Four library reds at Bedell Cellars

Bedell Cellars is one of the true jewels of the North Fork wine industry. You have history — it was founded in 1980 by Kip Bedell who still serves as founding winemaker. You have an influx of new capital — the result of Michael Lynne purchasing the winery in 2000. And you have terrific wines coming out of a state-of-the-art winery and modern tasting room.

One thing seems to be a constant through the many changes Bedell Winery has gone through in recent years — quality wines that are among the region’s best.

On a recent visit that sleek, modern tasting room I tasted a bit of the winery's past — nine different reds from the 1993, 1994 and 1995 — and the winery's present, meaning current and new releases.

Out of the two dozen wines I tasted, there wasn’t a single wine that I’d call a clunker. Yes, some of the library wines are clearly past peak, and some of the current releases aren’t good matches to my palate stylistcally (aka barrel-fermented chardonnay and reds showing too much new oak). But none of these wines will make you head for the hills.

Today, we'll focus on the older wines, many of which seemed much younger than they are. The merlots in particular seems to be aging gracefully, taking on beautiful secondary flavors that are earthy and minerally. The 1995s in particuarlly really stood out, which is that surprising.

Before there were the celebrated vintages of 2001, 2005 and 2007, there was 1995 the best vintage ever for Long Island wine to that point.

As I tasted them, I found it hard believe that I was a junior in college when these wines were harvested. That just seems like a lifetime ago, and these wines were still lively. You already know that I don't do full reviews and scores based on at-winery tastings, but here are my notes on three reds from 1995.

The Bedell Cellars 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon ($N/A) is still showing lots of dark, ripe blackberry with sprinklings of black pepper and spice. Mouth-filling with a long, extremely earthy finish, this wine still has enough structure to last another few years. I wrote the word “wow” three separate times in my notes.

I also scribbled “wow” multiples as I tasted the Bedell Cellars 1995 Merlot Reserve ($N/A) a wine that really shows the cellar-worthiness of Long Island merlot with its dense plum, black cherry and black raspberry fruit character with layers of leather, minerally graphite and spice. Here's proof that Long Island merlot can age gracefully —improving rather than just surviving.

Bedell Cellars 1995 Cupola ($N/A) a blend of cabernet and merlot, is that last "wow" wine from the tasting. Tasted blind, I challenge you to guess that this wine is 13 years old. The nose brings a basket filled with berries — black and red ones — with a pretty floral quality. That fruit tastes almost sweet on the palate, and while the tannins have faded some, there is still acidity to provide structure.

It's not easy to get your hands on these wines, but if you can, I can't recommend it enough. 

Sometime soon, I'll post about some of the current releases that impressed, including a couple 2007 merlots that are going to surprise a few people. One just might be a new benchmark for Long Island merlot.

Note: This actually wasn't the first time that I had tasted some older Bedell wines. Way back in 2004 when my blog was just a few months old, I tasted 17 years of merlot with Kip Bedell.