The frenetic pumpkin-picking season is upon us, and while the throngs of families in SUVs and minivans can make it that much more challenging to get around the East End, this is one of the most exciting times to visit Long Island’s vineyards. Harvest festivals abound and wineries are filled with the intoxicating aromas of freshly squeezed juice fermenting.
Bedell Cellars, one of our region’s most well-known producers, has much more going on than harvesting and fermenting the 2005 vintage. To upgrade both the winemaking process and the customer tasting experience, they’ve been busy making exciting changes to the facilities in Cutchogue.
To start, a new crush pad has been added that more than doubles the fruit receiving area, and the barrel room has also been expanded with 70 new barrels. But that’s just the tip of the renovation iceberg, where 17 new custom-made stainless steel tanks with removable lids have been installed in the fermentation room.
“The previous closed top tanks necessitated the pumping of pumice (grape skins, seeds and juice) into the tank,” said associate winemaker John Levenberg. “That pumping action generates a shearing force that shreds the grape skins and seeds, resulting in harsher tannins being contributed to the wine.” These new tanks use gravity to fill the tank and are sized such that Bedell’s winemaking team can focus on small-lot fermentations. Perhaps we’ll see some single-vineyard/lot bottlings in the future.
The most visible change is a brand new tasting pavilion that will open this weekend. Located next door to the indoor tasting room, the new pavilion offers magnificent views of the vineyard. It more than doubles the bar space, which was much needed.
If you’re more interested in the wines than the venue, don’t worry. I was able to taste some of the recent releases last weekend.
For every day sipping, Bedell Cellars offers Main Road White and Main Road Red table blends ($13.50). I found the white, a blend of Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewürztraminer, to be the superior of the two. Medium bodied, mouthwatering and filled with bright citrus and apple flavors, it demonstrates Bedell Cellars’ blending talents. Each variety plays its part, and the sum is even better than the parts. If you’re having a holiday party in the coming months, buy this by the case and it’s sure to be as popular as an aperitif as with appetizers.
I thought the Main Road Red, which Bedell compares to Beaujolais, to be a bit substandard for a Bedell red. While packed with sweet berry flavors accented by bittersweet chocolate, the finish was a little raw in the oak department. Regardless, this blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc is still wildly popular in the tasting room. Maybe it is better with food.
But the real luminary was the 1999 “TASTE” Red ($25), which is 100% Merlot. Refined and medium bodied, its fragrant nose offers sweet, smoky cedar, brambles and hints of white pepper and wet earth. Similar flavors are expertly balanced and silky smooth tannins and a delicious cherry-forward finish lingers. I think this wine would be best with food typically served alongside pinot noir — mushrooms, salmon and pork. It would be a great addition to a Thanksgiving table and the Barbara Kruger-designed label is a wonderful conversation piece.
For more information or to order wines from Bedell Cellars, visit www.bedellcellars.com or call 631-734-7537.