Six different clones of merlot, all expressing different characteristics of this Bordeaux-originating grape, are grown on more than 800 acres on Long Island.
But of all the tons of fruit those acres yield every year, there is only one wine that combines the thumbprints of some of the region’s best winemakers.
And that’s the region’s only cooperative merlot blend, Merliance, made by the wine producers that make up the Long Island Merlot Alliance.
Members and supporters of the organization gathered at Scrimshaw restaurant in Greenport Saturday evening for a six-course Peking duck dinner and to celebrate the bright, fruit-forward 2012 vintage.
“We had three fantastic vintages in a row (2012, 2013 and 2014). The ’12 is the first of this trilogy,” Roman Roth, winemaker at Wölffer Estate Vineyard and LIMA president told northforker last week. “It has great layers and structure.”
The organization is a band of Long Island wineries — T’Jara Vineyards, Raphael, Wölffer Estate Vineyard, Martha Clara Vineyards, McCall Wines and Lieb Cellars — and educates consumers on the quality of Long Island merlot, long considered the region’s signature varietal.
The organization is funded through the sale of Merliance.
“We are very passionate about the grape merlot,” said Amy Zavatto, who was recently appointed as LIMA’s executive director. “It’s hard to follow an act like Bordeaux, but we do an incredible job.”
For members of Long Island’s tight-knit wine community, the players see formation’s like LIMA as a way to strengthen the region’s image as well as to gather statistical data on its members.
But trade organization’s like LIMA are not the only link its members share.
Martha Clara Vineyards winemaker Juan Micieli-Martinez noted he got his start working under winemaker and Premium Wine Group partner Russell Hearn, who was also at Saturday’s dinner, while the pair were working at Pellegrini Vineyards in Cutchogue. Micielei-Martinez later worked at Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck, where he was succeeded by winemaker Anthony Nappa, who also spoke that evening.
And Nappa’s wife, Sarah, once worked in the kitchen at Scrimshaw under chef and owner Rosa Ross.
“For the three of us sitting here this evening, there is a connection,” Nappa, winemaker for Raphael and Anthony Nappa Wines, said as servers poured a glass of Raphael 2012 Estate Merlot with the main course, duck stir-fry with ginger sauce. “There are a number of dots that are connected between us.”
Grab a bottle of Merliance ($35), available in the tasting rooms of LIMA members.
See more photos below