With the recent 2006 vintage, Pellegrini Vineyards in Cutchogue celebrated its 15th year. Australian-born winemaker Russell Hearn is known for making flavorful wines that tend to be good values in a local industry that is too often plagued by over-priced, under-delivering wines.
True to his Australian pedigree, Hearn applies some of Long Island's most cutting-edge techniques, but he doesn't try to make Aussie-style wines -- thankfully.
North Fork grapes just don't get ripe enough for those big, jammy, fruit bomb styles.
Pellegrini Vineyards also makes enough wine every year that they don't need to rush their wines to the store shelves. This wine is an excellent example of that.
While many wineries are releasing merlots from 2003 or even 2004, Hearn is only now releasing his 2001 -- a truly impressive wine from one of Long Island's best ever vintages. If you see a 2001 red on a store shelf, buy it. It's that simple. Even some of regions lesser producers made solid wines that year.
Bottled unfiltered, this merlot is dark and dense in the glass with a plentiful nose of dark fruits -- think ripe blackberries, blueberries and plums -- with notes of vanilla and anise. Fruit-forward with ripe, full flavors, it displays delicious but not jammy blackberry and black cherry flavors, hints of vanilla, licorice, eucalyptus and black pepper. Ripe but medium-firm tannins provide structure and hint at a long cellar life.
AVA: North Fork of Long Island