I’ve been tasting and drinking wines from Palmer Vineyards for many years, but it wasn’t until I visited a couple of weeks ago and tasted through the entire lineup that I realized something: Above all else, this is a white wine house. And that’s OK. It’s great, in fact, because many of the white wines are great.
We all know that Long Island Wine Country is supposed to be about merlot. Or maybe merlot and chardonnay, the two most-planted grapes. They are the cornerstones of many wineries’ production and portfolios.
Palmer winemaker Miguel Martin makes merlot and chardonnay, too, but he’s also working with malvasia bianca, muscat, viognier, pinot blanc, riesling and his beloved albariño. These are the wines that stand out most in the lineup. It may not be a surprise that a Spanish-born winemaker would be the first to bring albariño to the North Fork, but I’m sure glad he did. We need more winemakers from other regions to come here and bring their own points of view and experiences with them.
I was particularly impressed with the range and distinctiveness of Martin’s unoaked whites, though I’ll admit that his barrel-aged chardonnay was also well done.
Let’s start where my tasting started, with Martin’s most under-appreciated wine, the Non-Vintage Sparkling Brut. Made entirely from estate-grown chardonnay grapes, it’s bright, clean and focused, with just the subtlest yeasty note. Best of all? It’s $25 — a true steal in local sparkling wine.
The Palmer Vineyards 2015 Aromatico ($25), a blend of malvasia and muscat, isn’t for everyone — it’s among the most floral wines I’ve ever tasted — but it is so distinctive and well balanced as to demand attention. No other Long Island wine tastes like this. That, at least intellectually, makes it worth checking out.
Another floral-leaning white, Palmer Vineyards’ 2015 Viognier ($25) lacks some of the depth and richness of great viognier, but it’s made with fruit from young vines, so that may develop over time. Right now, it’s still a light and fresh wine with subtle stone fruit and honeysuckle notes. Great acidity makes this another wine begging for food.
A lot of pinot blanc is fairly neutral — bright and clean, sure, but rarely much more than that. Palmer’s 2015 Pinot Blanc ($22) is fermented with ambient yeasts (meaning that it’s not directly inoculated with commercial yeasts) and with extended time on its lees (spent yeast cells and other particles left after fermentation) this a surprisingly interesting wine, in terms of both flavors and texture. It starts out quite fruity, with ripe orange, melon and pineapple flavors, before taking on a slightly spicy nuttiness, particularly as it reaches room temperature. It is fuller bodied but still focused, with bright acidity and a finish that lingers. That acidity and lees contact gives it a nice mouthfeel.
Along with the sparkling brut, Palmer’s 2015 Chardonnay ($19) represents an incredible value. Made without a splinter of oak, it’s citrusy with subtle notes of lemongrass and ocean breeze, with great acidity. It’s one of the best stainless steel chardonnays on the East End right now.
I think we all probably drink more red wine in the winter, but you shouldn’t miss out on these white wines.