Martha Clara Vineyards, best known in these parts for having a bevy of large- and small-scale wine events, is really coming on. And by that I mean that their wines are improving with each released vintage.
When I first starting covering the region several years ago, their portfolio was firmly entrenched as one aimed at the white zinfandel set -- not fine wine lovers. Standby wines like the sweet, Beagle-labeled rose are still the top sellers, but further down the tasting sheet you'll find some much better, refined, and delicious wines.
Yes, the tasting room still overflows with new wine drinkers who prefer sweeter, simpler wines. But, French-born winemaker Gilles Martin is starting to make his mark. His recent Riesling and Gewurztraminer releases have been impressive and Martin has started to take advantage of his vineyards' western North Fork location -- which has a longer growing season than those further east -- with rich, ripe reds.
Martin's "thing" is sparkling wine and the non-vintage Brut he's been making for a few years is one of Long Island's great bubbly values at around $21. This year, he's released couple vintage sparklers -- an alluring, easy-drinking rose brut that is just lightly pink-copper and my favorite, this 2001 Blanc de Blanc ($30).
Lively and super-fresh, Martin's Martha Clara Vineyards 2001 Blanc de Blanc is made 100% of chardonnay grapes and displays a lightly toasty nose with loads of apple, citrus and minerals. Clean citrusy apple flavors are framed by great acidity and a lingering finish. It's dry, but not harsh, making it perfect for appetizers and other light fare.