By Lenn Thompson, Editor-in-Chief


Much like the other cabernet sauvignon I reviewed earlier this week, this Raphael 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) shows why some of the best wines in the world are made in warmer years in cooler regions.

The 2005 North Fork growing season was a dry and hot one from the spring through the summer — shaping up to be a vintage of a lifetime.

Then the October rains hit before the Bordeaux-variety reds started coming in, dumping up to 18 inches of rain on some vineyards over the course of 8 days.

The result has been up-and-down quality in 2005 reds. Many lost entire blocks to rain-induced splitting. Others picked just before (early) or during the rain. Those wines tend to underwhelm.

But, those with healthy vineyards, patience (to let the fruit dry out) and — honestly — luck, still made some terrific, even classic Long Island wines.

I count this wine as one of those classics, and it solidifies Raphael on an extremely short list of dependable local cabernet sauvignon producers.

Ripe but balanced and elegant, the nose shows black cherry and blackberry fruit with strong chickory-coffee presence, a minty-eucalyptus note and subtle spice.

Firm but ripe and well-integrated tannins provide good structure for black fruit flavors with layers of dark-roast coffee, leaf tobacco, earthy dried leaves and herbs and a distinct minty-eucalyptus note.

The finish is lengthy and shows more of that minty and spice character.

I was still drinking this one 3 days after it was opened, so it seems well-suited to at least short-term aging. Get some if you can (it's flying out of the tasting room because of a recent high score in a glossy wine magazine) and feel confident holding it for at least 5-7 years.

Or open it now and enjoy it. That's what wine is about.

Producer: Raphael
AVA: North Fork of Long island

Grapes: 95% cabernet sauvignon, 5% merlot

Yields: 1.6 tons/acre

Brix at harvest: 24.5

pH: 3.50

TA: 5.0 g/l

Oak: 16 months, 75% new French (rest 2-3 year)

ABV: 12.5%

Price: $45*

Rating: 40
(4 out of 5 | Delicious, Distinctive

(Ratings Guide)