Year-to-year weather differences affect every winery. But when you only make a single wine, like say merlot, each year, it has an even larger impact on your business.

Take Medolla Vineyards for example. Owned by John and Denise Medolla, this new procucer snuck up on me last spring their first release — a 2002 merlot.  2002 is considered by many to be an above average years for Long Island merlot and that wine is a classic North Fork merlot that, at $22, is one of the best deals in local vino. It straddles the line between Old and New World with a nose that offers tobacco aromas along with raspberry and cherry fruit. Medium bodied, the flavors are similar to the nose with some minty, eucalyptus nuances and well-incorporated, ripe tannins. Well balanced with a nicely long finish, it’s still available and worth seeking out either online or at the co-op The Tasting Room in Peconic. 

Over the weekend, I got to taste a pre-release sample of Medolla Vineyards’ 2003 Merlot ($15). If 2002 was a good year, 2003 was, generally, a bad one. There was a rainy period in October (after a good
growing season) and two rounds of frost around harvest time. I’ve tasted a lot of downright bad 2003 wines, particularly reds, and while I wouldn’t put this wine in that category, it definitely pales in comparison to the superb 2002.

A lighter, everyday-style red, this wine’s nose shows lots of oak, which comes through as toasty vanilla aromas, with sweet red cherry fruit and tobacco as well. Medium-light on the palate, cherry is the primary fruit flavor here with tobacco, vanilla and some green pepper. It’s no where near as rich or intense as the 2002. The fruit clearly just wasn’t as good on its way into the winery. Overall, it’s a bit of a let down, but with the lower price, the Medollas seem to have de-classified this wine in a way.

With relatively low tannins and nice acidity, it’s best enjoyed with food.

Grape(s): 100% merlot
Medolla Vineyards
AVA: North Fork of Long Island
Price: $15
Rating:  20 (2 out of 5 | Average)