Wolffer Estates, in the Hamptons region of Long Island, is probably one of my favorite two or three producers in New York State. From their bone-dry, mostly-Merlot Rose to their full-flavored Cabernet Franc to their succulent Late Harvest Chardonnay dessert wine, and all the wines in between, I’ve never had a Wolffer wine that I’d call "poor."
Roman Roth, their winemaker and general manager, is nearly magical in his ability to craft delicious wines year in and year out. He’s so good, in fact, that several other wineries on the Island have him make (or consult on) their wines.
As much as I like their wines, one was always just out of my reach — the Premier Cru Merlot — because it’s prohibitively expesnive for my pre-wedding day budget, checking in at over $100.
That was…until yesterday…
The Premier Cru is 100% Merlot is made with grapes from Wolffer’s oldest vines (planted in 1990) on their steepest slopes, ensuring good drainage. Ocean breezes also protect the vines from cold snaps, allowing them to ripen fully into November.
Through a time-consuming, hands-on process, the grapes were hand picked, hand sorted and any stems that slipped past the de-stemmer were also plucked out, leaving only the best fruit. The juice spent 28 days on the skins and the wine was moved to 100% French oak for almost 20 months.
Only 283 six-bottle cases were produced (750ml) along with 96 375ml bottles, 24 magnums and seven three-liter bottles.
My half bottle was one of those 96.
Eyes: Deep crimson/ruby with tinges of purple. Almost inky. Looks rich and full right away.
Nose: Wow. Complex and layered with rasberry, blackberry and tobacco. Even a touch floral. It changed with every sniff (over the course of a few hours), with fruit coming forward as time went on.
Tongue: California is known for "big" Cabernet Sauvignon and this is a "big" Merlot. Concentrated with a rich, full mouthfeel the palate offers full, but amazingly smooth tannins (given the 100% new oak cooperage), more berries and a faint mineral/lead pencil note toward the end that gives it a Bordeaux twist. The finish is War and Peace long, lingerly nicely on the back of my tongue with a subtle sweet spice…maybe cinnamon.
Food: I served grilled steak with blue cheese crowns and sauteed vegetables, but I didn’t try the wine until after I was done eating (and drank a little water to cleanse my palate). I wanted to enjoy every nuance.
Overall: I’m still devising my official LENNDEVOURS rating system, so I won’t give this a number rating. But, I thought this was a very well made Merlot, again a "big" Merlot, that is truly unlike any I’ve had. It was too robust for Nena’s palate though, she likes more refined flavors and a bit more fruit.