What a difference a few years can make.
I know why most New York wineries release reds within two years of vintage. Many producers sell out quickly and need to have something on the shelves to sell. Others need to move product through because they need the cash flow or lack long-term storage space.
This all means that most Long Island wines are being tasted in tasting rooms (and purchased and consumed) long before their peak.
A quick look around the Island shows that most wineries are pouring 2006 and 2007 reds now. One of the exceptions, however is Lenz Winery in Peconic, where they've just released their 2002 Estate Merlot and this Lenz Winery 2002 Old Vines Merlot ($55).
As wine lovers, we're lucky that Lenz owner Peter Carroll apparently shares winemaker Eric Fry's philosophy (paraphrased) that "American's don't know how to age wine, so we'll age it for them."
2002 remains, somehow, and underrated vintage for local reds, and this wine is drinking beautifully right now.
Black plum and cherry aromas are accented by leather, cured meat, dried herbs and subtle brown spice on an expressive, mature nose.
The palate is medium bodied with smooth, mature tannins that are well integrated across the palate framing dark fruit, leather, a little bit of that gaminess, licorice and a little earthy herbal character. The finish is long and ends with leather and spice.
It is a joy to drink wines like this, that prove that the drinking window for Long Island wines is far larger than some experts would have you believe.
I opened and tasted top-notch reds over the weekend. This was the one I reached for first (and second) when it was time for a glass or two with dinner and after.
Producer: Lenz Winery
AVA: North Fork of Long island
Rating: (4 out of 5 | Delicious, Distinctive )