"Yes, California does produce some good merlot, though I could make a case that better merlot is coming from Long Island than from California, albeit in very small amounts."
So says New York Times wine writer and wine blogger Eric Asimov in this week's column "Panned on Screen, Merlot Shrugs and Moves On" Of course, the rest of the column goes on to sing the praises of Washington State as America's best source for merlot. I'm not as familiar with Washington merlots as I am Long Island ones (obviously) so I'm not going to comment on that.
But, that doesn't mean I don't have something to chime in with here.
First, I've become a big fan of Asimov's over the past year or so -- and not only because he seems to have "come around" to my way of thinking on the topic of Long Island wine. I think I have his blog, The Pour, to thank for my change in thinking. As is the case with any good blog, it offers a window into his true self. The more casual, engaging style he writes with there has really drawn me in.
Two -- it is great to see such a qualified and well-respected wine columnist mentioning Long Island wines in such high regard...which leads me to my third and final point here.
Since this story ran Wednesday, I've gotten emails from at least five wineries (and countless others from readers and friends) talking about this quote. The overall sentiment seems to be "Take that California", but that is just ridiculous.
Does anyone really think that California merlot (in general) is that good to begin with? It certainly isn't the grape they do best, or second best, or third best. Now, if someone were to say that Long Island cabernet sauvignon is better than California or Long Island zinfandel is better than California -- THAT would mean something. Of course, no one grows or makes zin here, so that isn't gonna happen.
What I'm trying to say is -- yes, it's great that Asimov thinks Long Island is making great merlot, I'll never dispute that.
But, isn't being better for merlot than California is a bit like being better at a hamburger than McDonald's or better than Pizza Hut at pizza. California shouldn't be the benchmark here -- even though it is for many people.
Long Island can, does, and will continue to do much more than just best California at merlot. Trust me.