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October 15, 2008


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Lenn... it seems that, based on the wineries I've visited in LI recently and the staff I have spoken to, more and more are excited about Cab Franc and their blended reds (with CF usually in them) than their straight Merlots. So I'm not surprised that Merlot's are not what many producers are putting up for their best reds.
Roanoke - one of the better red producers on the North Fork - is a perfect example: they don't always bottle a pure Merlot every year unless it is deemed a great vintage. Their success has in reds has come moreso from their Blend One and Blend Two wines. I don't think that is a coincidence - - I think more and more producers are learning what truly works best.
PS: have fun in Sonoma!

Could we be seeing market forces at play?

While I firmly believe that LI merlot is stylistically a full 360 degrees away from so many California wines, at the end of the day the label says merlot and there is a lot of merlot available in the greater wine market, consumed by all sorts of wine drinkers.

You've noted that the Finger Lakes has no problem pushing its rieslings. In reference to the point above, there is a relative lack of riesling available from domestic U.S. sources. Sure, peruse a decent-sized wine shop and there are a few California rieslings and a few Washington versions available, but there are never very many. Since it doesn't take long to pick through this sparce selection, it also doesn't take long to figure out that many West Coast rieslings aren't that great (with some exceptions).

How can you ever stop tasting the numerous West Coast merlots long enough to randomly realize that LI has something different (and often better) to offer?

It's a broad theory that has nothing to do with quality, but I can see how it would affect how LI sees itself at times. Heck, on the flip side I wish some FL producers would not use riesling as a crutch and push some other varietals that show some amazing potential but, alas, have neither name recognition or are as easy to sell.

While I am disappointed, I am not surprised that Long Island wineries are not supplying Long Island Merlot wines for your trip to the bloggers conference in Sonoma.

There are many recent examples where the wineries have declined to pour their Merlot wines at any “national” event. The main reason is virtually no Long Island wines are retailed outside the greater New York City area. Thus, there is little interest by wineries in marketing any Long Island wine in California, Texas or Illinois.

The fact that you have received other Long Island varietal wines is not surprising. A large number of Long Island winery owners and some winemakers truly believe that Long Island can do many varietals equally well, regardless of the opinion of professional viticulturalists and enologists, and contrary to the opinion of outside independent reviewers of Long Island wines. These independent wine professionals overwhelmingly are of the opinion that what Long Island does best are Merlot wines and Bordeaux styled blends that feature merlot and cab franc varietals. Just this month, Food & Wine magazine has again reaffirmed this expert opinion recognizing Long Island’s premier red wine as the merlot varietal.

(That is Len Dest not Lenn Thompson, in case it is not clear whom I am addressing this to)

For those who do not know who you are, would it not be a good idea for you to state what your occupation is?
You write in a definitive manner as if you knew what the truth is, and of course it has to be Merlot that is best, from your not so disinterested point of view.

There is nothing wrong with stating that LI produces great Merlots. It does, and we have a few of them to show any doubteous Thomases at Paumanok Vineyards.

But, stating that that Merlot is the "premier red varietal" on LI, without divulging your occupation, might be seen as propaganda.

The concept of a "premier" wine is to me a stale idea. There are many great red wines being made by (alphabetically) Bedell, Lenz, Macari, Paumanok, Pellegrini, Raphael, Roanoke, Roth, Shinn, Wolffer and others from all 5 Bordeaux varieties and others, single strength or blended, that are all example of greatness. So limiting LI to Merlot just because a few producers planted much of their vineyards with that grape is self serving. That a few people have fallen for the spin is to be expected.

For every expert that you cite there are a few more that have extolled the virtues of another varietal. That proves nothing in my book other than there are many great wines on LI.

Charles -

While I have identified myself in other postings, for the uninformed I am the executive director of the non-profit Long Island Merlot Alliance, which is dedicated to promoting Long Island Merlot wines and Bordeaux style blends based upon the merlot varietal.

I fully agree with your comments that there are many fine Bordeaux styled wines being made by winemakers on Long Island, and I have many in my own cellar, including many from Paumanok. I was stating that regardless of what we believe about the diversity of fine wines made here in the region, when outside wine professionals write their critiques they most frequently provide positive comments on Long Island Merlots and Bordeaux blends. Most recently as reported on this blog, Food & Wine has highlighted Long Island Merlot wine. If you go to the website “winesny.com” they feature Long Island Merlots and Finger Lake Rieslings. In fact we are very proud of their 94 rating for the 2005 Merliance merlot varietal blend produced by the Long Island Merlot Alliance members; Pelligrini, Raphael, Sherwood House, Shinn and Wolffer.

Regardless of our debate for or against the importance of the merlot varietal, as most Long Island wineries produce small quantities and most wines are not distributed outside the New York City market, there is little business reason to promote merlot varietal or any other varietal wines in California or at any national event.

Len (and I mean Len Dest too, clearly I'm not speaking to myself... not now anyway):

There are two points I'd like to make in response to your merlot vs. distubution comments.

First, Finger Lakes riesling is probably no more available in California than LI merlot is, and yet wineries from the region are sending almost exclusively riesling to the conference.

Second, if Long Island producers aren't interested in California because they don't have wide distribution there, why send wines with me at all? I'm not sure I'm following your logic.

And even if that is the case, it's a mistake. While the event is hosted in California and will be attended by many Californians, there are bloggers from all of the country (and world) who will be there. Off the top of my head, I know that there will be other NY bloggers and also some from PA, VA, MA, OH and IN (just to name a few).

And trust me, I'm friends with most of the bloggers who are coming and many of them are dying to try the wines that they've seen me write about for the last 4+ years.

The more I think about this whole thing...the more I think that the diverse wines that LI makers submitted just reflects the diversity of the wines made here. And there isn't a single wine in the lot that I'm not happy to be pouring out there.

I think that some Long Island producers, those that showed little interest in sending wines to the event (many of whom are LIMA members btw) are missing out on a good opportunity to expose dozens of bloggers to their wines.

Then again, surprisingly few local wineries understand the power of the Internet and blogging.

Lenn... can you divulge what wines (and vintages) you actually ended up bringing?

Foley: Planning to do a post either today or early next week listing the wines from Long Island and from the Finger Lakes that Melissa and I will be pouring out there. Keep an eye out.

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