Martha Clara winemaker offers perspective on chardonnay, pinot noir

A flight of Martha Clara Vineyard's pinot noir. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

A flight of Martha Clara Vineyard’s pinot noir. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Winemaker Juan Eduardo Micieli-Martinez admits Martha Clara Vineyards‘ 2007 pinot noir, harvested during his first year at the Riverhead vineyard, might not have completely harnessed the power of this notoriously tricky grape.

But take of sip of his 2012 Island Series pinot noir and notice a darker wine with more complex woody flavors — a vintage that many would agree shows marked improvement over its predecessor.

“Each year is unique for pinot noir,” Micieli-Martinez told a room full of people attending the first course in his “Varietal Perspective” series on Sunday. “It’s a different animal each year.”

Chardonnay and pinot noir, the two most well-known grapes originating in France’s Burgundy region, were the focus of Sunday’s class. Attendees tasted vertical flights of three vintages of Martha Clara’s estate reserve chardonnay and five vintages of its pinot noir as they noshed on cheese and olives.

“[In] Chardonnay, I can see the same thread,” Micieli-Martinez said, referring to the vineyard’s 2009, 2010 and 2012 estate reserve chardonnays, a taste of each displayed before a dozen audience members.

One of the reasons for the noticeable (even for a novice wine drinker) difference in the aforementioned pinot noir vintages was that Micieli-Martinez adopted the ripasso method for the 2012 vintage, something he repeated in 2013.

The ripasso method involves soaking crushed grape skins in the wine to add flavor and texture.

“In the wine business, everything is a variable,” he said. “It’s one of the things that keeps the wine interesting.”

He said the 2012 pinot noir was initially, in his opinion, not very complex. To add depth, the pressed skins of petit verdot grapes were added to the wine for several days. He repeated the process in 2013 with malbec skins, which yielded a limited release vintage only available to wine club members.

Micieli-Martinez said he is hosting the classes to educate consumers on his wines, and increase their confidence while tasting.

Carol Davan of Melville, who along with her husband Lawrence received the class as a Christmas gift, said she was surprised to learn that some winemakers might prefer a screwtop bottle, over the traditional cork.

“As a novice, we looked down on screw tops,” she said. “We thought that was an inferior product. It was enlightening.”

Jeffrey Saelens of Wading River said he was persuaded to attend the class after sampling Micieli-Martinez’s pinot noir on New Year’s Day.

“The best Burgundian winemakers hate their wines. He [Micieli-Martinez] is so critical of them and expects more of them,” said Saelens, who owned a wine shop in Saratoga Springs for a decade. “It might not be his favorite grape, but it might be his best effort.”

The Varietal Perspective classes will continue Jan. 31 (Burgundy), Feb.15 and 28 (Bordeaux) and March 8 and 21 (Alasatian). Tickets are $40 in advance and can be purchased here.

Martha Clara Vineyards winemaker talks chardonnay and pinot noir at the Riverhead vineyard on Sunday. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Martha Clara Vineyards winemaker talks chardonnay and pinot noir at the Riverhead vineyard on Sunday. (Credit: Vera Chinese)