It's probably not the funniest joke you've heard lately, but it aptly describes the sometimes-chaotic behavior of the pumpkin-picking masses. All those families, dead set on finding the perfect pumpkin, the best hay ride and the curviest corn maze, have been clogging the major North Fork arteries for weeks and will continue to do so through the fall. Whether you call it the harvest parade, a parking lot or bumper-to-bumper, the traffic on Route 48 and Main Road these days makes it hard for those of us more interested in grapes than gourds to get to the wineries we love so much.
Of course, that's never stopped me before (though my visits wane a bit this time of year) and it shouldn't stop you either. The wines are just too good, especially as the weather turns cool and we all start looking for richer (and often red) wines to drink with the food we eat.
So what wines are worth wading your way through the droves of SUVs? Here are some of my recent fall food-friendly bottles.
Wolffer Vineyards' 2003 Estate Selection Chardonnay ($29) keeps impressing me every time I taste it. It was fermented completely in French oak and stands out as one of best barrel fermented chardonnays made on Long Island. The nose is toasty and layered with ripe peaches and apricot, vanilla and marshmallows toasted over a bonfire. Medium-to-full bodied, the stone fruit flavors are rich and mouth-filling with subtle toasty oak, vanilla and a earthy-mineral note as well. Perfectly balanced by acidity, there is a bright citrus-kiwi note on a very lengthy finish. Chicken or salmon with cream sauce, or fowl with roasted apples seem like nice foils.
If you liked their very-underrated 2001 Merlot like I did, I can't recommend Peconic Bay Winery's 2001 Oregon Hills Reserve Merlot ($38) enough. Winemaker Greg Gove blended 25% cabernet sauvignon into this red that is among the best he's made. An exceedingly aromatic nose filled my kitchen with plum, cherry, spice, and cocoa aromas. Ripe and very Old World in style, there are some plum and cherry flavors, but secondary flavors of tobacco, dark chocolate, and spice set this red apart. Mature, slightly dusty tannins linger on a lengthy finish after a soft, lush mid-palate.
It's not a new release, but Roanoke Vineyards 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($40) is really starting to show well. Owner Richie Pisacano's western North Fork location allows him to ripen the king of all red grapes more consistently-and it shows. Smoke, vanilla and burnt sugar aromas mingle with black plum, blueberry, blackberry and Thai basil on an ever-expanding and ever-evolving nose. The palate is rich and flavorful, with loads of dark fruit backed by delicious black pepper, spice, vanilla, sweet cedar and minty-basil notes. Finely structured, the tannins are ripe and well-integrated, hinting at potential longevity. The next time I make beef daube or pot roast, this is what I'm drinking.
These are just three of the wines I've weaved my way through traffic for. I'm sure you'll find many others that are worthy of the extra effort.
And, lest I come off as a pumpkin picker hater, I'll be hitting the pumpkin patch myself soon-with my 8-month old son in tow. I'll be stopping for a glass of wine on my way home, too.