North Fork Wine Tour

3 July 2012, North Fork, Long Island

In preparation for a much bigger wine tasting trip the following week, I spent a day tasting wines in the North Fork or Long Island with Eugene, Tips and Becky. We went to three vineyards: Paumanok, Shinn and Lenz. I’ve written about Lenz several times in the past and it still remains my favorite Long Island vineyard, but I wanted to briefly write about two wines that were worth buying and even aging that we had at the other two vineyards.

First, at Paumanok, we had a great tasting with the original owner of the winery, Charles Massoud. He sat down with us next to the vines and went through a detailed explanation of the viticultural techniques they use. The piece de resistance at this vineyard was their red blend called Assemblage:

2007 Paumanok Assemblage

69% Merlot, 22% Petit Verdot and 9% Cabernet Franc this wine at a relatively young age is already well integrated and balanced. Black fruit and spice with a nice, light mouth feel for a Bordeaux blend.

Our second stop was with the wine maker at Shinn Estate, Patrick. In addition to making some nice sparklings and dry wines, they distill their own spirits which are delicious. Their showpiece wine is the Nine Barrels Reserve Merlot – given the name as it’s taken from the nine best barrels of the harvest:

2008 Shine Estate Vineyards Merlot Nine Barrels Reserve

Black fruit and bitter chocolate. Juicy with good tannins with pepper and spice on the finish. Nice wine that could also probably improve with a couple years in the bottle.

** 2007 Paumanok Assemblage, $45

** 2008 Shinn Estate Vineyards Merlot Nine Barrels Reserve, $45

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:,chante-alouette,white,wine,22.html

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