Wolffer Estate

10 June 2012, Southampton, NY

While Long Island isn’t well known for its wines, there are handful of vineyards that produce quality wines, worthy of cellaring, which are delicious at a young age. I’ve written about Lenz several times but for something a bit closer to our place, there is Wolffer Estate. In addition to having some great events during the summer (Sunset Fridays, live music, etc.) they do wine tastings and tours. Diane and I went there with Manoj and his friend Sara for a quick tour and tasting before we hit the beach:

Suellen, our tour guide, explaining the history of the vineyard

One of my big questions for Long Island wines, is how will they age? Wolffer was thinking the same and they have a storage area where they have some of the original bottles the estate produced:

Cellar at Wolffer with old vintages

We didn’t get to try any of the older vintages (another time perhaps) but we did sit outside and have a cheese plate with their sparkling rose:

2008 Noblesse Oblige Sparkling Rose

I didn’t take any tasting notes on this one but the notes and technical data from their site say it all:

65% Pinot Noir, 34% Chardonnay and 1% “Lambardo” Merlot

Brilliant light rose in color, with fine beads of tiny bubbles.
The aroma is classic, filled with ripe, crisp fruit, hints of brioche, fresh peaches, wild strawberries and lemon zest. The CO2 tickles your whole sense of smell. There is great depth to this wine, with rich and focused yeast, toasty notes and a tremendously long, dry finish.

Technical Data
The 2008 growing season was perfect for a vintage sparkling wine. All the grapes were carefully selected and handpicked. The Pinot Noir was picked in 3 lots on September 16th, 24th and 30th from our 2000 and1993 Blocks. The Chardonnay was picked on October 30th from our oldest vineyard, the 1988 Block. Handling and pressing of the grapes was done with whole clusters and as gently as possible. The juice was cold-settled (40°Fahrenheit) for 48 hours followed by a slow fermentation that was achieved by keeping the juice at cool temperatures (~ 64° Fahrenheit) in stainless steel tanks. 17% of the wine fermented in new French oak barriques, and all the wine aged for 3 months sur lees adding to the classic character. Malolactic fermentation was strictly avoided to keep the lively acidity. The wine was blended prior to clarification and filtration.  It was bottled on June 12th. 2009 and went through its second fermentation (Methode Champenoise). The bottles were hand-riddled and after 31 months of aging in our dark cuvee room, were disgorged with a dosage of only 6.0 grams per Liter.  4170 bottles 750ml and 550 Magnum bottles were produced.

It’s a delicious summer wine. Diane wanted to get a picture with us and the rose and wasn’t so happy when I didn’t cooperate by smiling:

Diane – not so happy with my smiling effort

Second try:


** 2008 Noblesse Oblige Sparkling Rose, $37

France, the North Fork and back to Italy

18-26 February 2012, 100 Jane Street & Bistro de la Gare, Manhattan

After a week of traveling for work and golf, I got back-logged on the wine I consumed recently so I’m combining a few meals in one post.

1. One of my goals this year was to learn more about French wines. Diane and I went to a red Burgundy tasting at LeDu’s Wines and although we didn’t find any Burgundy we liked, we bought a bottle of a white Rhone Valley wine – 2005 M. Chapoutier Chante-Alouette Hermitage. Not knowing anything about the varietal, we bought this bottle just based on the producer and wanted to try something new:

2005 M. Chapoutier Chante-Alouette Hermitage

Very full bodied, almost creamy with a nutty finish. A smooth mid-palate but with good acidity and a elegant finish. The first bottle of a Marsanne varietal that I’ve ever had and it was difficult to find good analogs. A link on the Chapoutier website that explains more:


2. A group of us went to dinner at Bistro de la Gare on this past Saturday – Cohen, Michelle, Nard, Diane and I – started out with some wine at our apartment and brought a couple bottles to the restaurant.

Our first bottle was a 1999 Lenz Cuvee – a sparkling wine from my favorite vineyard on the North Fork of Long Island and although we love their Merlot and Chardonnay wines, this was the first sparkling we tried:

1999 Lenz Cuvee

This bottle was actually aged at the vineyard and wasn’t disgorged until recently, allowing the sediments/yeast to age inside the bottle. The initial taste was smooth for a sparkling wine – very dry with a bit of earthiness that came from the aging. Not as complex as old French champagnes but a very pleasant wine to start the night.

Next up was one of my favorite discoveries from Sicily – Frank Cornelissen’s Contadino 8. A blend of indigenous red and white varietals, this wine is unlike any I’ve ever tasted. The grapes are grown on Mount Etna and the yields are extremely low. Focused on natural wine-making and farming with minimal intervention, I think Cornelissen makes some of the most unique and interesting wines in Italy:

N.V. Cornelissen Contadino 8

The wine itself has low acidity, high fruit and a funky aftertaste that tells you it was grown on a volcano. People had somewhat divergent views on this wine – some people said it wasn’t for them, I think it’s delicious.

At the restaurants, we started with a 1973 Riesling which I unfortunately don’t have the name of as Nard brought the bottle and the label was tough to read – I’ll hopefully find out what this was, as it was incredible, and post on it later.

The piece de resistance of the night, and this post, was the 2000 Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. An incredible wine that has layers upon layers of flavors:

2000 Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino Riserva

A strong nose of tar and leather, the first taste is of dark red, ripe fruit and spices. High tannins and acidity and oddly, the owner of the restaurant recommended not to decant the wine. I went along with her recommendation but towards the end of the meal began to regret the decision as the wine started to open up in the glass and the last sip was definitely the best.

Soldera is an interesting producer – he bought the plot of land in the 1970’s and believes in creating an entire ecosystem to make healthy vines and good wine. More at his website:


3. The last meal of the weekend was at home on Sunday night. Nard, Clair, Manoj, Diane and I ate a casual dinner while we watched the start of the Oscars. The main entrees were the chicken with salsa verde from Barbuto and a simple pasta dish we threw together at home – rigatoni with homemade tomato sauce and some spicy and sweet sausages from Florence Meat Market.

We opened up a bottle I’d been saving for a while, a 1999 Ar.Pe.Pe. Grumello Buon Consiglio. 100% Nebbiolo but not from Piemonte! The vineyard is located in Lombardy and their wines tend to be more subtle, elegant versions of Nebbiolo:

1999 Ar.Pe.Pe. Grumello Buon Consiglio

The wine has a softer nose than most Barolos – almost floral – and the palate has much more red fruit and less tannins than a standard Piemonte Nebbiolo. Easy to drink and great with the pasta.

** 2005 M. Chapoutier Chante-Alouette Hermitage, $75

** 1999 Lenz Cuvee, $60

*** N.V. Cornelissen’s Contadino 8, $25

**** 2000 Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, $250

*** 1999 Ar.Pe.Pe. Grumello Buon Consiglio, $70

Lenz – Old Vines

5 January 2012, 100 Jane Street, Manhattan

This past summer, I was introduced to a vineyard in Long Island’s North Fork – Lenz. I was skeptical as I had several “good” Long Island wines before and although there were plenty of mediocre wines, none of them were wines that I thought were particularly interesting.

Lenz grows several varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and their top level production is bottled under the “Old Vines” label. Nard, Diane and I opened up the 2002 Lenz Old Vines Merlot and it was delicious. Made from 30 year old vines it was a classic Merlot with dark fruit, great balance and a long finish. Highly recommend it and it’s definitely worth visiting the vineyard to do a tasting:

2002 Lenz Old Vines Merlot

*** 2002 Lenz Old Vines Merlot, $55