Pellegrini_05reserveBy Lenn Thompson, Editor-in-Chief

Originally, I had promised myself that I'd not mention what wines were the final "cuts" as I pared down all of the 2009-released wines to select my finalists for the NYCR 2009 Wines of the Year.

But in the end, this was the final cut in the red category, and I'm mentioning that fact because I really wish I could have squeezed it in. Cutting it was the hardest decision that I had to make, in fact. It's that good.

Pellegrini Vineyards 2005 Reserve ($70) is the first such "Reserve" made by winemaker Russell Hearn, a clear nod to the quality of the 2005 growing season. I hear that he made one in 2007 as well, and that's it. I respect producers like Russell who don't make their high-end wine every year if the fruit coming in doesn't warrant it.

A bold, but balanced, blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and petite verdot, the nose is at once fruity with black plum, black cherry and blueberry aromas and complex with layers of black pepper, chocolate-covered coffee bean and dried herbs beneath. Some wines fill the room with their aromas the second you pour them. This is one of those wines.

With a dense core of rich, dark fruit flavor accented by more black pepper, licorice, mocha and a lively minty-eucalyptus note, this wine changed over the course of my tasting with each component stepping forward and one time or another.

The tannins are grippy and mouth filling, but not angular rigid. Instead they are ripe and rounded, offering enough structure for all that fruit and spice. Balance and length mark this wine as outstanding — an impressive blend from one of Long Island's well-considered wineries.

After being open for 4 days it started to fade a bit, but lasting that long leads me to believe that it will age nicely.

It costs a little extra to taste it at the winery's tasting room in Cutchogue. Pay the added fee. It's well worth it.

Producer: Pellegrini Vineyards
AVA: North Fork of Long island

ABV: 13%

Price: $70*

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

(Ratings Guide)