“Reserve” is a term without an official meaning in the American wine industry. It can be used by anyone on any wine. Some wineries only have a “Reserve” line — which means it’s more about marketing than anything else. They’d never admit it, but I’m convinced that some producers even put “Reserve” on a bottle just so they can charge more for it.
For a while, here on Long Island, “Reserve” has meant bigger, riper and oakier. Sometimes wineries boast about long a “Reserve” wine is aged in oak barrels on the back label — as if that’s a sign of quality or deliciousness.
But as Long Island wine and winemaking continues to evolve, the “Reserve” designation is telling us less and less about the style of the wine inside the bottle. On one hand, that’s not such a great thing. It’d be nice if we could always tell from the front label what style a wine is made in. On the other hand, wines like Macari Vineyards 2013 Reserve Cabernet Franc ($40), mark a shift away from 18- to 24-month (or longer) oak aging for a winery’s “best” wines — even though “reserve” doesn’t mean “best” either, remember.
Instead, winemakers like Macari’s Kelly Urbanik Koch are letting the best fruit from the vineyard speak more for itself without layers of vanilla and chocolate and cedar.
The wine did spend time in oak barrels. Twenty months, to be precise — but these weren’t new, flavorful barrels. Instead, Koch used older, neutral barrels. To bring some complexity and extra mouthfeel, a small portion of the final blend was also made from fruit that was fermented as whole clusters, rather than just berries.
I often find that even partial whole cluster fermentation can bring a floral perfume to the finished wine, which is apparent in this cabernet franc. It has those floral notes up front along with a sprinkle of Chinese five-spice over top of ripe, but not too ripe, red cherries and raspberries. 2013 was a ripe vintage, but this wine isn’t jammy or over-the-top. Bright acidity and tannins that are at once silky and a little gritty frame the medium bodied and elegant palate beautifully.
There is a great balance and complexity between juicy red fruit and cabernet franc’s sometimes-rusticity. If you’re looking for that overt green or herbal edge, you won’t really find it here. Instead, the varietal character comes through more as licorice and fennel notes — and a savory, earthy edge that really is balanced beautifully by its sweet fruit qualities.
“2013 was such a beautiful vintage for us. As the wines aged and I started working on the blends, it became clear that we had the components to make all of our reserve-level wines. We only make them if we feel the quality is high enough, otherwise, we skip the vintage,” Koch told me when I asked her about this wine, adding: “Cabernet franc has a soft spot in my heart so it always gets a little extra love in the winery.”
AVA: North for of Long Island
Price: $40 (sample)