John Zuccarino, co-owner of and winemaker for Silver Springs Winery, does things his own way.

His tasting room and vineyard are on Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region, but he makes his wines down here on Long Island at Premium Wine Group. His winery is in smack dab in the middle of the land of riesling, but he doesn't make any. And, unlike most in the New York wine world, he embraces Web 2.0, using Twitter and a video blog,, to reach his customers.

He also named his 2005 merlot "Bold Merlot" which sets an expectation in the minds of consumers before they even open the bottle. Of course, that's why I tasted this wine blind like most other samples.

This wine is labeled under the New York State AVA because 60% of the fruit comes from the Finger Lakes and 40% comes from the North Fork of Long Island. According to John Zuccarino, he made this wine by:

"Slow carbonic maceration fermentation with whole clusters over 10
days…then fermented with 1.5% natural berry ferment with natural yeast…then
we blast them with our own propriety yeast that ferments at 59-degrees F slow for many
weeks…this gives us high alc and great extraction…last we never go for the
last press with 2 bars of pressure, as this will ruin the wine. Then 18 months French Med toast…Allier oak."

He's right, this merlot's dark crimson color with a thin brick-red rim hints at that extraction and it's labeled at 13.7% ABV, higher than the 12-12.5% one usually sees from New York merlot. The bright, effusive nose shows red cherry, plum fruit aromas with lots of vanilla faint hints of violets.

It's mouth-filling on the palate with straight-forward, high-toned flavors of red cherries, vanilla and tobacco, with earthy flavors that emerge a bit more with a couple hours of time to breathe. That initial fruit burst is nice, though the flavors are a bit less intense on the mid-palate. The finish is medium-length, extremely dry and shows just a little bit of that alcohol. The tannins are relatively low, meaning that this wine is probably best enjoyed within 5 years.

By blending Long Island and Finger Lakes fruit, I think the terroir of both is lost, but this is a solid effort. Other than the alcoholic heft, I'd not call it "Bold" but it one of the better mostly-Finger Lakes merlots I've tasted, if a bit overpriced.

Producer: Silver Springs Winery
AVA: New York State
Price: $27

(2.5 out of 5 | Average-to-Recommended) 

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