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The Mission Is Merlot For The Long Island Merlot Alliance

Originally Posted: February 02, 2012

Douglas MacKaye Harrington

The Grand Dame of Long Island wine Louisa Hargrave marking her rating card and winemaker Roman Roth (center holding wine glass) at the Long Island Merlot Alliance blind tasting at Jewel. (Douglas Harrington)

Melville - Amid the stunning ambience that is Chef Tom Schaudel's newest restaurant Jewel in Melville, media and members of the trade gathered for a blind wine tasting organized by the Long Island Merlot Alliance (LIMA). Going head to head against the likes of Napa, Washington State and some French classics, not only did a local North Fork merlot top the list, three other Long Island merlots finished in the top half of the rankings.

In his signature headband, Chef Tom Schaudel hosted the event at his stunning new restaurant Jewel and participated in the tasting as well. (Douglas Harrington)

In the 14 selection tasting, seven were Long Island merlots or merlot blends and seven were world examples hailing from Pomerol and St. Emilion in France, Napa Valley in California, and Columbia River in Washington State. All 14 wines were from the impressive 2007 vintage. Attendees were asked to consider appearance, aroma, body, palate and finish in their assessments with an overall ranking scale of 100 points. One also had the option of guessing the possible origin of each selection.

The spread of the points scored for all wines was only 5.54, a testament to the excellent quality of all the wines chosen for the blind tasting. With a score of 88.08, McCall Wine's Ben's Blend took top honors. One of the two bottles of the Sherwood House Vineyards 2007 Merlot featured in this tasting was found to have cork-taint and so was removed from the results. The ranking of the wines (with high and low scores removed, and all scores averaged) was as follows:


1 - 88.08 - McCall Wines 2007 Ben's Blend, North Fork of Long Island
2 - 87.15 - Château La Croix St. Georges 2007, Pomerol
3 - 86.92 - Duckhorn Vineyards 2007 Merlot, Napa Valley
4 - 86.31 - Long Island Merlot Alliance 2007 Merliance, Long Island
5 - 86.23 - Wölffer Estate Vineyard 2007 Christian's Cuvee, The Hamptons
6 - 86.08 - Château Ste. Michelle 2007 Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot, Washington
7 - 85.23 - T'Jara 2007 Merlot, North Fork of Long Island
8 - 85.15 - T-Vine 2007 Merlot, Napa Valley
9 - 83.54 - Raphael 2007 First Label Merlot, North Fork of Long Island
10 - 83.38 - Cafaro 2007 Merlot, Napa Valley
11 - 83.31 - Château Cantenac 2007, St. Emilion
12 - 83.08 - Château La Confession 2007, St. Emilion
13 - 82.54 - Clovis Point 2007 Archaeology, North Fork of Long Island

Jewel has an impressive wine selection brilliantly displayed and Owner/Chef Tom Schaudel has been a long time advocate for Long Island wines. (Douglas Harrington)

Along with delicious aged prosciutto, artisan cheeses and fresh baked breads, attendees were treated to the scrumptious hors d'oeuvres of Chef Schuadel, who himself participated in the tasting after emerging from his kitchen in his signature headband. Another notable at the LIMA tasting was the Grand Dame of Long Island wine Louisa Hargrave who, along with her ex-husband Alex Hargrave, quite literally created the Long Island wine region with the very first vineyard.

Also on hand was revered winemaker Roman Roth of Wölffer Estate Vineyard, one of only a handful of wineries on the South Fork of Long Island. Asked to comment on the afternoon's tasting he said, "It is great! To be ready to be compared is something we work and strive for all year. When it comes to the pinnacle, when you have to exactly pinpoint which wine is the French, the Californian and the Long Island and you are really struggling, it just shows we have come a long way and we can stand up to the best." I also asked Roth to comment on the highly touted 2010 vintage, which has been described unanimously as the greatest year so far for the Long Island wine region, "The roses have already sold out, but the red wines are just getting bottled now. It will be another year before the reds are available, but these wines will be around for 20 years." Indeed, the 2010 vintage is expected to age extremely well.

The tasting took place during the calm between lunch and dinner service at Jewel in Melville. (Douglas Harrington)

LIMA was founded in 2005 and the alliance is made up of six vineyards including Clovis Point, McCall Wines, Raphael, Sherwood House Vineyards, T'Jara and Wölffer Estate Vineyard. LIMA Executive Director Donnell Brown explained, "We believe that merlot is the signature grape of Long Island. It is the most planted grape in our region and it does really well here, year in and year out." As the LIMA mission statement notes, "[The] Alliance seeks recognition for merlot as the signature grape of the region, and for Long Island as the New World's leading appellation for merlot."

A heady ambition indeed, but considering the quality of the Long Island wines included in this tasting, perhaps achievable. One thing is for certain, the Long Island wine region has come a long way since the Hargraves planted their first vines on the North Fork and the 2010 vintage will undoubtedly garner even more respect for the region. Not only respect for the merlots, but for all the varietals that are produced at the over 40 vineyards now creating wine on the East End.

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Frequently mistaken for the "Most Interesting Man in the World" from the Dos Equis commercials and the iconic gray-bearded Sean Connery, DMH is the Senior Contributing Editor at Hamptons.com. www.hamptons.com Hamptons HamptonsOnline HamptonsOnline

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