On November 19, Roanoke Vineyards celebrated its second birthday with a tasting of Big Reds…all made by Roman Roth. The wines poured included three different Roanoke bottlings, a Grapes of Roth merlot and Long Island’s most expensive wine, Wolffer Estate Vineyards’ Premier Cru.

Unfortunately, I was unable to partake in the festivities. But, LENNDEVOURS reader Sean Reilly covered the event for us. Below is his report.

It is certain that 2006 has been a watershed year for the Long Island wine industry. Never before have Long Island wines received such attention and praise from the major wine press. The Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast among others have all profiled Long Island wines in the past year and lavished unprecedented accolades upon the finest producers. Two names that have come up often are Roanoke Vineyards and Roman Roth. So, it was very appropriate that Roanoke Vineyards celebrated its Second Anniversary on Sunday November 19th with its third Big Red Tasting – a chance to sample some of the best red wines you’ll find on this Island.

Roanoke Vineyards, owned by Richard and Soraya Pisicano, has made a big name for itself in a very short period of time. Rich, also the Vineyard Manager at Wolffer Estates in Bridgehampton, is a veteran of the Long Island wine industry. Roman Roth, acclaimed Winemaker at Wolffer, makes the wines of Roanoke.

The Roanoke Wine Club is made up of an extremely loyal and enthusiastic group of wine lovers. The 2004 Preview BBQ in September was packed with fans eager to see what’s coming down the road. On the other hand, Sundays’ Big Red Tasting focused on celebrating the past and present. It was no surprise to see the tasting bar packed two and three people deep.  The fact that it was held in late November and still had such a large turnout speaks to the allure of this event.

First up was the 2003 Roanoke Vineyards Blend Two. A Bordeaux/Meritage style made up of 48% Cabernet Franc, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. A Gold Medal winner and voted Best Red Blend in the 2006 New York State Wine and Food Classic, this long sold out Blend has been a favorite of mine since I first tasted it last May. It’s elegant and refined with the classic earthy aroma and taste one would expect from a Cab Franc dominated Blend.

Next, was 2003 Roanoke Blend One, the big brother of Blend Two. This Blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 22% Cabernet Franc is more muscular than its counterpart, with more intense berry flavors. Parker’s Wine Advocate suggest this one may become even “more delicious and interesting” over time. Unlike The other Roanoke Reds, Blend One is still available for purchase…for now.

The 2001 Grapes of Roth Merlot, by Roman Roth, was up next. Fewer than 200 cases made from a special block of vines at Martha Clara Vineyards, this wine is powerful yet elegant. Fruit forward with a certain smokiness, it is well balanced. The somewhat medicinal finish was intriguing – this is a wine to ponder. And come back to.

The next selection is noted for its price tag. The $125 2002 Wolffer Premier Cru Merlot ($25 per taste at Wolffer’s Tasting Room) was made from the finest vines at Wolffer– less than 2000 bottles produced.  Smokey and Chocolate-y with a silky mouth feel. Well balanced. Delighful.

Finally, the 2000 Roanoke Vineyards Merlot completed the Tasting. The New York Times declared this “a great wine – a mouth-filling, lip-smacking blockbuster”. Well said. What distinguished this wine was its long yet soft, velvety finish. If I could have a bottle of any of these great wines, this is the wine I’d grab. Alas, as its long gone from availability, one is left only to hope the 2004 Merlot will live up to its predecessor.

The tasting was followed by a light lunch which included some very nice chili, made by Rich Pisicano, and cake. When heading out for a day of tasting, the Roanoke Tasting Room is either the first one on the way out on Rt. 48 or the last one on the way back. Either way, a stop there is imperative.