From left to right: Katie Feulner, Jason Feulner, Lenn Thompson, Nena Thompson, Evan Dawson, Morgan Dawson, Melissa Dobson, Rich Dobson
By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Correspondent
Everyone who loves wine has a memory that stands out with perfect clarity thanks to a single bottle of wine. We remember the meal, the lighting in the room, the conversations shared over the bottle. This is the power of wine.
It is far more than a beverage.
If we are fortunate, we have not one special wine memory, but many. I will never forget the moment I drank the first sip of Rosso del Bepi from Giuseppe Quintarelli. I can tell you how many people were in the room and what they were saying when I drank my first glass of Ravines 2005 Pinot Noir. I remember being frozen in place, unable to move as I first tried Jean-Michel Stephan's Cote Rotie. And my wife and I will always smile as we recount the opening of a bottle of Hermann Wiemer 1994 Riesling.
Last night I added a new wine memory to the collection.
As Lenn mentioned, he joined Jason, Melissa, me, and our spouses for a LENNDEVOURS dinner at the new Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel. Lenn brought several bottles of Long Island wine for the occasion, and one of them was a bottle I had long desired to try: the Grapes of Roth 2002 Merlot. We split the meal between Finger Lakes whites from the restaurant menu and Lenn's cache of Long Island reds. Before we even ordered we opened the Grapes of Roth and poured it into our glasses to encourage the wine to open up.
My experience with Long Island wines remains rather limited, so I was excited not only to drink more Long Island wine, but to drink a wine with such a strong reputation. But some of the most satisfying wine memories are rooted in surprise. When we finally arrived at the main course — a simple and perfectly cooked Filet for me — I picked up the glass like a child picks up a wrapped present. After taking in the rich, intense nose, I found that the wine was… good. Very good, even. I did not expect the intense spice and white pepper on the palate, and it was a gorgeous match with the beef.
But "very good" wine does not engender lifelong memories. And so I can concede my utter astonishment with the next wine that Lenn opened — the Paumanok Vineyards 2000 Grand Vintage Cabernet Sauvignon.
This nose of this wine was like pure, fresh asparagus. Maybe — if you peeled back the asparagus — you could find some roasted Brussels sprouts. There was very little fruit in the nose (I'm assuming it's receded with some bottle age). And I loved it immediately.
That's because the wine brought a delicate balance of dark fruit and green flavors on the palate. It evoked my favorite French wines without seeming like a pale knockoff. It was long. And I'll always remember the look on Nena's face when she caught me staring at the glass, agape after my first sip. "Isn't this amazing?" she said.
To conclude a story that is undoubtedly too long already, let me reiterate my small sample size in tasting Long Island wines. Most have been quite pleasant, but none has moved me like this. But now I am emboldened to seek out more. I hope to get a better feel for what Long Island's varietal characters are. If they are anything like the 2000 Paumanok, well, I'll just have to find a way to expand my wine budget.
What are your special wine memories?