Every time I visit ‘wine country’ on Long Island, I find myself hopeful that I will like the wine. Really. I honestly long for A Cabernet Franc that impresses me, a Merlot to recommend, or a Chardonnay I can purchase and be happy uncorking at home. Sadly, I always leave this vast and beautiful corner of New York State disappointed.
I think it is admirable that people who live here want to show some team spirit and “drink local.” I also find it commendable that local businesses carry a preponderance of Long Island wines on their lists and get away with it. What I cannot get past are the unsatisfactory flavor profiles and substandard structures of the majority of Long Island wines I have had a chance to taste.
I have visited striking wineries with modern tasting rooms and enviable decks with amazing views. The comment usually goes like this, “this would be a great setting for a wedding, but would they have to serve this wine?” Many of the reds seem exceedingly dense and one-dimensional and the whites devoid of character.
This is not to say that there are not some successes — if not exactly sensations. I have tasted very well made Merlots from Lenz Winery & Vineyard and relative newcomer Shinn Estate Vineyards, satisfying Roses from Wolffer Estates, and pleasant whites from Comtesse Therese and Paumanok Vineyards. They’re good. But are they good enough to stand up to a wine of the same varietal and similar price from another wine region? The jury is deliberating.
The terroir, if you will, on Long Island is most like the Right Bank of Bordeaux which is likely why you will have the most luck with Merlot and Cabernet Franc if you are drinking reds. I personally have found it easier rolling the dice with white wines on both the North Fork and the South.
I sincerely hope that things improve in the near future. Perhaps success will come from realizing which grapes are best planted in which vineyards on what soils. Perchance good fortune will come from talented and knowledgeable viticulturalists and winemakers settling in to this bucolic stretch of farmland. It looks like the potential is there so we will just have to wait and see.