By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor

Shinn-08-merlot What helps differentiate the best wineries from the rest in a region? The wines they produce in cooler and/or less-ideal growing seasons. By that definition, Shinn Estate Vineyards is no doubt one of the North Fork's top wineries. Some of my favorite Shinn wines have come from the 2004 and 2006 vintages, which no one considers stellar.

Add this Shinn Estate Vineyards 2008 Estate Merlot ($25) to the list of impressive wines from not-so-hot years.

Showing what I consider to be classic Long Island merlot qualities, the nose shows good fruit ripeness — mostly black cherry and plum — with layers of dried thyme, bay leaf, earthy spice, brown sugar and just a hint of cocoa bean.

For a 2008, this well-priced merlot offers more depth and weight than many, with ripe, but not over-ripe flavors of plum and black cherry. There is a bit more chocolate on the palate but the same sprinkling of dried herbs — bay, thyme and oregano — and a bit of black pepper that peeks through on a gently lingering finish. 

With tannins that are both approachable today and grippy enough to reward some time in your cellar, this merlot is a very good value.

Producer: Shinn Estate Vineyards
AVA: North Fork of Long Island
ABV: 13.5%  
Price: $25*

(3.5 out of 5 | Very Good, Recommended to Outstanding and Delicious, Highly Recommended)

(*Ratings Guide)