In an effort to be seen as a “serious” wine region – whatever that means – the Long Island wine industry often pushes its red wines, often dominated by merlot, forward for the world to see. Yes. Those wines can be delicious and age-worthy. Many of my top Long Island wine experiences have been with reds. But, if thirst-quenching refreshment is what you’re looking for this summer, Long Island does those too – and does them well.
In my last piece, I highlighted some of my favorite 2020 roses. Here, I include a couple more — but the focus here is white wines made from a variety of grapes. The diversity of grapes that are successful here is a beautiful thing.
Bridge Lane Wine 2020 Rose (From a Box)
Lieb Cellars’ second-label wines come in can, bottle, box and even disposable keg, making them extremely convenient for a variety of drinking applications. At home, my wife and I almost always have a box — that’s four bottles worth — in our fridge. Keep one chilled at all times; it’s the perfect pour for unexpected pop-ins. Fresh and fruit-forward, just about everyone will love it.
Bedell Cellars 2020 Corey Creek Vineyard Melon de Bourgogne
For something a little nerdier — okay, a LOT nerdier — check out this new wine from Bedell and winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich. Melon de Bourgogne is best known as the grape behind Muscadet in France, but if this first bottling (and the first bottling of Melon on the east coast) is any indication, it is just as happy here on Long Island. Fresh and saline, it’s a great fit with local oysters.
Macari Vineyards 2020 “Horses” Sparkling Cabernet Franc Rosé
Pink and sparkling, Horses is a long-time favorite in my house. With the 2020 vintage, new winemaker Byron Elmendorf has shifted this wine in a slightly new direction. It’s pink, but noticeably darker and richer and it tastes more like cabernet franc than it has in the past, which I think makes it a more interesting wine for pairing with food too. It’s still a great summer refresher too if you don’t want to think too much about what you’re drinking with whatever you’re eating.
Raphael 2019 First Label Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon blanc thrives on the North Fork and while styles can vary greatly from winery to winery and wine to wine, if you like richer, more complex sauvignon, this is the local pick. A small percentage of semillon in the blend is uncommon here but is the norm in Bordeaux. It brings a little texture and flavor complexity while the wine remains fresh.
McCall Wines 2020 Whole Cluster Pinot Noir Rosé
Of the two rosés from McCall, this was my favorite by a wide margin. It shows a beautiful combination of raspberry and cherry fruit with layers of pink peppercorn and rooibos tea, with a subtle earthy edge that reminds you that this is pinot noir. The finish is elegant and long with a distinct note of dried rose petal at the very end.
Pindar Vineyards 2020 Rosé
Typically, Pindar doesn’t find its way onto these lists for me, but the team has put in a lot of time to improve things both in the vineyard and in the cellar. Winemaker Erik Bilka made this rose mostly using merlot and cabernet sauvignon but also small doses of pinot grigio, pinot meunier, viognier and chardonnay. It’s lightly floral but driven by peaches and red berries, with fresh acidity and a lingering, slightly savory finish.
Wolffer Estate 2020 Tocai Friulano
I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for the “other” grapes of Long Island — it’s one of the reasons I talk so much about grape diversity in my writing. Part of winemaker Roman Roth’s “Cellar Series” of small-production wines, this tocai is floral and bright with melon and apple flavors and a lingering sea breeze minerality. There is a plumpness to the fruit and mid-palate that makes this one particularly compelling.
Paumanok Vineyards 2020 Chenin Blanc
The ripeness of the 2020 vintage is on full display with winemaker Kareem Massoud’s latest chenin release. Tangerine and grapefruit aromas and flavors are accented by tropical pineapple and floral notes. It has a beautiful, juicy mouthfeel and nice concentration, particularly at 11% abv. In all but the worst years, this wine is great — and in the great years, like this one, it’s even better than that.
Suhru Wines 2020 Pinot Grigio
Mostly, I find pinot grigio fairly neutral and boring, nothing more than alcoholic lemon water. This example from winemaker Russell Hearn is anything but. Yes, it’s citrusy with beautiful lemon and mandarin orange qualities, but there are also juicy pear, green apple and subtle lemongrass notes. This was a real surprise when I tasted it in a lineup of local white wines. It’s a nice value to boot.
Harbes Vineyard 2020 Riesling
Another surprise was this riesling from Harbes. Riesling isn’t always great in our climate but this one is floral and flinty with ripe peach and lime fruitiness. There is a little sweetness here, but it’s well balanced by juicy lime acidity. It’s always impressed me how good the Harbes wine are. Given the crowds they draw to the farm, the wines are way better than they need to be.