A New York State of Wine, Part II

Story by Lou Phillips  ·  

New York Wines, Part I, in our previous issue (available at TheTahoeWeekly.com) covered the sometimes frigid Finger Lakes Region where Riesling is queen. Now we’re heading south to the coast to visit the Empire State’s other wine mecca – Long Island.

Read Part I of New York State of Wine

Courtesy Wölffer Estate Vineyard

It has a more temperate, but still cooler than most, climates. It is also in a maritime zone and both of these factors are similar to Bordeaux, so it is no surprise that the island excels with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Both are prominent early-ripening Bordeaux varietals. Long Island vintners also make copious amounts of Rosé from those grapes that are perfect for seaside sipping.

Courtesy Wölffer Estate Vineyard

The vineyards are about 90 minutes from downtown Manhattan on the North Fork. This area is a cove facing the mainland and, as such, is partially sheltered from the Atlantic storms that often bash southeastern areas.

Unlike California and similar to Bordeaux, there is considerable vintage variation because of chancy weather at harvest time when rain and cool temperatures can challenge ripeness and concentration in the grapes. This is why later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon is a third wheel, whether as a stand-alone wine or in red blends.


With miles and miles of beaches, Long Island is morally obligated to make Rosés and these Merlot- and Cabernet Franc-based wines are surprisingly light on their feet with floral, spice and strawberry/watermelon notes.


Fortunately, there has been a run of good weather since 2010 and along with ever-improving winemaking, North Fork wines have been better than ever. As in Bordeaux, Sauvignon Blanc leads the way on the white side and the typical style is more Old World with some richness and earthiness complementing citrus and melon flavors. When done right, these are interesting, complex wines that dance well with food.

With miles and miles of beaches, Long Island is morally obligated to make Rosés and these Merlot- and Cabernet Franc-based wines are surprisingly light on their feet with floral, spice and strawberry/watermelon notes.

The island’s most renowned producer is Wölffer Estate Vineyard where the focus is on classic structured reds from the signature varietals. Wölffer also makes Long Island’s most famous blush wines from the same grapes named Summer in a Bottle.

Another vintner making wines worth seeking out is Channing Daughters Winery. Like Wölffer, it makes wonderful reds, but its calling card is a multivarietal white blend named Meditazione that is led by Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. This most unique wine is skin-fermented and barrel-aged in the northern Italian style creating spicy and earthy complexities that complement the vibrant fruit palate.

The takeaway? New York is making some interesting and delicious vino, so check with your local wine shop for availability and other tasting suggestions. You can also order direct from these wineries. I featured them not only for their great juice, but also for their exceptional customer service.

Lou Phillips is a Level 3 Advanced Sommelier and his consulting business wineprowest.com assists in the selling, buying and managing wine collections. He may be reached at (775) 544-3435 or lou@wineprowest.com. Visit TheTahoeWeekly.com for more wine columns.