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A Pleasant Surprise from Long Island

Lenz Chardonnay North Fork of Long Island "Old Vines" 2005
Thomas Matthews
Posted: June 26, 2009

I have been visiting Long Island vineyards and tasting their wines since 1989. I have seen real progress, especially from a handful of leading wineries, but there have been disappointments, too, both in quality and in value.

Unfortunately, few of the region's producers choose to submit wines for review, making it difficult to establish a comprehensive context. But in April, I attended a trade tasting and sampled a few dozen new releases from the region, and in June a small group of producers invited me to dinner at the Modern to show me some older vintages. While this doesn't substitute for regular blind tastings, it has given me a clearer picture of the region's status.

I tasted fine bottlings from Bedell, Channing Daughters, Jamesport, Macari, Paumanok, Pellegrini, Shinn and Wölffer. One pleasant surprise came from Lenz.

The Lenz Winery is among the North Fork's Old Guard, established in 1978; winemaker Eric Fry has been working there since 1989. Through the 1990s, I rated Lenz wines mostly in the mid-80s score range (good to very good), but after the 1999 vintage, the winery stopped participating in Wine Spectator tastings.

At dinner, the Lenz "Old Vines" Chardonnay 2005 was paired with cold poached lobster garnished with Granny Smith apple and Tahitian vanilla. The wine (which sells for $25 at the winery) showed a silky texture and a fine balance of restrained pear and apple fruit, fresh acidity and unobtrusive oak. It nestled gracefully between the tart apple and sweet vanilla flavors of the dish, vibrant and refined. I rated it 90 points, non-blind. members: Get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated wines from Long Island.

Member comments   2 comment(s)

Russell V Meyers — State College, PA —  February 2, 2011 1:44pm ET

Mr. Matthews:
I am a life long member of the American Wine Society. I joined about 15 years ago. I am a member of two chapters of the AWS here in central PA.
I recently voluntered to present a program to the Mount Nittany chapter, AWS, on Long Island wines. Needless to say, I started by looking to the pages of Wine Spectator for both general information on the area and specific information, such as wine scores. The first general article was one my Mitch Frank that has some local history of the area. I then ran accross a piece you wrote in June of 2009.
I have, over the years, tasted wines of Long Island. I am encouraged that you are of the opinion that they seem to be getting better.
My wife and I will be making a trek to LI in a few months to collect first hand knowledge of the local wines. We will have a note book of articles, as well as promotional literature, so that we will be able to judiciously select the wineries that seem to lead the pack out there.
Thank you for your part in helping us to plan for this trip!
Russ Meyers

Thomas Matthews — New York City —  February 2, 2011 4:04pm ET

Russ, Glad to be of help! I always enjoy visiting Long Island. Don't miss the North Fork Table for an excellent dinner.

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