It’s not quite beach season yet here on Long Island, but it’s probably on a lot of peoples' minds. And, Wolffer Estate in Sagaponack has released three wines that belong on the beach — and at your next BBQ.
As you have probably noticed, Long Island wine’s “sweet spot” in terms of price-for-quality tends to be in the $20+ realm. Unfortunately, that turns a lot of wine drinkers off (silly, silly people), but one of my favorite wines for less than $15 has long been Wolffer’s simple-but-tasty La Ferme Martin Chardonnay ($14). My first bottle from the newly released 2004 vintage surprised me — the oak influence seemed much more apparent than past vintages — not a good thing in my book. Had one of our favorite summer “house” wines lost its decidedly East Coast style?
Perhaps it was just my palate that day or that individual bottle, but upon opening a second bottle a few days later, my fears were allayed. The nose was fresh with ripe pears and citrus with only a sprinkling of oak inflection. Refreshingly light but ripe, this is a fruit-driven summer sipper with abundant pear and apple flavors accented by a squeeze of lime. For $14 (and you can find it for as little as $10 at some wine shops) this is a great pool- or ocean-side wine that offers nicely balanced fruit and acidity. It also went nicely with the parmesan-sweet pea risotto cakes Nena and I enjoyed last week.
Despite what our friends in California might lead you to believe, rose wines, also known as “blush” in some circles, needn’t (and I’d argue shouldn’t) be sweet and syrupy like their ubiquitous white zinfandel. Wolffer Estate 2005 Rose ($14) is made in a dry style but is sure to appeal to white zin and more serious wine drinkers alike. More salmon-orange than pink, the nose reminds me of fresh picked peaches and red cherries. Made with 48% merlot, 39% chardonnay, 7.8% cabernet franc and 5.2% cabernet sauvignon, it’s fuller on the palate than I prefer, but fine acidity and a gentle zing of CO2 bring balance. Flavors similar to the nose — peach and cherry — are joined by a discernable lime character on the finish that makes this wine a good pair for Caribbean or even lighter Mexican fare. Fish tacos anyone?
If you’re looking for a more serious summer wine to enjoy at your next dinner party, see if you can get your hands on a bottle or two of Wolffer Estate 2005 Pinot Gris ($24). Winemaker Roman Roth only made 253 cases of this delightful white from grapes grown on the North Fork, so get some while it lasts. The fresh nose is redolent of honeydew melon, blanched almonds, lemon zest and flowers. With a slightly glycerin mouthfeel, this wine brings together citrus, melon nutty flavors with excellent acidity and minerality on the finish. Serve this white with grilled fish, pork or pasta with alfredo-walnut sauce.
The pinot gris was the real star here and if it ages anything like the 2004 bottling did, I'd hold onto it for a year or so. I recently drank a bottle of the 2004 and it was much much better with the added year in bottle.