Wolffer_2004_pinotgrisYou’ll often hear Long Island’s better wines compared
to those from the Bordeaux region of France, purportedly because of the
similarities between the East End’s climate and that of Bordeaux. But
while there are some similarities, it’s a bit of a marketing spin, too.

According to Roman Roth, winemaker and general manager of Wolffer
in Sagaponack, “The Long Island climate is close to Bordeaux
when compared to the hot climates of Australia or California. (But)
Long Island is unique. We are much further south.”

In describing the differences between Bordeaux and Long Island, Roth
continues, “Old World wines are not always fruit-driven and balanced
like ours. Also, we are allowed to grow Chardonnay next to Merlot,
which they can’t do in Bordeaux.”

Roth is one of the Island’s most respected winemakers and his wines are
widely regarded as elegant, refined and well balanced. Wolffer Estate’s
recent and current releases are no exception.

Roth’s 2004 Rosé ($13.50) builds on the fine tradition of fun,
distinctive rosé from Wolffer Estate. More copper-orange than pink,
this blend of Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay has a fruity nose
layered with strawberries, cherries and hints of apricot and
grapefruit. Extremely fresh and fruity in the mouth with red berries
and citrus, it’s crisp, but doesn’t feature as much acidity as the
2003, giving it a slightly fuller mouthfeel that is almost creamy on
the finish. Roth suggests serving it with almost any food, including
your Thanksgiving dinner.

The Wolffer Estate 2001 Cuvée Sparkling Wine Brut ($33) is a light,
golden-yellow in the glass and features fine, elegant bead (bubbles).
The nose is yeasty with hints of vanilla cream and white peach. Classy
and refined, its palate is lively and fresh with a creamy mouthfeel and
a complex array of pear, apple and berry flavors. Don’t call it
Champagne, that name’s reserved for sparkling wine made in that French
region, but this sparkler is made with the same grapes (Chardonnay and
Pinot Noir) and is clearly comparable. Roth likes it with chilled
shellfish or cream-based soups.

Last month, Roth added a new varietal wine to his impressive portfolio
– a 2004 Pinot Gris ($22) made with grapes from the North Fork’s Indian
Neck Farm. If you’ve had wines bottled under this grape’s Italian name,
Pinot Grigio, you were likely disappointed by its lack of true
character beyond a summer sipping wine. Roth’s version is much more
similar to Pinot Gris from the Pacific Northwest. Its nose is crisp
with Bosc pear, lemony grapefruit and light hints of toasty vanilla.
Each sip is a treat, with lush pear, honey and toasted nut flavors
balanced by just enough acidity. This white is lush and silky with
medium body and a delightful, lingering finish. Make sure that you
don’t over chill this one and it will reward you alongside most any
fish or white meat dish.

If you enjoy Chardonnay that has some oak character but isn’t like
licking a butter-covered plank, you should try Wolffer Estates’ 2002
Reserve Chardonnay ($20)
. As with the rest of his wines, Roth uses
acidity to balance this stylish, polished white. The nose is light and
toasty with marshmallow and crisp pear aromas that continue to the
palate, joined by citrus and honey. The acidity is bright and surlees
aging gives this wine an indulgent mouthfeel and a nice lingering
finish that is quite creamy. This wine is the perfect accompaniment for
white meat dishes.

In these parts, everyone makes Merlot and Roth is no exception. His
2002 Reserve Merlot ($22) will benefit from another year of bottle
aging, but offers blackberry, black cherry and oak on the nose with
gripping tannins and a mineral finish that lingers slightly. With time,
more fruit will step forward on the palate. Roth suggests serving this
red with lamb, steak, stews and even paella.

While a bit lighter than the stellar 2003 vintage, the Wolffer Estate
2004 Late Harvest Chardonnay ($35 for a 375ml bottle)
still offers a
nose that’s lightly floral and filled with ripe peach and apricot
aromas. This stone fruit character carries over to palate, with
balanced sweetness and superb acidity.

Taking advantage of New York State’s new shipping laws, Wolffer Estate
has recently launched a new website with an upgraded wine shop. Visit
www.wolffer.com or call 537-5106 to learn more about the winery or to
order wine.

(This story appeared originally in the 8/5/05 issue of Dan’s Papers.)