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Cereghino Smith Sangiovese Reserve 2004
This is a red wine made from Sangiovese grapes grown in California and produced in New York. Intense aromas of bubble gum, raspberry jam, and strawberries attack the senses, while ripe bing cherries, licorice, smoke and oak get the taste buds busy. I've tasted many Sangiovese wines, mostly from Italy, but never interpreted like this. It's chewy, has texture, and an interesting flavor profile. Found this at a tasting at Alphabet City Wine Co., recommended by Keith B. Fined not filtered, 13% alcohol and in the $20 range.

Duck Walk Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
This 2006 Duck Walk Cabernet from Long Island is a dark garnet/plum color with a jammy nose of plums, cherries and chocolate. The palate shows a mild but not overpowering bitterness, but also reminds me a bit of a Pinot Noir, sort of leathery or tarlike. After about an hour the wine softened and revealed a good balance between fruit and tannins along with a nice smooth black cherry finish. Bought this bottle directly from the vineyards on the South Fork of Long Island for about $18. Delicious!

A Barrel Tasting with Eric Fry, Winemaker at Lenz Winery
I have to admit I was intrigued at the prospect of visiting the inner sanctum of a winery... its cellar. Here on the North Fork of Long Island, New York at the Lenz Winery it is a dark, damp and mysterious place packed with French oak barrels. Our first taste is the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon which is 93% Cab and 7% Petit Verdot. Eric climbs up behind a huge barrel and returns with a wine thief full of the Cab. There are lots of fruits, raspberry, cherry and blueberry and Eric says "they were picked late, November 15, and on the vine so long they were begging for picking. We fermented really cold to get rid of the tannins, so that now there's a fruity and light structure". They will be adding Petit Verdot and Merlot (both fermented separately) to the Cab later to help fill up the tannin structure. These wines won't be on the market for another 4 to 5 years, they're really good now, which means they can only get better.

More Lenz winery barrel tasting
At the Lenz Winery with winemaker Eric Fry I tasted the 2007 Old Vines Merlot from the barrel, which would be blended in the future with the 07 Cabernet and Cabernet Franc. Merlot is used to round the blend, it is smoother richer, fuller, sweeter and fills the mouth up and subtle blueberries pervade. Much more dense than the Cabernet, packed condensed, it finishes strong at the end with real intensity, but not flashy. At this point Eric starts to describe what he calls "reductive winemaking" (reductive vs. oxidative), making wine in the absence of oxygen for a period of time after fermentation, it's more Burgundian in style than Bordeaux. The wine is fermented without oxygen while the temperature is very slowly increased. It lasts from January until March - really slow malolactic fermentation... that's when the flavors like mushroom and earth develop - building complexity into the wine, creating good tannins that will soften and get smoother and velvety - oxygen ages the wine, so tannins are retarded in reductive fermentation but will catch up. Ripe tannins = bigger molecule.

Next is the Cabernet Franc which was earthy, dark sour cherry, very fruity, rich round soft sweet (not sugar sweet, but a fruity sweet) tropical, pomegranate, and a nice acid edge.

Lenz Blanc De Noir 2005
This dry blush table wine is delicate and balanced, and looks similar to a Rose but it’s actually a Pinot Noir with an earthy sour cherry freshness, and a little granny smith apple. Eric Fry complained that Roses tend to be colorized and sweetened… this wine is just what the Pinot Noir gave him. And this one would hold up to a tumbler of ice (if one was so inclined). It's made from grapes of the 2nd half of the pressing of the Pinot Noir Cuvee.

Lenz Cuvee 2001 Sparkling Wine
At a recent visit to the Lenz Winery in Peconic on the North fork of Long Island, winemaker Eric Fry first had us sample the 2005 Gewerztraminer to contrast with this Cuvee. He said the Cuvee woiuld be the only wine with the ability to wash away the long finish of the Gewerztraminer, and he was right.

White wine from red grapes... done in the Methode Champenoise style, this Cuvee made from Pinot Noir grapes has incredible acidity with green apples, raisin, honey, caramel and sour cherry. Dry, super crisp and fresh with some minerality it starts off as lean acidic wine and extracts its flavors from yeast during its 5 years in cellar where it develops its delicate creaminess, and caramel qualities. Retails for $30.

He then took us to the cellar, held a bottle of the 07 up to the light and gently shook it so we could see the sediments swirl. Sediments settle in cap neck then are frozen and disgorged.

Lenz Estate Selections Merlot 2001
Made from grapes of 15 year old vines, unfined and unfiltered, this is a wine made oxidatively to show fruit and is ready to drink now. Aromas of cherry and raspberry are present but the ageing (stored 2 years in oak and 5 years in bottle) makes for a complex wine with a subtlety showing secondary fruit (vinuous) flavors that are superbly melded.

Lenz Gewerztraminer 2005 Estate Bottled
At a recent visit to the Lenz Winery in Peconic on the North fork of Long Island I had the pleasure of meeting winemaker Eric Fry. The invitation was for a barrel tasting but before I describe that experience I'd like to write about the broad range of wines they have to offer.

The first wine on the table was the Lenz Gewerztraminer 2005, a dry Alsatian style white wine picked just in time, Eric pointed out that after the harvest it rained 17" in 8 days. On the heavy side with lots of ripe fruits ... grapefruit, pineapple, cantaloupe and honey but with slight tannins for balance. On the big finish were floral hints of rose petals and spice. Generally Gewerztraminer gets 1 year in bottle, this has almost 2. Retails for $20.

Lenz Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
Back at the Lenz Winery tasting room Eric Fry proudly speaks of the specialness of our climate and how the grapes are always visible with nice straight open canopies. Being far enough north that he wants all the sunlight he can get (as opposed to California which needs protection), he removes leaves on the vine to expose the grape, getting the added benefit of circulation which helps prevent disease. The grapes' response to that much sun is to produce pigment... lots of pigment, resulting in having very high Resveratrol ratings (good for you and me).

Now out of the cellar and away from the barrels I get to taste the Lenz Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 from the bottle. It's light and crisp rather than heavy and sweet, fruit forward with red cherry, red raspberry. Soft and lean, almost like a Pinot Noir, not like California style Cabernet... not heavy, rich and sweet. Eric said that he added some "Old Vines" Merlot to this Cab to inject some black fruit into the flavor profile for more complexity.

Lenz White Label Chardonnay 2005
This Chardonnay from Lenz Winery on the North Fork of Long Island was intentionally carbonated... there is CO2 present that is leftover from the primary (cold) fermentation that makes the inside of my lip tingle and my mouth water. Aromas are mineral, with fresh bright lemon and flavors of granny smith apples and pineapple. Winemaker Eric Fry says he picks the grapes in batches from September through October to get this interesting white. He'll pick a small batch that's bright and lemony, stop and ferment, a week later pick another batch that's tropical, stop and ferment, another week pick a batch that's ripe apple, stop and ferment. He get's the different flavors by choosing when to pick, then blending together, because he's making a "fruit salad" that results in a wine with a unique freshness. Eric calls this an "East Coast wine" and says, "Take a swig of this wine- spit it out- are you salivating? yes, then it's a food wine."

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