McCall Wines has earned a reputation as the producer of Long Island’s finest pinot noir, but its merlot and merlot-based blend McCall Wines 2010 “Ben’s Blend” ($48) are just as deserving of attention.

This blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit verdo tintially stands out for its restrained ripeness, with aromas of blackberry and blueberry staying just this side of jammy and mingling with notes of light toast and black pepper.

Framed by grippy tannins that are approachable but also portend good cellaring potential, the mouth-filling palate is concentrated with ripe black and blue fruit, an earthy edge, subtle spice and well-integrated oak. It is expertly balanced — again mouth-filling but not heavy or overwrought. Elegant is over-used, but it applies here. There is a certain freshness that some higher-end Long Island blends lack.

With some time open, secondary and tertiary flavors unfurl — more spice and more earthiness — bringing complexity to the core of dark fruit.

You could drink this now, but I think you’ll be better rewarded to tuck it away for at least a few years.

This wine was named for Ben Sisson, the veteran vineyard manager who died unexpectedly in the fall of 2009.

Producer: McCall Wines
AVA: North Fork of Long Island
ABV: 13.1%
Oak Program: French oak for 18 months
Price: $48

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