Over the time that I’ve written about Long Island wines, I’ve gained a reputation as someone who doesn’t like chardonnay. Actually, “gained” isn’t the right word. I’ve earned it. But the truth is, there is plenty of chardonnay that I like – just very little of it is made locally. I drink Chablis – French chardonnay made in a region of the same name – and I’ve recently discovered some California chardonnay that I enjoy as well. Look for the Lioco label. You’ll thank me later.
But most Long Island chardonnay falls flat for me. Many of the barrel-fermented editions are just too oaky – or as a friend of mine says “they aren’t over-oaked, they are under-wined.” They are flat or lifeless or just not distinctive. That’s perhaps the biggest crime – lack of distinct Long Island character. Many of them could be made anywhere.
Steel-fermented chardonnay that doesn’t see much – or any – time in oak barrels is more popular than ever, but many of those are sort of boring too. Not all of them, but some.
Then there is the rare chardonnay that I get excited about every year – a wine that I’ve been asking the folks at Macari Vineyards about for weeks, wondering when it would be released: Macari Vineyards 2015 “Early Wine” Chardonnay ($18)
It’s always the first wine from the new vintage to hit store shelves, serving as a harbinger for Thanksgiving as well as the winter holidays. You really can think of it as Long Island’s white Beaujolais Nouveau — except it’s delicious.
Originally inspired by the jungwein (young wine) of Macari’s consulting winemaker Helmut Gangl’s homeland, Austria — where they are often served shortly after harvest — it’s meant as a celebration of the season and harvest.
For this year’s edition, the grapes were picked on September 8. The wine was bottled on October 30.
It was just bottled so it probably isn’t quite revealing its full self just yet, but it’s already bursting with juicy green apple and citrus notes. There is a delicate floral aromatic as well along with something that hints at grassy but isn’t quite so overt.
Though distinctly drier than last year’s bottling, it’s just as fruity-fresh with juicy citrus and fresh, floral flavors. There is still a subtle sweetness here, but plenty of crunchy acid to balance it.
A lot of people probably drink it cold right from the fridge, but I like it a bit warmer, which allows the fruit and floral notes a chance to stretch their legs. The finish isn’t long, but it ends with a drying citrus zest note that begs for food and another sip.
This year, they upped production to 1,774 cases — a great use of local chardonnay fruit if you ask me.