When Rich and Soraya Pisacano opened their Roanoke Vineyards tasting room in the fall of 2004, their only Roanoke-labeled wine was a stellar 2000 merlot that is -- sadly -- long gone. To fill in the tasting room menu, they poured wines from Atwater Estate Vineyards in the Finger Lakes and Wolffer Estate on the South Fork, where Rich serves as vineyard manager.
What started with that lone merlot has grown into an impressive portfolio of wines, including two distinctly different Bordeaux-style blends, a hard-to-find cabernet sauvignon, a fresh-but-intriguing chardonnay and an extremely popular rose.
Rich has been tending vines on Long Island since high school and despite the push for merlot on Long Island, he prefers cabernet sauvignon. And, with one of the western-most vineyards on the North Fork, his unique microclimate makes it a bit easier to ripen the king of all red grapes. Red wines are definitely the focus at Roanoke Vineyards and that drive and passion is abundantly clear in each of their limited-edition red releases.
While it's true that you may not be able to get your hands on their rich, cellar-worthy 2003 cabernet sauvignon, Rich's 2003 cabernet fruit is on display in Roanoke Vineyards' 2003 Blend One ($30) a Meritage-style blend of 48% cabernet sauvignon, 30% merlot and 22% cabernet franc. Rich and ripe, especially for a not-so-great year, the nose is highlighted by intense black berry and black cherry aromas with violet wisps and peppery spice. Full bodied and rich, intense fruit flavors are balanced by oak, fine tannins and a lengthy finish. Drinking well now, this wine probably hasn't peaked yet. Roth made this wine for the long haul. Stock your cellar.
Very few wineries produce multiple Meritage-style wines, but Roanoke Vineyards' 2003 Blend Two ($36) — named purely because it was the second blend — certainly doesn't play second fiddle to its big brother blend one. Cabernet franc (48%) dominates this blend with 32% cabernet sauvignon and 20% merlot added to the final wine. Extremely aromatic — because of that cabernet franc — violets, berry fruit and vanilla oak intermingle in a tempting nose. Slightly lighter bodied, this blend is still concentrated and rich with berries, plums and spice. Also well suited to some cellar time, this wine might be closer to its peak.
Rich and Soraya still pour Wolffer wines in their tasting room, but their wines are clearly the focus — and well they should be. If you join the wine club, you might even be able to buy some of their 2000 merlot or 2003 cabernet. That in and of itself makes it well worth it.