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A bottle of Roanoke Vineyards 2013 The Hill. (Credit: Lenn Thompson)
A bottle of Roanoke Vineyards 2013 The Hill. (Credit: Lenn Thompson)

When someone like Rich Pisacano, co-owner of Roanoke Vineyards who is also Wolffer Estate’s long-time vineyard manager, tells you that a newly released wine is “one of the most complex, interesting, beautiful wines that I’ve ever been a part of” that means something.

This is someone who has been planting and tending vines on the East End since high school. And our wine of the week, Roanoke Vineyards 2013 “The Hill,” is one to seek out.

The Hill is a field blend, which means that the cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon grapes that went into it were picked at the same time and put together before they even left the vineyard. “(This wine) is a leap of faith in that we’re pre-blending the wines — something you typically do long after harvest,” Pisacano said at the wine’s launch party.

For most blends, each grape variety is harvested, sorted and vinified (made into wine) separately. At some point — typically 12 to 18 months after harvest in Roanoke’s case — the separate lots are blended and that final blend is bottled.

Because The Hill is a field blend, “By the time they get into the fermentation tank, they are completely co-mingled” Pisacano said. “The wines start to react in a way, creating flavors that you can’t create by blending later on. It’s something that I can’t explain.”

The other thing that he can’t explain is the wine itself.

When he sat down to write the tasting notes for the wine, it was far harder than usual.

“It’s usually pretty easy to do,” he said “The personality of the wine reveals itself and you put it down on paper.”

But this time, after a glass and a half, he hadn’t written anything. In fact, he hadn’t even picked up the pencil.

“It was so giving. The wine was changing by the minute. And it kept giving and giving and giving,” he said. “My notes would have changed from the moment I poured it to the last sip of the wine.”

I tasted this wine again over the holiday last weekend. Actually, I drank it, with medium-rare strip steaks cooked with butter, garlic and rosemary. I wasn’t trying to take notes, but Pisacano is right. The first sips were mostly fruit and a little oak, but as the wine sat in my glass the oak stepped back, replaced by notes of licorice and herb garden, with ripe fruit throughout. I saved half a glass or so to taste the next day and it had turned earthier, with gritty tannins and a faint nuttiness. A core of ripe, but not too-ripe fruit, was the only persistent quality from start to finish.

I have another bottle that I’ll open soon, for a more thorough tasting, notebook open on the table. But sometimes you don’t need to know anything more about a wine other than it is delicious and you love drinking it. That’s this wine.

Lenn Thompson

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