At the top is the almighty merlot grape, lauded by many observers as the
king of Long Island grapes. And, it has earned such a reputation with good
reason. It seems ideally suited to the regions climate and soil
conditions–and consistently leads to many of the region’s best wines.
in line is cabernet franc, genetic parent to cabernet sauvignon and
known mostly for its popularity in the Loire region of France and as a blending grape in Bordeaux. It ripens
early compared to its offspring and results in several different styles
of red wine–from un-oaked, Chinon-style bottlings to richer,
sometimes heavily oaked renditions that almost seem Cabernet
Sauvignon-like in their style and profile.
Last but far from
least–to me anyway–is cabernet sauvignon. The king of California
reds doesn’t hold the throne here because it doesn’t always ripen fully, leading to significant vintage-to-vintage variation. In a wet or
cool year, Long Island cab can taste very green and have harsh,
astringent tannins. A lot of the time it’s used for rose or just
blended into other things in down years.
But in the good years…wow.
2001 was one such year and Castello di Borghese’s 2001 Cabernet
Sauvignon ($35) is a terrific example of this wine’s potential on the North
Fork. With elegant, refined red cherry and earthy aromas, this is East
Coast cab at its finest and a wine that many California winemakers and
wine lovers might not even recognize. The palate is beautifully
balanced with ripe, well-integrated tannins, red cherry, sweet cedar
and crushed fall leaves and just a hint of spice.