Sorting cabernet franc at Bedell Cellars

By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor

It's frustrating when life gets in the way of my wine writing, but it does happen as much as I try to minimize it.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I shot out to Bedell Cellars after work to catch up with winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich. I'm not sure if it was his new digs at Bedell or the quality of the fruit coming in, but the broad, near-permanent smile on his face told me all that I needed to know.

He's happy. And everyone around him was too.

IMAG0099"We haven't seen cabernet franc under 25 brix!" he declared when I got there, knowing that I would ask about the franc.

They had picked the franc earlier that day, in fact, and I'd gone out with the intention of sorting with them, but that idea quickly morphed into me tasting everything that was already in the winery.

We tasted everything from Rich's white field blend to merlot undergoing carbonic maceration to chardonnay resting in oak barrels, to merlot juice after nothing more than a two-day cold soak. As you can see, that juice was as dark as some finished wines already.

That's 2010 on Long Island. Intense.

Later, when I asked him to describe the uniqueness of 2010, Olsen-Harbich told me that "The reds showed high brix by mid-September. If you were picking on sugar levels you probably harvested too early. The density and character of the fruit needed to catch up to the sugar levels which it eventually did – the first time I ever experienced this on Long Island. But a great problem to have!"

He added via email this week, "We have tank after tank of dark, rich powerful red wines with wonderful aroma and concentration. Blending is really going to be fun this year with a lot of choices available."

I asked him what varieties, if any, he was most excited about this year. "They are all pretty exciting," he said, "But since we don’t see it very often, its always nice to have totally ripe cabernet sauvignon."

That's when you know it's a special year on Long Island — when winemakers are talking about their cabernet.