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Local Flavor from Peconic Bay Winery

Originally Posted: July 05, 2006

Lenn Thompson

Peconic Bay — you've had the scallops and other shellfish — but have you had the wines?

Winemaker Greg Gove crafts a wide range of wines — from unquestionably sweet, entry-level wines to simple, good-value blends to vintage-dependant quality reds to some of the best locally made aromatic whites.

If you're relatively new to wine and still prefer a sweeter style sipper, Peconic Bay Winery makes its non-vintage Vin de l'Ile Blanc ($11) just for you. A sweet and super fruity blend of Riesling and Chardonnay, it features aromas and flavors of ripe peaches, pears and apples. For my tastes, it is way too sugary, but it remains a popular wine in their tasting room. Remember, drink what YOU like, not what any writer or critic tells you is good.

Fans of drier white wines will favor their Local Flavor White ($10) instead. It's made with Chardonnay and Riesling grapes too, but without the sugary sweetness. Its flavors and aromas are light and fresh — and this wine offers some food-friendly acidity. For $10, it's a decent value in a simple summer slurping wine. Just don't expect layers of complexity or nuance.

For an extra three dollars, you might want to pick up a bottle (or five) of Gove's 2004 Steel Fermented Chardonnay ($13). Before you tell me you don't like Chardonnay — just try this one. Reared completely in stainless steel tanks, this wine is a pure, unadulterated expression of Chardonnay fruit. Lemony-fresh on the nose with hints of tangerine, the palate features terrific, bright acidity balanced with soft citrus fruit flavors and a clean, appetite-whetting finish. A tremendous value that is tough not to love.

Even if you don't like oaky California-style Chardonnay — and who can blame you? — Peconic Bay's 2004 La Barrique Chardonnay ($17) is worth a sip. While drinking many West Coast chards is like licking a butter-slathered two by four, this wine is much more balanced and elegant. The nose is reminiscent of an apple pie baking in the oven — with roasted apples and vanilla the key aromas. Similar flavors carry over to the first sip, but they are joined by a delicious cinnamon-spice note. A bit more acidity would push this wine to new heights, but as is, it's a nice reminder that barrel fermented Chardonnay needn't be overbearing.

On the red wine side of things, Peconic Bay Winery starts with two easy drinking wines— Local Flavor Red ($10) and Local Flavor Merlot ($17). The Local Flavor Red is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes and has a nose of violets, red berries, blueberries and some smoky-spicy oak. This is light bodied style red blend that is simple and ready to gulp. Again, it's a decent value if you're not looking for elegance or nuance.

This release of Local Flavor Merlot is made from grapes from the 2002 vintage and is more intensely scented and flavored, with distinct blackberry character and soft oak character. If you like your Merlot soft and simple, this is a pleasant option.

If you think that local Cabernet Sauvignon is too lean, a bit green and lifeless, that might be because some winemakers try to do too much with this hard-to-ripen-on-Long-Island grape. Peconic Bay Winery's 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon ($22) dodges such over-reaching — resulting in an Old World-style wine that is highlighted with blackberry, cherry and vanilla flavors. Refined, smooth tannins and a nice earthiness make this a lighter style cabernet worth drinking, even if it's a bit overpriced.

My favorite of their current releases is the 2001 Merlot ($24). 2001 was a stellar year for local Merlot and Gove's rendition reflects that quality. Right out of the bottle, rich, concentrated cherry, plum and chocolate flavors are nicely integrated with ripe, well-integrated tannins. But give this wine a little time open or in a decanter and you'll be rewarded with added layers of complexity in the form of summer herbs and tobacco. This is a wine that deserves more attention — and a spot in your cellar.

Every weekend, Peconic Bay Winery plays host to live music out on their patio and offers tours. For more information, call 631-734-7361 or visit www.peconicbaywinery.com.