By Lenn Thompson, Editor-in-Chief

Shinn_07rebAs a category "natural" wines are hot in the wine world, but they aren't necessarily easily defined. Ask ten people what "natural" means and you'll get at least five answers.

One common thread, however, is a reliance on naturally occurring, 'wild' yeasts for fermentation rather than inoculating the must with a strain of the winemaker's choosing.

A handful of Long Island producers are experimenting with native yeast fermentations, including Raphael, Channing Daughters, Onabay Vineyards and the makers of this wine, Shinn Estate Vineyards.

Shinn Estate Vineyards 2007 "Rebellion" Estate Merlot ($25) is 100% estate-grown merlot that saw extended time on the skins during a long fermentation by those indigenous yeast. Only 49 cases were made and if you're looking for the super-ripe, forward fruit found in many 2007 Long Island reds, look elsewhere.

Elegant and nuanced, the nose starts with floral and spice notes with ripe red cherry and toasty vanilla beneath. Dried herbs emerge with a little time in the glass, as do chicory coffee aromas. 

Bright, crunchy red cherry flavors hit your palate first, with salt-cured meat minerality, spice and floral flavors supporting them. Tasted again about an hour later, more earthy and dried herbs components revealed themselves.

Medium-light in body, the tannins are well integrated and medium intensity and are joined by food friendly acidity. The finish isn't over long, but it doesn't drop off either.

This is a unique wine that may not hit fans of fruit forward wines, but I think it's a fun little foray into "wild" fermentation. And, I enjoyed it enough to include it as one of our wines in the January 2010 New York Cork Club shipment.

Producer: Shinn Estate Vineyards
AVA: North Fork of Long Island
ABV: 13.1%

Price: $25*

Cases Produced: 49 cases
Rating: 30 (3 out of 5 | Recommended)

(Ratings Guide)