Despite the warmer-than-usual temperatures we’ve been enjoying lately, this time of year calls out for comfort foods — especially roasts and stews. They fill our kitchens with warming, alluring aromas and pair wonderfully with hearty local red wines.

Unfortunately, it seems like most of the East End’s recent releases are white wines — either chardonnays with a couple years of bottle age that are finally ready for release, or fresh, young aromatic whites like riesling or steel-fermented Chardonnay.

Thankfully Laurel Lake Vineyards and winemaker, Claudio Zamorano, have bucked that trend, recently releasing two reds and an ice wine.

The Laurel Lake Vineyards 2001 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($23) represents the lighter, more refined style of Cabernet. Its color falls somewhere between rich ruby and vigorous violet. The nose is a bit underwhelming at first, but opens with some air time, offering light berry and currant aromas and faint hints of sweet vanilla. This wine is medium bodied and a little juicy, with currant and plum flavors dominating a rather one-dimensional flavor profile. The tannins are soft, but a short finish makes this a less-than-exciting wine that starts off with delicious front and mid-palates. 2001 was a tremendous growing year on Long Island, but Cabernet Sauvignon is hard to grow and make well here in most cases due to the long hang time the grapes need on the vine.

Much more intense and full flavored, the Laurel Lake Vineyards 2002 Cabernet Franc ($20) is enormously aromatic with blackberry, spice, fresh mint leaf and licorice on the nose. Also medium-bodied, slightly gripping, chalky tannins provide nice structure to an otherwise fruity wine accented by mint, licorice and smoky notes. This is the sort of flavorful, robust wine you should drink this time of year. Drink it with any hearty stew, lamb or venison. It is a great example of how good Long Island Cab Franc can be.

Laurel Lake has also recently released its 2002 Ice Wine ($30), made 100 percent of frozen-on-the-vine Chardonnay grapes. While many local ice wines offer intense, lush fruit flavors balanced by a zing of acidity, the Laurel Lake offering is more perfumey with floral and candied citrus on the nose. On the palate, the flavors are restrained and lighter than expected. Citrus and apricot are the primary flavors with pears and some Gewurztraminer-like lychee hints as well. Not overly sweet or cloying, this wine would be good with fresh fruit or cheese. Just make sure you don’t over chill it or its flavors will be too muted and the wine will disappoint.

For more information or to order wines, visit or call 298-1420. And make sure you visit Laurel Lake Vineyards and other local wineries during the month-long Long Island Wine Country Winter Festival in February.

(This story appeared in the 1/27 issue of Dan’s Papers)