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Opinion: Raise a glass to Long Island wines

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What does 2,992 miles have to do with wine? The answer is one that you may not believe. It is the distance between California’s fine wine producing region, Napa Valley, to the North Fork of Long Island, New York, where there are roughly 50 commercial wineries in operation and producing some outstanding classical grape wines.

Long Island, which begins where New York City’s easternmost borough of Queens ends, extends due east into the Atlantic Ocean for 118 miles. The far eastern part of the island splits into two sections called the North Fork and the South Fork, and it is the north side where experienced winemakers are producing some excellent wines. Note: The South Fork has only two wineries. This review is of North Fork wines.

Paumanok Vineyards 2021 Chenin Blanc ($29)
Chenin blanc is one of those varieties that has had a miserable past in California. In the hands of Long Island’s Paumanok Vineyards vintners, the grape produces an elegant dry wine offering the aromas of melon, peach and lemon peel. The wine displays the flavors of tropical fruits and honeysuckle, and it has lifted the once commonplace chenin blanc to new heights of excellence, quality and enjoyment.

Peconic Bay Vineyards 2020 Riesling ($28)
Having lived several years in Germany, where riesling wines are king, I felt as though I was back in Deutschland after sampling this wine. Unlike many of the German rieslings, this wine is dry and about as full flavored as any I have previously tasted. The wine has the signature apricot and raisin flavor, while the usually high fruit acid level, common to the variety, has been held in check so the flavor of the fruit prevails. This wine is the perfect accompaniment to all forms of poultry and seafood of any type.

Sannino Vineyard 2019 Cabernet Franc ($35)
This wine should squelch any doubt that a fine red wine could come from New York state. Like the cabernet sauvignon, which it closely resembles, the cabernet franc produces wines that display the flavors and aromas of blackberries and cassis. It is often difficult to tell the difference between wines made from the two varieties and therefore comparison is inevitable. A cabernet franc tends to be a bit softer and less tannic than its regal cousin, and while the berry flavors are more aggressive, the tannin and acid are not as forceful.

Suhru Wines 2021 Shiraz ($25)
This wine is a blend of 77% shiraz, 12% teroldego and 11% petit verdot, and it offers red berry aromas with a hint of oak and spice. The flavor stresses raspberry and cherry, which flow to a long velvety finish.

McCall Wines Estate 2015 Pinot Noir ($30)
The traditional aromas of cherries and rose petals that are the signature aromas of a pinot noir are obvious along with easily identifiable cranberries. The cranberry aroma carries over to the flavor where it mingles with cherry and plum. The background of this wine proves to be just as interesting, displaying the flavors of cinnamon, clove, dark chocolate, oak and vanilla, which go on to the finish and slowly trail off to end in a smoky sensation. This pinot noir is about as enjoyable as they come and an excellent ambassador for Long Island wines.

Sparkling Pointe Vineyards 2019 Topaz Imperial Rose ($44)
The North Fork is also the home of an exceptional sparkling wine producer. Not cutting any corners, this is a rose sparkling wine that has been made by the ancient “methode champenoise” and offers the aromas of cherry, strawberry, blackberry and red summer berries. The flavor mirrors the aroma and then trails off into a long toast and fruit finish. I must add that the quality of this wine impressed me, as did its price.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at frojhe1@att.net.

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