Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Sip of Long Island: Bedell Cellars

Long Island Wine is, for the most part, a local delicacy. With just 3000 acres under vine and an annual production of 500,000 cases you won't find much wine leaving the country, and it would probably be a rare wine shop that carried any sort of selection outside of New York and the neighbouring states.

But a wedding on Shelter Island put me a stone's throw away from Long Island's North Fork wineries. I regret to inform that this was NOT a wine tour - the wife and kids made sure of that - but I did have time for one stop, and local knowledge directed me to Bedell Cellars.

I coughed up 12$ for the "Premium" Flight, and this was how it went:

The 2007 Bedell Chardonnay Reserve was steel and oak aged - oaky, buttery, ripe red apple, with some wet stones, almost caramelly on the nose. Lighter bodied, tart and pleasing, short finish. 13% alcohol, Score: 16/20

The 2007 Bedell Gallery was an interesting blend of Chardonnay (69%), Sauvignon blanc (19%), and Viognier. Fleeting floral notes on the nose, probably from the viognier, but tangy citrussy and apricot aromas dominate, some toast. Terribly well balanced, and more flavourful than the Chardonnay, delicious spicy fruit... 13% alcohol, Score: 16.5/20

Long Island is famous for its Merlot (a grape getting a lot more play at Joe's house these days...), so I wasn't going to miss Bedell's red offerings:

The 2007 "Taste" Red was a blend of Merlot (56%), Cab Sauv (25%) and Syrah. Noticeably green and earthy at first, pretty violets, cedar and a hint of dark syrah berries on the nose. A spicy palate with tasty green tannins and gooseberries, a light- to medium-bodied everyday red. 13% alcohol, Score: 16/20

A whiff of the 2006 Bedell Reseve Merlot revealed smokey, dark earth, new leather, blackberries and vanilla, maybe some charcuterie - nicely done! Gritty, dark fruit, a good balance between fruit and acid, very Bordeaux like. This tastes too young - it has the acid, tannin and fruit to keep, I would age this one. 13% alcohol, Score: 17/20

The winery's signature offering was the 2006 Musée, predominantly Merlot (75%), but with some Cab Sauv (13%) and Petit Verdot blended in. Lovely aromas of green herbs, blackberries and roses, damp earth and crisp cherries, chalky... Soft and fruity on the palate, but with dense, velvety tannins, and a nice long finish. Lush, complex and very well balanced. 13% alcohol, Score 17.5/20

Overall, the offerings were very well done across the board, even those sips I had from my wife's flight of entry-level wines (the 2007 Merlot was particularly notable as a great value).

I would not dare make any generalizations about Long Island wine based on a 2 hour stop at a single winery, but I think I can say this - nearly every wine I tasted or saw in local shops was 1% to 1.5% lower in alcohol than their California bretheren. Perhaps it is climate, or a conscious effort to be "different" from their West Coast winemaking peers, but this observation and the wines that I tasted tell me that something different is going on in Long Island - and this "different" is more in line with the kind of wine I am seeking out these days...

PS - Congrats Rob (my Napa and Sonoma partner in crime) and Ellyn!


Mark said...

I do think that the low alcohol movement is more typical of colder weather wine....certainly Long Island fits that profile more then California.

That being said there are some producers in Cali trying to combine the two, with varying amounts of success. Copain does quite well, but then again they are sourcing their grapes from the Central Coast which is much colder then the Napa/Sonoma sumers.

Heard good things about Long Island wine-hard to find the good stuff out west though.

Joe said...

Hi Mark, thanks for your comments. While warmer climate wines lend themselves to riper fruit/higher alcohol, that is not a given. I have walked the fields with Napa winemakers listening to them brag about "hang time", how they picked later than everyone, etc. - they want to make wines like this (and the consumer is buying so why should they stop?), so I just don't buy that this is simply a climate issue. I am very intrigued by your comments re: Copain and I will seek those out.

As funny as it sounds, it is probably easier to find a Long Island wine thousands of miles away in California than it is just 400 miles away in Montreal!