I first encountered Jason’s Vineyard wines about a year ago when I was going from tasting room to tasting room looking for the North Fork’s best sparkling wines. My journey took me to Pindar, where I was able to taste a few Jason’s Vineyard wines. I was so impressed that his wines were the only bottles I purchased that day.
So who is Jason and why are his wines available at Pindar? The Jason in Jason’s Vineyard is Jason Damianos, son of Herodotus “Dan” Damianos, owner of both Pindar on the North Fork and Duck Walk Vineyards on the South Fork. Jason is Pindar’s winemaker and has also worked as winemaker at Duck Walk.
In 1996, the younger Damianos made a trip to Bordeaux that would inspire him to found Jason’s Vineyard in 1999. He grows Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and uses the grapes to craft three different reds and a chardonnay – all priced under $20.
Jason’s Vineyard 2001 Chardonnay ($19) is barrel fermented and aged sur lies for eight months in new French oak, but the oak character isn’t overbearing or overwhelming. It offers an aromatic nose of crisp apples, pears and subtle toasty oak nuances. When over chilled, the palate is a bit sharp, but as the wine warms, this medium-bodied chardonnay begins to unfurl, displaying excellent, controlled balance between fruit, oak influence and acidity. Very Burgundian in style, the finish is lengthy with honey pear flavors that fade slowly over several seconds. It was my favorite of the wines I tasted.
Jason employs new French oak when making his red wines as well, and it is much more apparent in these wines. The Jason’s Vineyard 1999 Merlot ($19) is extremely aromatic with deep cherry and substantial smoky oak aromas rising up out of the glass. Medium-to-full bodied, this wine’s tannins are substantial and a bit astringent right out of the bottle, concealing the cherry, plum, blackberry and charred marshmallow flavors that lay beneath. With some time in the glass, the tannins mellow a bit, but I really think this wine will peak after spending a few years longer in the cellar. There aren’t a ton of local age-worthy wines priced under $20, but this one qualifies.
For more immediate drinking, I’d go with either of Damiano’s other two reds. His 2000 Meritage ($19) is less blatantly aromatic, with faint black cherry, cedar and wet earth aromas that have to be coaxed out of the glass by swirling. Lighter bodied and lightly fruity, this blend has better-integrated tannins and enough acidity to make in a good food wine.
I chose the Jason’s Vineyard 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon ($19) as the runner-up for my favorite local cabernet sauvignon in the Labor Day issue of Dan’s Papers. It dodges the under-ripe, “green” aromas and flavors of many local bottlings, presenting a pleasant nose of blackberries, cocoa, cherry and toasty vanilla. On the palate, it’s got full, but rather smooth, tannins, and a ripe, round mouthfeel while maintaining its controlled refinement. Well balanced, it will improve with age but can be enjoyed now with typical Cabernet pairings.
Jason’s Vineyard wines are available for sale at Pindar Vineyards in Peconic, at the Pindar Wine and Gift Shop in Port Jefferson, and Duck Walk Vineyards in Southampton.
Call 926-8486 for more information.
We all know about the devastation that Hurricane Katrina caused along our country’s Gulf Coast. On Sunday, October 2, Martha Clara Vineyards is hosting “Feast for the Gulf Coast,” a fundraising event for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
From noon to 6 p.m. there will be live music, wine, seafood, BBQ and a gumbo cook-off, all for $25. All proceeds are being donated to Habitat for Humanity Katrina Relief, the Farm Bureau Hurricane Ag Fund and the Bush-Clinton Hurricane Katrina Fund. For tickets, call 631-765-4168 or 631-298-0075 ext. 13.