Saturday, April 21, 2007

North Fork wines

Ah, it's so good to be back in Paris, in this sunny, vibrant springtime - especially after ten days in the New York region, under hailstorms and even snow.

During my Long Island trip, I visited Paumanok, which was outstanding and will be the subject of a future post here, as well as two other wineries. I had been to Pellegrini before and liked their classic varietal wines. Lenz was a discovery.

The pitfall here was that I was with (along with Arnaud), Arnaud's parents, who are wine lovers but not wine geeks - i.e., they don't spit, so after 15 wines they may reach saturation, not to mention tipsiness; and, accessorily, they may not have the same interest in lengthy discussion and barrel samples... But they were good sports and the tastings were great.

The visit to Lenz Vineyard and Winery was a delight. First served by the attentive woman in the tasting room, our French banter and prattle was picked up on by Eric Frey, the winemaker, who came over and took over our tasting - for the greater good of all... He speaks fluent, American-accented French, and is a smart, opinionated, eccentric guy with great generosity and who is not afraid to say, "My pinot noir sucks." (But I really liked the 1998 Pinot Noir, with its aging Burgundy notes, I must shamefully admit!)

With him, we went through the lineup, and he opened a number of library bottles, including an impressive bubbly, the 1994 "Cuvée" which had been disgorged in 1996. Toast and brioche and pear, a great méthode champenoise.

Here, as in much of the North Fork of Long Island, the Cabernet Sauvignon is the delicate variety and the Merlot the robust one. His 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon "Old Vines" (with Lenz being one of the oldest Long Island wineries, founded in 1978) was excellent. Plums, roses, black fruit, and a little pepper. Mm.

And then we had the pleasure of tasting some 2006's from barrel - the Merlot was somewhat austere, but it hadn't been blended with the Petit Verdot that would round it out; tasting the two in succession gave an early profile of what the wine would be.

After that, with my mother driving (she of the one sip and then sit in the car listening to the Mets game until everyone's done inside), we headed to Pellegrini Vineyard, where I had the sense of something well-crafted, as before. Between the 2001 Cabernet Franc, with its full-bodied new-worldiness, and the tandem of 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon (smoother, more elegant) and 2002 Merlot (more rugged, tannic), I loved their first-level reds.

Ready to plunge on, I was given the kabosh by a trio of tired French people, so had to bow out... Alas, the pursuit of oenological knowledge is imperfect. But it's a lot of fun...

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