By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor
What would you do if you looked in your wine cellar and realized you had a vertical of a particular wine?
If you're like my friends Jared Skolnick and Tracy Ellen Kamens, owners of Grand Cru Classes on the North Fork, you throw a dinner party for 12 and open them together. And, you invite the winemaker, who graciously offers to bring a few more vintages, including the first ever made.
That's how I found myself sitting with local winemakers and wine industry folks Sunday night at Jared and Tracy's wine education center with eight vintages of Channing Daughters Winery L'enfant Sauvage Chardonnay — 2001 through 2008 — in front of me.
As we tasted the wines, accompaniment by a delicious meal prepared by our hosts, there were discussions ranging from "natural" winemaking to packaging and closures to the homogenization of sauvignon blanc because of yeast choices.
The eight chardonnays in front of us, all fermented in new french oak without inoculation –thus the name "Wild Child" — were the stars of the evening.
The oldest wines weren't just holding on, they were thriving, showing far more life than I expected while also showing beautiful complexity. In fact, the focused, surprisingly fresh 2002 was my favorite of the lineup and tasted like it could develop for another decade, not just survive. The 2001 was a bit less lively, but stood out because of an intriguing earthiness akin to fresh truffles or truffled cheese.
What impressed — and surprised — me the most however was how these wines delivered both a consistent, signature style and distinct vintage expression.
When we talk about what grapes provide a clear window into the growing season, we usual talk riesling, which does reflect its place acutely so purely. Yet tasting these wines one at a time was a bit like a crash course in Long Island growing seasons. It was fascinating — a rare treat.
As I drove home (after watching the Steelers game in the den), I flipped through my mental catalog of older Long Island chardonnay in my cellar. There is quite a bit down there, dating back at least to 2001. It might be time to start uncorking some.