With so many communication channels at our finger tips these days (Facebook, Twitter, email, etc.) it feels like I’m discussing local wines with people almost constantly.

It’s fun, but I’ve noticed something recently — great vintages can cause an interesting side effect. The other, ‘non-great’ vintages can very easily be looked down upon or ignored altogehter.

2007 and 2010 were among the best vintages ever for Long Island. We all know that by now. But, because many 2007 reds have come and gone, and 2010 reds are trickling into the marketplace, it’s almost like 2008 and 2009 didn’t happen.

Don’t make that mistake. The 2008 and 2009 growing years both presented their own unique challenges to local growers and winemakers, but most years do. And any region’s best producers will make quality wine consistently in even the more challenging vintages.

Take this Shinn Estate Vineyards 2008 Nine Barrels Reserve Merlot ($43) for instance. Following the ripe 2007 year, many consider 2008 to be underripe. Not so.

The nose is dominated by dark fruit — think blackberry, cassis and black cherry — chocolate and toasty oak. There is a peppery edge too, but it’s black pepper, not green.

That spicy, peppery quality is even more pronouned on the medium-bodied palate, layered with fruit flavors of plum, black cherry and blackberry. The oak is a bit too evident for me right now — in a raw, barrel sort of way — but given the slightly chewy tannins, this wine has a chance to develop and integrate over the next several years. Showing decent length now, the finish is a bit bacony as well.

Looking at my tasting notebook, the last thing I wrote for this wine was “Definitely re-taste in a year.” Of course, knowing how rabid Shinn’s fans are, I may not get to do that unless I buy it now.

Producer: Shinn Estate Vineyards
AVA: North Fork of Long Island
ABV: 13.7%
Cases: 225
Price: $43*

(3 out of 5, Very good/Recommended)

(*Ratings Guide)