Pindar Vineyards, one of New York’s most popular and
widely-distributed wineries (they have great marketing), is known in some circles for its cheap,
sweetish blended wines and its always-packed tasting room. But don’t be
fooled. If you drink through the varied bottlings, there are a few gems
to be tasted.

Personally, I’ve long been a fan of the 1999 Rare Cuvee Champagne
, despite the use of the term Champagne outside that region of
France, and the consistently good Johannisberg Reisling ($15). Before
recently, I thought these to be the only real gems buried in the impressively long
tasting menu.

Winemaker Jason Damianos, son of Pindar founder/owner Herodotus “Dan”
Damianos, is making some reds that may prove even better.

The 2001 Merlot ($15) was my least favorite of the three I tasted
recently. Its nose was slightly sweet with plum, prune and black cherry
aromas with sugary oak accents. Fruity and rather low in tannins, it
offers more plum and some blueberry flavors, but its oak character is a
bit raw for my taste. Even still, I’d serve it with charcoal-grilled

Damianos’ reserve wines are where his talents really shine through. The
Pindar 2000 Merlot Reserve ($19)
is darker and denser in the glass –
crimson and nearly opaque. The first sniff is dominated by toasty oak,
but subsequent ones filled my nose with vanilla, raspberries and plums.
On the palate, softly gripping, dusty tannins frame an elegant but
robust wine with fruit flavors balanced by hints of cigar box. It’s
delicious right now, but give this another couple of years and watch it
get even more complex. For the extra four dollars, definitely buy the

The Pindar 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($19), while not quite as
good as the 2000 Merlot Reserve, was a slightly earthy surprise with
blueberry and currant fruitiness backed by wet soil and faint oakiness
on the nose. Each sip is very Bordeaux-esque, with nicely balance
cherry-blueberry fruit, oak, earthiness and savory spice. Noticeable,
but not overpowering, tannins really round it out. Many Long Island
cabernets end up tasting under-ripe, but this is not one of them.

Visit Pindar in Peconic, NY or visit for more information.

(This column appeared in the 8/19/05 issue of Dan’s Papers)