When it comes to pinot blanc, its resemblance to chardonnay isn’t
limited to finished wines. Pinot blanc’s leaf structure, clusters and
berries so resemble chardonnay that there are many vineyards in Europe
where plantings of the two grapes are intermingled.
Here on the North Fork, pinot blanc is grown in a few vineyards, but
at Lieb Family Cellars, it’s an important, indespensible part of their
portfolio. In a field on Oregon Road in Cutchogue, you’ll find a 13
acres of what Lieb Family Cellars, much like those Europeans, once
thought to be chardonnay vines. Genetic technology has since proven
that the grapes aren’t chardonnay at all. These vines, which were
planted in 1983 are pinot blanc — and originated in Alsace.
Rather than rip the vines out and plant chardonnay (or some other
variety that is more obviously commercially viable) Lieb Family
Cellars has embraced this grape completely. As a matter of fact, Gary
Madden, Lieb’s general manager, calls it their "special sauce" and a
visit to their tasting room proves it as it ends up in no fewer than
four of their wines.
Lieb Cellars’ recently released 2005 Pinot Blanc Reserve ($19)
artfully reflects the intense ripeness of the vintage. Pale yellow
with a green tinge, this wine is much more aromatic than previous
vintages with clean, focused citrus and wet stone. Mouth-filling and
"big" this could be easily mistaken for an Alsatian wine. Pears,
citrus and hints of tropical fruit mingle on the palate with minerals
and chalk. The long, elegant finish offers a salty tingle of acidity.
This is a new benchmark in North Fork pinot blanc.