Mattebella Vineyards is a winery unknown to many — even North Fork wine fans — and that’s too bad. The wines are good, sometimes great, and it’s easy to respect and appreciate the lower-impact viticulture they are practicing. Though the vineyard was planted in 1997, owners Mark and Christine Tobin sold their crop for several years — choosing to work with wineries like Shinn Estate Vineyards, Paumanok Vineyards, and more recently, Anthony Nappa Wines.
The Tobins didn’t release their first wine until 2008 and didn’t open their tasting cottage until the summer of 2011.
As with many small wineries, Mattebella is a very hands-on operation. Each variety — and clone, actually — is hand harvested separately, vinified separately and aged in French oak separately. “Our blending process begins 18- 20 months later,” Mark told me in a recent email. “Post blending we allow the wine to integrate over time and then it is bottled.”
While many local wineries seemingly rush even their top reds to market, that’s not how the Tobins do things. “We release it only after patiently waiting for it to mature with some bottle age. When we do release it, it is ready to be enjoyed but will undoubtedly continue to improve with time,” he says.
I’ve found that that extra bit of bottle aging typically results in varying amounts of savory complexity (depending on the wine) — something I find regularly in wines I age myself in my own cellar, but don’t always find in current winery releases.
Mattebella Vineyards 2007 Old World Blend ($35) shows that savory edge and is also one of the more elegant, almost feminine, reds that I’ve had from 2007.
A blend of 84% merlot, 12% cabernet franc, 2% cabernet sauvignon and 2% petite verdot, it is plummy on the nose with notes of black cherry, dark roast coffee, toasty oak, brown sugar, mint and aloe.
Medium bodied, with moderate alcohol (12.9%) and lightly gripping but well-integrated tannins, it almost seems delicate compared to many 2007s, but the ripeness of the fruit flavors — again, plums and cherries — is a reminder of the vintage’s warmth. Behind the primary fruit character, there is a savory/umami earthiness vaguely reminiscent of soy sauce and mushrooms. Joined by a sprinkling of sweet herbs and spice, the finish lingers beautifully.
Producer: Mattebella Vineyards
AVA: North Fork of Long Island
(3.5 out of 5 | Very Good, Recommended to Outstanding and Delicious, Highly Recommended)