Last summer, Osprey’s Dominion Vineyards was named New York’s “Winery of the Year” at the 2005 New York Food and Wine Classic by winning seven medals, including two double golds, one gold, two silvers and two bronzes.

Winemaker Adam Suprenant, a graduate of the much ballyhooed U.C. Davis enology program, was and is proud of the accomplishment, but he’s certainly not resting on his laurels. Wines from the 2001 vintage (and a 2004 rosé) earned the winery all those medals, but the winery’s first three 2002 releases, a cabernet franc, a reserve merlot and a 2002 edition of the “Flight” Meritage blend show great promise and are sure to do well in competitions in 2006. The cab franc and Flight build upon the previous vintage and the reserve merlot represents a new beginning — a merlot Suprenant will only make when he and fellow-U.C. Davis graduate and Osprey’s Dominion vineyard manager Tom Stevenson think the fruit is good enough.

2002 was such a year for the vineyard.

The Osprey’s Dominion 2002 Cabernet Franc ($22), which was aged for 12 months in small oak barrels, seems fuller bodied and more lush than the double gold medal winning 2001 edition, but the flavor profile is similar. It features an aromatic berry-forward nose with ripe raspberries, baked cherries and hot cocoa aromas. Soft and round on the palate, this low-tannin red has a little less structure than the ‘01, but is no less delicious, with flavors matching the aromas and just enough oak character. Super-subtle hints of Italian basil add a layer of complexity that makes this wine hard to dislike.

A deep, brooding crimson in the glass, Suprenant’s 2002 Reserve Merlot ($35) has a young, faint nose at first, but with time, it unfurls with aromas of blackberry, raspberry and fall leaf earthiness. This Merlot shows exceptional balance between restrained, elegant fruit, firm but not overpowering tannins, oak and acidity — all with a sprinkling of tobacco and earthiness. Still quite young for a wine of such structure, it should improve dramatically in coming years, even if it’s impressive right now. Buy a few bottles, drink one now, drink another a year from now and save the last one for 2010. Your patience will be rewarded.

At a time when many winemakers are formalizing the push for Merlot as Long Island’s signature grape, blended wines like the Osprey’s Dominion 2002 Flight Meritage ($35) make the argument that blended wines are the region’s future. This Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot was aged for two years in both French and American Oak, and is even more deeply colored than the Merlot. Again, this relatively young wine’s aromas need a little coaxing, but some swirling lifts blackberry, sweet vanilla and toasted oak scents up out of the glass. Words like elegant, refined and sophisticated come to mind upon the first sip, which alerts your palate to the wine’s precise balance and finesse. Full bodied but refined, it fills your mouth with blackberry, blueberry and slightly earthy flavors. The tannins are still a bit young, but they are already well integrated and give way to a finish you won’t soon forget. Again, this wine will evolve and likely improve, but it’s hard to resist right now.

This holiday season, Osprey’s Dominion Winery is offering two three-bottle gift packs that are worth picking up for that wine lover on your shopping list. The first is a Cabernet Franc vertical pack ($75), which includes a bottle each of the 2000, 2001 and 2002 cabernet franc. The second is a similar vertical flight of their Flight Meritage ($99). It’s somewhat rare to have the opportunity to buy three vintages of the same wine at the same time in our young region. Tasting through flights like these can be as educational as they are enjoyable. They offer the opportunity to taste firsthand the differences between consecutive vintages.

For more information or to order, visit www.ospreysdominion.com or call 765-6188.

(This story appeared in the 12/23 issue of Dan's Papers)

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