Dscn3132(This column appeared originally in the 5/20 issue of Dan’s Papers)

Peconic Bay Winery has always been a bit of an enigma
to me. On one hand, they make sweetish blends that appeal to the masses
and some hit-or-miss varietal reds. On the other, I love their Steel
Fermented Chardonnay and their Riesling. I guess it’s smart to appeal
to the widest audience possible, but I think it’s possible that serious
wine drinkers get turned off by the plonk at the top of the tasting

Last weekend, I tasted four recent and new releases, with positive
results overall. Maybe Peconic Bay Winery is just hitting its stride?

Peconic Bay Winery’s 2004 Riesling ($15)
is bone dry, racy and
deliciously crisp. Citrus dominates the nose with faint hints of stone
fruit and a grassiness I wasn’t expecting. It’s simple, light and a
perfect summer sipper. As always, winemaker Greg Gove hits the mark
with my favorite of all white grapes. It wasn’t bottled all that long
ago, and I expect it to be even better with a little more bottle time,
giving the stone fruit flavors time to step forward. This is a terrific
summer wine.

Most everyone can appreciate a gulpable, affordable red to serve at
parties or with grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. Peconic Bay Winery’s
latest Local Flavor Merlot ($17 for a magnum, $10 for 750ml)
fits that
bill nicely. Made with grapes from the 2002 vintage, it offers
deliciously drinkable dark and red berry fruit with hints of soft oak.
If you’re looking for complexity or a wine to ruminate on, this isn’t
it, but if you want to eat, drink and be merry, give it a try.

Another red worth serving with more serious grilled fare is the Peconic
Bay Winery 2002 Cabernet Franc ($22)
. Six percent Cabernet Sauvignon
and three percent Merlot round out this complex wine, which shows
cherry and raspberry flavors layered with cedar, spice and super soft
tannins. I love Cabernet Franc and this is definitely a good one. Serve
it will grilled pork or spicy-sweet chicken.

Typically, I find Long Island Cabernet Sauvignon too lean, a bit green
and lifeless. I think it’s because some winemakers try to do too much
with this hard-to-ripen-on-Long-Island grape. Peconic Bay Winery’s 2001
Cabernet Sauvignon ($22)
dodges such over-reaching, however, resulting
in an Old World-style wine that is highlighted with blackberry, cherry
and vanilla flavors. Refined, smooth tannins and a little earthiness
make this a nice wine, even if it’s a bit overpriced.

For more information on Peconic Bay Winery, call 734-7361 or visit
www.peconicbaywinery.com which also provides a calendar of events,
including the roster of live music this summer.