(This column originally appeared in the 6/10 issue of Dan’s Papers)

In a recent issue of Wine Spectator, columnist Matt
Kramer wrote a thoughtful piece discussing large wineries versus
smaller ones, concluding (convincingly) that smaller really is better.
Though Kramer doesn’t define what a “small” winery is, you can take my
word for it – most, if not all, Long Island wineries qualify.

course, being a small winery doesn’t automatically mean your wines are any
good. Anyone who has tasted wines from some of our lesser local
wineries can attest to that. After all, doing the wrong things in the
vineyard or in the cellar will lead to poor wines, regardless of how
big your operation is.

Salvatore Diliberto, owner and winemaker of
Diliberto Winery in Jamesport, is doing all the right things – and doing
them himself. He’s truly a one-man winemaking show.

He planted his
first vines in 1998 and first harvested fruit in 2001, a locally
well-regarded vintage and one that led to two of the three gold medals
he won at last summer’s New York Wine & Food Classic. Diliberto
isn’t new to Long Island fruit, however, having used it to make wine in
his Queens basement since 1986.

I tasted all four of his current
releases, all reds, and found each of them appealing and extremely food
friendly. The Diliberto Winery 2002 Merlot ($20), one of the gold medal
winners, is a charmingly soft and straightforward wine with plum,
cherry and light raspberry flavors. It’s medium bodied with fairly low
tannins and a slightly lingering finish that offers faint hints of
vanilla. I’d serve this with pasta and red sauce and similar Italian

While still relatively simple, the Diliberto Winery 2001 Merlot ($22)
is richer and more extracted in the glass. Rustically elegant, it is
fuller flavored and offers more intense cherry and raspberry flavors
with earthy notes in the background. The tannins are firmer than in the
2002, but still well integrated. This wine, another award winner, has
better aging potential and can stand up to more serious meat dishes.
This was my favorite of the lot, getting a B+ in my notes.

The last of the gold medal wines, the Diliberto Winery 2001 Tre ($25)
is a Bordeaux-style red blend that offers a bit more complexity. Though
still offering black cherry flavors, this wine shows a spicy, black
pepper character that makes it stand out. I think this blend would
benefit from another year or so in the bottle to round out its flavors
and tannins.

The Diliberto 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon ($25), while maybe overpriced, is
another enjoyable, food-friendly wine. I enjoyed its nose, which offers
raspberries, blueberries and vanilla. On the palate, it’s fuller bodied
than Diliberto’s other wines and while nowhere near a California
Cabernet, it out-flavors many local bottlings.

Until their tasting room
opens in early 2006, you can contact Diliberto directly to set up an
appointment to taste and purchase his wines. Call 722-3416 or email diliberto1@msn.com.