With big crowds often packing the spacious tasting room of Macari Vineyards, good enough wine would be, well, good enough.
But not for Joe Macari and his family.
The Mattituck winery caters to vast throngs of tasting room visitors – including large groups that roll into the parking lot in limos and buses – while still making outstanding wine. And it does that better than any other vineyard on Long Island.
Not only are they maintaining wine quality – the wines have gotten distinctly better since winemaker Kelly Urbanik Koch joined the team in 2010 — wines that were always good now are often great. A red wine portfolio that perhaps tasted a bit too much alike no matter the grapes that went into each wine, is now distinct and driven by the differences between grapes and blends.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending one of Macari’s three barrel tasting events (the next and final one is May 9). The evolution of the winery’s offerings was on full display. There is a clear drive to low oak footprint and expression of grape and place.
We tasted nearly a dozen wines – some current releases, others still in the tank, barrel or egg. There were a few standouts.
White blends are slowly gaining a foothold on Long Island – both at the affordable and higher end. The not-quite-finished Macari Vineyards 2014 Dos Aguas White is hugely aromatic, which isn’t surprising given the heavy dose of viognier in the blend. I like it even better than the 2013.
After pouring tastes of Macari Vineyards 2014 Reserve Chardonnay, Urbanik Koch sarcastically joked that I must have “enjoyed tasting that” (my disdain for oaky local chardonnay is well known.) But jokes aside, I did enjoy tasting it. There was nutty oak there, of course, but it was still vibrant and driven by fruit rather than wood flavors.
Macari Vineyards 2014 Rosé was a beautiful pink in the glass and had a nice honeydew-meets-spring flowers character that is sure to please customers once it’s bottled and available.
If you like elegant, almost feminine syrah, keep an eye out for Macari Vineyards 2014 Syrah. Silky on the palate with flavors of red cherries, earth and black pepper, it may prove to be something quite special.
Owner Joe Macari likes to talk about his vineyard having a life force – and in doing so, he unknowingly named Macari Vineyards 2014 Life Force Cabernet Franc. The wine was fermented and aged entirely in a large concrete egg, which offers the air exchange benefits of oak barrels without those pesky oak flavors. The 2013 will be released soon, but the 2014 shows intense concentration in its dark fruit, meaty and graphite flavors with only a subtle green edge.
After tasting in the cellar, we moved upstairs to a private room off of the main tasting room where we enjoyed some current releases with small bites by Creative Courses Catering, whose owners hope to open the North Fork Shack just east of Sparkling Pointe later by summer. The food and wines were delicious – particularly the Macari Vineyards 2013 No. 1 Sauvignon Blanc and the fig cake with orange – which thankfully were not paired together.
For me though, it’s what’s next that is most exciting. The Macari’s – and Urbanik Koch – are certainly not satisfied with the status quo.