This morning, a quick observation that I’ll likely explore further in the future:
As I mentioned yesterday, Melissa Dobson and I are gathering wines from Long Island and Finger Lakes wineries to pour at next week’s Wine Bloggers Conference our in Sonoma County. The samples are still flowing in, but one thing has caught my attention, and I’m wondering what it means.
Of the 20 or so Finger Lakes wineries that are taking part, I’d estimate (because I don’t have the list in front of me) that 15 are sending riesling, the grape the region is best known for. The remaining wines are mostly Gewürztraminer with a dessert wine or two, and one red thrown in there for good measure. This makes sense — riesling rules the region. It’s what they do best, across the board, and it makes sense that they’d want to put their best feet forward at the conference.
A quick glance at the Long Island wines included reveals something quite different. Many in the local wine community maintain that merlot is the variety that matters most here on Long Island, but that isn’t what I’m seeing when it comes to the wines they want me to take west with me. So far I have a couple bottles of merlot, but also chardonnay, riesling, cabernet franc, Meritage-style blends and sparkling wine. In fact, I didn’t even get those bottles of merlot until yesterday.
What does this mean? It could be any number of things.
To be fair, the sparkling wine comes from a bubbly-only producer, so that’s an anomaly. But, maybe Long Island’s best trait is it’s diversity and ability to make fine wine from a variety of grapes. There are a few people who have felt this way all along, including Lenz Winery’s Eric Fry and Charles Massoud from Paumanok Vineyards.
Or maybe it’s that Long Island wineries want to send wines that will stand out with a mostly California audience. Maybe some feel that sending merlot to Sonoma is like sending ice to the North Pole? I don’t agree, given the strong stylistic differences.
I’m going to be pulling some of what I consider to be Long Island’s best wines from my own cellar to take with me as well, and many of them are merlot or merlot-heavy blends, so Long Island merlot will be heavily represented, even if many wineries are sending anything but.