By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor
Winemaker private labels are all the rage on Long Island these days, with Suhru Wines started by Russell Hearn of Pellegrini Vineyards and Premium Wine Group, Grapes of Roth started by Roman Roth of Wolffer Estate Vineyard, Leo Family by John Leo of Clovis Point and Anthony Nappa Wines by Anthony Nappa, formerly of Shinn Estate Vineyards.
Earlier this summer, Adam Suprenant, winemaker at Osprey’s Dominion Vineyards since 2001, released the first wines under his own label — Coffee Pot Cellars. And while it might seem like he's simply riding the private label wave, this venture has been a long time coming
"Believe it or not, I've been thinking about this since the late 1980s when my Dad and I were trying to get investors interested in buying Long Island real estate to start a vineyard and/or winery. The idea resurfaced when Gristina Vineyards was for sale in 2000 but, as was the case earlier, investors were scarce. Right after I jumped the sinking Galluccio Vineyards -- who bought Gristina in 2000 -- ship in 2001 I tried to get a project going but instead took the winemaker position at Osprey's Dominion."
After working at Osprey's Dominion for seven years, Suprenant approached his bosses and "after some negotiation" worked out an arrangement where he could launch his own label and make the wines in the Osprey's Dominion cellar.
Suprenant doesn’t own a vineyard, but with more than ten years in the local wine industry means he has built relationships with several growers, most notably Sam McCullough who manages the vineyards at Lenz Winery and has a vineyard of his own. Suprenant bought his chardonnay, merlot from McCullough, and has sourced fruit from Osprey's Dominion's vineyards as well as others on the North Fork.
To launch his brand, Suprenant is offering four wines under the Coffee Pot Cellars label including two whites -- a sauvignon blanc and a no-new-oak chardonnay -- and two reds -- a merlot and a Meritage. All four represent solid-to-good value, ranging in price from $16 to $22. "It's all about the quality of the juice in the bottle. I have, however, tried to keep the price reasonably affordable to make it a bit more accessible," he told me in an email.
He plans to add a cabernet franc and a gewurztraminer in the future.
The wines are sold -- and one is very good -- and as I said already, it's easy to appreciate the pricepoints.
The Coffee Pot Cellars 2009 Sauvignon Blanc ($18), made with Osprey’s Dominion fruit, is extremely citrusy showing dominant aromas of grapefruit and candied lemon peel with melon and sweet grass accents. Medium bodied and tense with fresh, juicy acidity, it is a straightforward, appetite-whetting white that will shine with the bounty from local waters.
Coffee Pot Cellars 2010 Chardonnay ($16) is similarly straightforward, offering yellow apple, lemon zest and faintly nutty notes. Made with McCullough Vineyard fruit, without any new oak or malo-lactic fermentation, this chardonnay retains its freshness, even if it's a little dilute on the mid-palate.
Coffee Pot Cellars 2008 Merlot ($18) is a well-priced wine that shows classic cool-season Long Island character. Again made entirely with McCullough fruit, it displays black cherry, plum aromas with subtle toasty sweet oak and a sprinkling of dried thyme, baking spice and a bit of an earthy edge. Medium bodied with ripe, medium-light tannins, there is a crunchy freshness to the fruit — again mostly cherry and plum — along with those pretty herbal notes. It’s not intense on the mid-palate and a bit short on the finish, but for $18 this is a wine worth checking out.
My favorite of these inaugural releases is the Coffee Pot Cellars 2008 Meritage ($22), a merlot-heavy blend made with portions of cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot and cabernet franc. The nose oozes blueberry, currant and plum fruit as well as gentle aromas of fennel seed, white pepper and dried herbs. The palate is medium-bodied but the tannins are far more intense here, providing grip and plenty of structure to frame the ripe-but-restrained fruit intensity. Spicy and peppery on the finish, this is a wine that will improve with short-term aging.
Coffee Pot Cellars wines are available in wine shops on the North Fork with some distribution on the South Fork and Brooklyn. For more information on store locations and to purchase the wines online visit coffeepotcellars.com