Wolffer Estate Reserve Merlot 1999
Tasting Notes: Dark red in color. Bursting with aromas of ripe berries, vanilla, and milk chocolate. Full-bodied, with loads of dried fruit and soft, velvety tannins. Its long finish displays hints of tobacco, spice, and toasted oak. A traditionally crafted, European-style, complex red wine.
Owned by Hamburg-born Christian Wölffer, the 55-acre winery, located between Southampton to the west and Easthampton to the east, is at once an American winery but with a decidedly European character, both in its spirit and its wines. The winery currently produces 13,000 cases annually.
Under winemaker and general manager Roman Roth’s meticulous care, Wölffer Estate wines embody the region as well as a classical style of winemaking, with a rich concentration of fruit and lively acidity born of the unique terroir of these Sagaponack vineyards, similar in some respects to conditions in Bordeaux. In fact, it is the condition of the local soil, called Bridgehampton loam, a by-product of the glacial moraine that formed Long Island, that provides a perfect host for grapevines.
Increasingly garnering widespread and well-deserved attention, New York ranks third in wine production in the United States (after California and Washington). Divided into six AVAs—the Finger Lakes, Lake Erie, Hudson River, Long Island, Champlain Valley of New York and the Niagara Escarpment, which crosses over into Michigan as well as Ontario, Canada—the state experiences varied climates, but in general summers are warm and humid while winters are very cold and can carry the risk of frost well into the growing season.
The Finger Lakes region has long been responsible for some of the country’s finest Riesling, and is gaining traction with elegant, light-bodied Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. Experimentation with cold-hardy European varieties is common, and recent years have seen the successful planting of grapes like Grüner Veltliner and Saperavi (from the Eastern European country of Georgia). Long Island, on the other hand, has a more maritime climate influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, and shares some viticultural characteristics with Bordeaux. Accordingly, the best wines here are made from Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The Niagara Escarpment is responsible for excellent ice wines, usually made from the hybrid variety, Vidal.
With generous fruit and supple tannins, Merlot is made in a range of styles from everyday-drinking to world-renowned and age-worthy. Merlot is the dominant variety in the wines from Bordeaux’s Right Bank regions of St. Emilion and Pomerol, where it is often blended with Cabernet Franc to spectacular result. Merlot also frequently shines on its own, particularly in California’s Napa Valley. Somm Secret—As much as Miles derided the variety in the 2004 film, Sideways, his prized 1961 Château Cheval Blanc is actually a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc.