Long Island merlot is often — and consistently — delicious. But when Long Island cabernet franc is done well — which is almost always the case at Roanoke Vineyards — it is much more distinctive and compelling.

At it’s best, Long Island cabernet franc combines forward, ripe fruit with savory notes — often herbs but sometimes mushrooms or leaf tobacco — and restrained oak that frames rather than overwhelms the grape’s varietal character. Usually there is a freshness too, which makes it one of my go-to wines for the dinner table.

Of the 2010 cabernet francs I’ve tasted, Roanoke Vineyards 2010 Cabernet France ($34) best exemplifies my personal local cab franc ideal. It doesn’t — and shouldn’t — try to be cabernet sauvignon. It hasn’t been barrel aged within an inch its life. It’s proud of its cabernet franc-ness.

The nose bursts forth with aromas of spiced black cherries, blackberries, dark roast coffee, fennel frond, sage and loamy earth. Fruit notes dominate at first, but with some time in the glass, the herby and spicy notes push forward a bit.

Ripe, mouth-filling fruit flavors creep toward the jammy, but remain fresh and juicy while veins of herbs and earth run the palate’s length and scream “cabernet franc.” The tannins are well integrated providing a cottony, dusty grip that joins forces with a juicy freshness to bring impeccable balance. A long, savory finish ends with cherry skin and grilled herbs.

Producer: Roanoke Vineyards
AVA: North Fork of Long Island
ABV: 13%
Price: $34

(4 out of 5, Outstanding and Delicious, Highly Recommended)