By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor

Roanoke-07-cab-sauvMerlot dominates the Long Island wine landscape. It is the most-planted grape and the one that many wineries have built their red wine programs around — and with good reason. It ripens dependably and leads to some of the North Fork's best wines.

Roanoke Vineyards makes merlot too of course — often very good merlot — but over time they've built a reputation for the consistent dependability and quality of their cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, as well as blends based on those two grapes.

There aren't many local cabernet sauvignon bottlings that I can reliably recommend, but those grown by owner Rich Piscano in his seven-acre Riverhead vineyard and made by winemaker Roman Roth make the short list.

Roth and Pisacano also work together at Wolffer Estate, where Pisacano is the long-time vineyard manager.

A blend of 94% cabernet sauvignon and 6% merlot, the Roanoke Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon ($40) offers aromas typical of warmer-region cabernet — particularly cassis and blueberry — while retaining it's Long Island-ness with subtle woodsy spice and earthy overtones.

The palate is full bodied and while it shows gobs of black and blue fruit — including a surprising slightly jammy quality on the mid-palate — the earthiness is more prominent. That earthy spiciness, along with toasty, nutty oak, frame all that fruit rather than dominating it. Generous — but ripe and well-incorporated — tannins mean that this wine will likely improve with several years in your cellar.

Producer: Roanoke Vineayrds
AVA: North Fork of Long Island
ABV: 13%   
Price: $40

(4 out of 5 | Outstanding and Delicious, Highly Recommended)

(Ratings Guide)