled my nose with vanilla, raspberries and plums. On the palate, softly gripping, dusty tannins frame an elegant but robust wine with fruit flavors balanced by hints of cigar box. It’s delicious right now, but give this another couple of years and watch it get even more complex. For the extra four dollars, definitely buy the reserve.
The Pindar 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($19), while not quite as good as the 2000 Merlot Reserve, was a slightly earthy surprise with blueberry and currant fruitiness backed by wet soil and faint oakiness on the nose. Each sip is very Bordeaux-esque, with nicely balance cherry-blueberry fruit, oak, earthiness and savory spice. Noticeable, but not overpowering, tannins really round it out. Many Long Island cabernets end up tasting under-ripe, but this is not one of them.
Visit Pindar in Peconic, NY or visit www.pindarwine.com for more information.
(This column appeared in the 8/19/05 issue of Dan's Papers)