Long Island wines received enthusiastic and record-breaking reviews from one of the industry’s most influential wine publications last month.
In the most recent edition of Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate — arguably the wine world’s most important publication — 78 wines received scores of 90 and above, a number commonly recognized to denote an outstanding wine.
Two wines received a 94 — the highest ever for a Long Island wine — while five others received a 93 and 17 received a 92. The previous record was 92 points, a score several wines have received from wine critics over the years.
“They were simply impressive, completely refuting any notion anyone might have that this is not a serious wine region,” wrote Wine Advocate critic Mark Squires. “There is plenty of evidence that the region has arrived and is on the cusp of maturity, no longer an outlier, but increasingly reliable in good vintage years.”
The publication, established in 1978, is unique because it’s advertisement-free and funded entirely by subscriptions. It rates wines on a 100-point scale.
Two Wölffer Estate Vineyard wines — its Descencia Botrytis Chardonnay and Diosa Late Harvest — tied for the highest score, each earning 94 points, a record for the region.
“If I had to name a ‘short list’ of top wineries in the region, this would have to be on it, without requiring any thought,” Squires wrote in his review. “Under winemaker/partner Roman Roth and Vineyard Manager Rich Pisacano (who also owns Roanoke, at which Roth is also the winemaker), this winery excels in making age-worthy, structured wines.”
Paumanok Vineyards in Aquebogue also earned some impressive numbers, with four scores of 93 and three scores of 92.
“In the world of wine, Robert Parker has been recognized as possibly the world’s most influential wine critic,” said Paumanok winemaker Kareem Massoud. “We think of [wine ratings] as a necessary evil. Like it or not, people are going to evaluate your wine and give your wine a score. In spite of all of the limitations of relying on a number, it still feels good to end up with a highly rated wine.”
Massoud said Squires visited the winery in March of this year and later requested a second set of samples of the wines he tasted, a common practice for wine critics.
“Even the best critics will get palate fatigue,” Massoud explained.
One of the Paumanok standouts for Squires was its 93-point 2007 Merlot Tuthill’s Lane.
“Here, [Paumanok] makes a wonderful Merlot,” Squires wrote. “Full-bodied and caressing on the palate, this shows very fine depth, but it retains its elegance all the while.”
Other local wine producers with multiple scores of 90 and above include Bedell Cellars, Bouquet, Channing Daughters, Macari, Coffee Pot Cellars, Roanoke Vineyards, Jamesport Vineyards, McCall Wines, Anthony Nappa Wines, The Grapes of Roth by Wölffer, The Lenz Winery, Raphael, Shinn Estate Vineyard.
Pellegrini Vineyards, Leo Family Cellars, Sparkling Pointe, Waters Crest Winery and Lieb Cellars also had a wine that scored 90 and above.
The Long Island Wine Council, which is looking to mold the region’s brand as a premiere wine destination and shift the focus away from agritainment, understandably touted the scores last week.
“The Wine Advocate’s influence amongst sophisticated wine consumers and industry opinion leaders alike will no doubt ignite awareness and demand for Long Island’s wines,” the Wine Council said in a statement. “Squires’ review comes at a pivotal time for Long Island as it takes the steps to reinforce its reputation as world-class wine region.”
While the scores and glowing write-up will bring attention the region from prominent people in the wine world, Massoud pointed out that many wine lovers already appreciate the low-alcohol, high-acidity, balanced styles of Long Island wine.
“We got a lot of feedback from our customers saying that it was nothing that they didn’t already know,” he said.