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Raphael’s 2019 First Label Merlot is our October Northforker Wine Club pick. (Photography by David Benthal)

Raphael Vineyards’ Italianate tasting room has become a North Fork icon. And befitting the recent celebration of their 20th anniversary, winemaker Anthony Nappa has selected their 2019 vintage of their premier flagship wine, First Label Merlot, as our October wine of the month. It’s the ideal wine to sip while enjoying a cool fall breeze surrounded by friends. 

The style: This is a well-balanced, full-bodied red with complexity and flavor that’s softened by velvety tannins. 

Flavor profile: Rich and jammy, the 2019 First Label Merlot grapes are hand-harvested, hand sorted and wild-fermented. Created in Bordeaux style, their First Label Merlot is their flagship wine made from the oldest vines on the property. 

Pairs with: A refined palate and a nice decanter. 

Aging process: Aged for 18 months in 100% French oak barrels (26% new oak) before bottling unfiltered and unfined. 

Ideal serving temp: While everyone has their own personal preference, Nappa suggests serving his reds just below room temperature, at around 60 degrees. 

What you get on the nose: A rich bouquet of blackberry, plum, oak and blueberry. 

To hold or not to hold: Nappa notes that this wine is drinking beautifully now but will continue to age gracefully in the bottle for 10 years easily. 

Best time to drink: Anytime you’re with friends or a loved one. 

Raphael’s 2019 First Label Merlot costs $31/bottle and can be purchased at their tasting room located at 39390 Route 25, Peconic.