It is my personal opinion that there is way too much chardonnay planted on Long Island. I know all the reasons why its there — easy to grow, customer demand, etc. — but chardonnay is never going to be why people visit the region or demand Long Island wines on a restaurant list.
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it.
I will also highlight Long Island chardonnay wines that are delicious, which they can be. Especially when the right clones are grown in the right place and the wine is made by the right winemaker.
Take this Wolffer Estate Vineyards 2008 “Perle” Chardonnay ($30) made from Dijon #76 clone grapes grown on a particular rise in their estate vineyard in Sagaponack, of course vinified by the only winemaker Wolffer has ever known, Roman Roth.
I’ve walked this particular vineyard with vineyard manager Rich Pisacano during harvest, plucking a few berries from clusters as we meandered through various blocks. You can see, and taste, the difference in the clones well before the grapes are crushed and made into wine.
In 2008, Roth fermented this wine in 80% French oak (22% new) and 20% stainless steel. In total, the wine spent 8 months on the lees, with only 20% malo-lactic fermentation.
That time in barrel on the lees gives this wine a slightly nutty notes that bring complexity to intense, almost-sweet peach, pineapple and mango aromas. Near room temperature, I noticed a briney, green olive note as well.
The palate is lush and mouth filling,with layers of ripe tropical fruit, brine and spicy lees character. It is rich and creamy on the mid-palate — but with very nice acidity for balance — which leads into a long finish where a bit of gently toasty oak peeks through along with serious leesy character.
With my well-known preference for unoaked whites, this probably isn’t something I’d reach for every often, but it’s still a beautifully made wine.
Producer: Wolffer Estate Vineyards
AVA: The Hamptons, Long Island