Roman Roth, a true Long Island wine icon, has earned his reputation as one of the best winemakers on the East Coast (and beyond) by making some of the most beloved and highest-scoring wine on Long Island — everything from dry rose to chardonnay to dessert wines to merlot and cabernet franc.
The long-time winemaker at Wolffer Estate, he also makes most of the Roanoke Vineyards and has consulted with other producers over the years. He helped found the Long Island Merlot Alliance, has served as president of the Long Island Wine Council and is one of the region’s most intrepid spokespeople. He’s a giant in the local wine community.
Back in 2001, he launched his own brand, “Grapes of Roth” and the wines — particularly the merlot — quickly became benchmarks for what merlot can be here. That first wine was made with grapes sourced at Martha Clara Vineyards, but he’s been buying most of the fruit for this wine from Sam McCullough, vineyard manager at Lenz Winery, who manages his own vineyard on the North Fork.
This week’s “Wine of the Week” is the Grapes of Roth 2013 Merlot ($48) is 83% Merlot grown by McCullough and 17% Cabernet Sauvignon also grown on the North Fork and it continues the wine’s tradition of excellence.
The nose is complex with layers of berries — red raspberries and black cherries — stacked with notes of Earl Grey tea, dried and fresh herbs and warm vanilla bean.
Concentrated on the palate without being clunky or heavy, it shows fruit flavors that match the nose with similar tea, herb and vanilla notes, with added layers of licorice and spice. With ripe, round tannins that are still just a bit angular, this is a wine that should age beautifully. I recently opened a bottle of that first 2001 bottling and it showed much younger than its age. Roth builds this wine to age for sure.
When Roth became a partner at Wolffer Estate in 2013, the Grapes of Roth brand was absorbed into the Wolffer portfolio. As such, this wine is available at the Wolffer tasting room for $48.