Editor’s Note: Every Thursday — call it Throwback Thursday if you’d like — I’ll pull a story from the more than a decade of NYCR stories and republish it. This week’s post is an interview I did with Remy Charest right after the first-ever TasteCamp — which was held right here on Long Island in almost seven years ago. Remy hasn’t missed a TasteCamp since and has become a vital cog in putting the event on as a permanent member of the planning committee. We announced this year’s TasteCamp earlier this week.

I keep forgetting to mention that TasteCamp EAST 2009 was actually an international wine-tasting event… thanks to today’s interviewee, Remy Charest.

While doing a gazillion other things, Remy began writing about wine in 1997, with a monthly magazine column on Canadian wine and spirits, and kept on writing about food and wine since, notably as the Quebec City restaurant critic for Montreal daily Le Devoir. He started blogging about wine in July 2007, both on The Wine Case, in English, and on À chacun sa bouteille, in French. Remy lives in Quebec City where he works as Arts Editor for daily newspaper Le Soleil.

Was this your first time to Long Island wine country?
Yes, first time east of La Guardia, as far as Long Island is concerned.

Had you ever had any Long Island wines before? And if so, what was your impression of them?

Well, there was this Lenn Thompson character who brought some Long Island wines to the Wine Bloggers Conference, last fall, and pointed me, in particular, to a bottle of Wölffer Estate Selection 2004 Cabernet Franc, and I thought it was terrific, with great varietal character and good definition and depth. It was more than enough to
make me curious and want to find out more.

After tasting a larger sampling of the wines being produced on Long Island, what is your impression now?

It’s the perfect portrait of an emerging wine region with great potential — some of it realized.What I mean by that is that you get a lot of variations in quality levels, styles and approach (and pricing!), with everything from world-class wines made with a clear sense of place to approximately-made bottles that nobody would miss if they weren’t there. Long Island deserves to be taken seriously, and the top producers can clearly compete with top-tier producers worldwide. The rest should come with time.
What grape or variety, in general, impressed you the most?
I think merlot is the most accomplished variety out there, clearly. In great years, it’s terrific, but in tough years, it still
produces wines that are at least pleasant, and sometimes terrific and ageworthy. 2004 is a clear example of that, for me: average, slightly cool year, with wines that taste like classic Right Bank Bordeaux.
Performing well in all weather conditions is a clear sign that the grape is where it should be.

I absolutely loved the Tocai Friulano at Channing Daughters, too, but there’s not enough of it around the island to say something about its potential for the region.

What grape or variety, in general, underwhelmed you the most?
Chardonnay. Though there were some very good ones, quality and style were totally inconsistent. No sense of direction in how chardonnay is made in Long Island. It felt to me like it is made perhaps more because of customer recognition (chardonnay being almost synonymous with white wine for many a wine drinker) than because there
is a clear purpose to making it, in relation with the climate and soil.

Was there a winery or tour stop that stands out in your mind as the “best”?
The one that stands out the most is clearly Channing Daughters, because they have a completely different take on the region: this is Friuli, they say, not Pomerol or Saint-Émilion. There wines have that sense of purpose I mentioned. And Christopher Tracy’s skin-fermented whites, Meditazione and Envelope, are truly unique and so, so wonderful.

In the more classic take on Long Island (merlot, etc.), Wölffer, Paumanok, Lenz and Pellegrini stood out in a strong field. Loved Shinn Estate, too, but I’d have to taste a wider range of wines to better evaluate their work as a whole.

If you had to pick one, what would your wine of the weekend be?
What do you mean, one?

Well, I went out of my way to hassle Roman Roth about getting a bottle of the Wolffer Estate 1998 Estate Selection Merlot, so it must have truly hit the spot, right?

Eric Fry’s 2001 Estate Merlot at Lenz was also very distinctive, as was the petit verdot at Paumanok and the 2007 cabernet franc at Shinn, the older vintages from Pellegrini, and Meditazione at Channing Daughters. Although that Amarone-style cabernet sauvignon at Wölffer and the L’enfant sauvage chard at Channing were also quite remarkable. And also…

Can you tell I enjoyed myself?