By Lenn Thompson, Founder and Editor-in-Chief

Photo courtesy of Raphael

Don Vino 028 Long Island chardonnay (and there is a lot of it planted and made) can be delicious, but it's rarely distinctive. I don't know anyone who visits Long Island for the first time and comes away thinking "Wow, those chardonnays blew me away."

Long Island sauvignon blanc is a completely different story. Ignoring niche grapes with only small local plantings (chenin blanc, tocai friulano), sauvignon blanc is the grape that shows the most promise locally.

At proper crop levels, it ripens consistently well, even in cooler years. And a unique Long Island style is emerging — one that is more gently herbaceous than Kiwi versions, more fruity than Sanceere, but less overt and tropical in its fruit profile than California.

I have a hard time keeping Long Island sauvignon blanc in my cellar. We drink through them every spring and summer. And remember, we're on an overgrown sand bar that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. We're surrounded by seafood, and sauvignon blanc is a great wine for that bounty.

Raphael 2008 First Label Sauvignon Blanc ($22) is a great example of local sauvignon. 2008 was the first year that winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich made two sauvignon blancs. This one is made with fruit from the original 3-acre vineyard, a gently sloping, south-facing rise, that was planted in 1998. The other, the "Grand Cru" Sauvignon Blanc, was made with fruit from far younger vines.

The grapes were hand sorted, gently pressed in a wooden basket press and then fermented mostly in stainless steel (92%) with 8% fermented in new French oak.

The result is a fresh, balanced sauvignon blanc that shows intense honeydew melon, kiwi and grapefruit on the nose with hints of summer herbs. That the barrel fermentation, which I typically don't love with sauvignon blanc, is noticeable right out of the bottle as a light toasty vanilla note.

It was a bit off-putting at first, but it faded fairly quickly. My guess is that it will fade with bottle time too.

Medium-light in body, and with great acidity, the kiwi, citrus, melon and herbal notes carry over to the palate with a medium-long, lightly minerally finish.

I don't eat shellfish, but the fresh goat's milk chevre from Catapano Dairy Farm would be a great pairing here.

Producer: Raphael
AVA: North Fork of Long Island
ABV: 12%
Price: $22
Rating: 30
(3 out of 5 | Recommended) 

(Ratings Guide)