You can buy bottle after bottle of mass-produced, ubiquitous wines like Yellowtail Shiraz or Cavit Pinot Grigio without even looking at the year on the label. That’s because year-to-year variation is barely perceptible in those wines. Huge vineyards, huge production and blending options that lead to a “house style” all result in fairly consistent flavors year in and year out.
That’s boring and lame if you ask me.
That sort of cookie-cutter consistency is not the case here on Long Island, where even the largest vineyards are miniscule by world standards. And, with generally cool weather that changes considerably from one year to the next, local producers are really at the mercy of Mother Nature.
And so are your taste buds — because no matter how good a winemaker is, it all begins with the fruit. As the saying goes, “Garbage in. Garbage out.”
Some of our region’s best years have 1995, 2001 and 2005. Reds from the 2005 vintage haven’t been released yet and won’t be for another couple years — but don’t miss them. I’ve tasted several in barrel and the intensity and depth are unlike any Long Island wines I’ve tasted.
Of course, bad wine can still be made in even the best years — and good wine can be made in less-than-optimal years as well partially because Long Island has so many unique micro-climates. One vineyard can get several inches of rain the same day that one just up the road doesn’t get a drop. And, unfortunately, an overzealous or over-manipulating winemaker can destroy the beauty and quality of perfect grapes.
The best way to see vintage differences yourself is by tasting the same wine, from the same winery, through at least a few vintages, side by side by side.
Without a deep wine cellar, and the patience to hold onto older vintages, this can be difficult to accomplish. But one winery on the North Fork is making it a little bit easier.
Osprey’s Dominion Vineyards in Peconic is offering three consecutive vintages — 2000, 2001 and 2002 — of its “Flight” Meritage red blend in gift-worthy three packs. This flight of “Flight” is $99 — not cheap, but chip in with a few friends, share the cost and learn a little about Long Island’s recent vintage history.
Osprey’s Dominion’s 2000 Flight ($35 when purchased separately) has an aromatic nose that offers blackberries, light oak toastiness, and subtle fresh herbs. This blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon is fruit forward and elegant with flavors — blackberry, black cherry, smoky oak, and herbs — that are balanced nicely by ripe, medium grip tannins. The finish is lengthy and offers a little eucalyptus at the very end.
The ripeness of the 2001 vintage comes through with more intensity and less nuance in winemaker Adam Suprenant’s 2001 Flight ($35). On the nose, intense blackberry and blueberry are accented by herbs, tomato leaves and subtle wet soil earthiness. This wine displays a similar profile on a rounder, fuller-flavored palate, with ripe, well-integrated tannins, and a little acidity.
Much more similar to the 2000, Osprey’s Dominion’s 2002 (N/A) hasn’t been released on its own yet. Straightforward blackberry aromas and noticeably less oak character mark the nose. The palate is youthful with bright fruit and slightly astringent tannins and acidity. This one isn’t quite ready for drinking yet, but that makes this flight of “Flight” all the more educational — you can taste similar wines in different stages of development.
Of the three, my favorite is the 2000 for its refined style and balance. Visit www.ospreysdominion.com or call 765-1903 and find out which you prefer.