Narrowing down the nearly two cases of merlot tasted for this story into a Long Island merlot “six-pack” was incredibly difficult. Nearly every wine was worthy of inclusion.
Ultimately, these choices cover a wide range of what is available, mixing some more-affordable options in with some of the region’s best.
Anthony Nappa Wines, 2014 Ripasso ($25)
Unique and spicy from six months petit verdot and malbec pomace — but without a splinter of oak. Black olives and black pepper qualities are layered with black and blue fruit. Well structured and leaning a bit rustic, the finish is earthy and tobacco-tinged.
Grapes of Roth, 2013 Merlot ($44)
A benchmark Long Island merlot — year in and year out. The 2013 edition is layered and nuanced with raspberry and black cherry scents accented by notes of Earl Grey tea, dried and fresh herbs and vanilla bean. Full-flavored and concentrated, the palate offers layer after layer of flavor. Age-worthy, this is a wine that will develop and improve for years to come.
Bedell Cellars, 2013 Merlot ($35)
Decidedly savory overtones accent just-crushed fruit aromas and flavors of plum, raspberry and blueberry. Lithe, taut and still young, it overflows with bramble and blueberry fruit that is again accented by a certain meaty umami-ness.
Lenz Winery, 2013 Estate Selection ($30)
Clearly looking to the Old World for inspiration, this Long Island classic features dark berry and plum fruit intensity with light spice and wet earth notes. Medium-bodied and earthy, the palate is showing mature savory flavors of mushrooms and roasted fennel.
Lieb Cellars, 2015 Reserve Merlot ($24)
Great value merlot that spent 10 months in Hungarian oak barrels. Intensely fruity on the nose, with raspberry and blackberry fruit sprinkled with just a bit of dark chocolate and black licorice. Juicy and supported more by acidity than tannins, this is the kind of drink-now merlot you need to have on hand.
Paumanok, 2013 Grand Vintage Merlot ($40)
Complex and classy, this wine spent 15 months in French oak, but only 30 percent was new. Fresh raspberry and red cherry character is made more interesting by hints of earthy dried leaves, herbs. There is a purity and focus here brought on by fresh acidity and well-integrated tannins. Finished under screwcap, this one should age beautifully.
This story was originally published in the fall 2017 edition of Long Island Wine Press