(This column originally appeared in the 5/13 issue of Dan’s Papers)

Two Firsts and a New Old Favorite from Raphael
Located on sixty gently sloping acres in Peconic, Raphael is best known
among North Fork wine trail junkies for its magnificent tasting room.
Overflowing with Mediterranean style and offering spectacular views of
the vineyard, the popularity of the facility is easy to understand.

Behind this aesthetic splendor, I’ve always found the tasting room
staff friendly and the wines good. The focus is Merlot, but I’ve always
liked the Rose and Sauvignon Blanc as well.

In fact, Raphael’s Sauvignon Blanc was one of the first white wines I
fell for when I first moved to Long Island six years ago. Richard
Olsen-Harbich, managing director and winemaker at Raphael, describes
North Fork Sauvignon Blanc as “Literally a hybrid between New Zealand
and Graves (Bordeaux). This style is driven by intense citrus fruit –
lemon and grapefruit – with faint grassy overtures. It is neither as
fruity and tropical as NZ nor as austere and earthy as Graves. The
North Fork Sauvignon Blanc is absolutely the perfect wine for local

While the Raphael Sauvignon Blanc 2004 ($20) doesn’t display the
mouth-puckering, aggressive acidity found in some Sauvignon Blanc (or
even previous Raphael vintages), it is crisp, fresh and filled with
kiwi and grapefruit and a little mineral character. It’s hard to argue
that this wine was made for Long Island’s seafood bounty.

You should
open this ten to fifteen minutes before drinking to let a slight
sulphur smell subside. Sulphur is used to prevent oxidation, don’t let
it scare you.

If you’re one of the people that complain that Long Island wines aren’t
good values (I disagree, but that’s an argument for another column), I
challenge you not to like Raphael Estate Merlot 2002 ($12). The first
second-label Merlot from Raphael, it’s made with fruit from younger
vines, but is super soft, with substantial blackberry and black cherry
flavors with hints of spice and toasty vanilla.

Olsen-Harbich echoes my
challenge saying,” this wine is made using the same artisanal
techniques as our First label Merlot – hand harvesting, sorting,
gravity flow, basket pressing, etc. At this price range, made under
these techniques at this level of production (600 cases) I’ll put this
wine up against anything from anywhere. And, for those critics of Long
Island’s price/quality ratio – this wine’s for you.”

He has the wine to back up such a statement. This is a great value that would make a great “house red.”

If you find Long Island Cabernet Franc to be inconsistent from year to
year and producer to producer (I know I do), you owe it to yourself to
try the Raphael Cabernet Franc 2001 ($40). From the ballyhooed 2001
vintage, it’s the first release of labeled Cabernet Franc from Raphael
(it usually ends up in their La Fontana blend or Bel Rosso). Spicy and
peppery, this dense, black cherry-rich red is intense but refined. It
features full, chewy tannins and a lingering finish that’s nearly

Raphael is committed to making this wine only in the best growing
years, so Olsen-Harbich says “unfortunately this (wine) is something I
don’t think we can do very often – once every ten years would be a good
guess.” They only made 50 cases, but this is what Long Island Cabernet
Franc can be. I can only hope I don’t have to wait another ten years
for the next one.

For more information on Raphael and their wines, visit www.raphael.com or call 765-1100.