By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor
Several grapes have come and gone over the course of 30-plus years -- zinfandel was even tried early on -- and a handful of grapes have emerged as those showing great promise here including merlot, cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc.
For a variety of reasons -- and with a few notable exceptions -- variety experimentation has slowed in recent years, but Palmer Vineyards and winemaker Miguel Martin aren't done exploring.
This fall, they harvested just over four-tenths of a ton of Albarino from an acre of vines they planted in 2007.
It's not surprising that the Spanish-born Martin would want to try Albarino, but it goes well beyond his heritage.
"I think Long Island may be blessedwith the kind of conditions perfect for the production and growing of Albarino," Martin told me "Because of the similar weather patterns."
The weather on the North Fork may be similar to that in Galicia, as is its proximity to the ocean, but Martin concedes that the topography is quite different "Most of the Albarino is planted on the high slopes near the coast (there)."
Still, Martin is confident that Albarino will ripen consistently here and it certainly did in during the hot, dry 2010 season, coming in on September 11 at 22.0 brix and 3.15 pH, without any issues in the vineyard.
I have yet to taste the finished wine, but Martin is happy with the early results. "I am very excited about the future potential of this variety in Long Island. This wine is full of character with bracing acidity and saline minerality wit aromas of citrus and white flowers. Albarino is a great food wine. It goes wonderfully with our local seafood."
The wine will be released in the spring, but isn't expected to last long. Martin was only able to make 50 cases of 500 ml bottles.
When I asked him why it's important for wineries to continue to experiment with new varieties, he answered simply "Because you open the door to try and produce new and exciting wines."
He's planted muscat and malvasia bianca as well -- both of which he's enthusiastic about producing either as stand-alone wines or as blending components.