by Cynthia Sin-Yi Cheng
October 29, 2009
I recently came across an article in my files from the July 5, 2001 Times Herald-Record. It was on Vintage, the New York-only wine store in SoHo, where I was working at the time, and it included a photo and a short mention of me. That was my first entry into the wine profession — conducting tastings from behind the counter at the retailer — and it led me to my familiarity with wines from the North and South Forks. Who would’ve thought that seven years later I’d publish a feature on Long Island wines in Page Six Magazine! After a recent trip out there, I posted “Long Island Wines Part I” in my Sipping column. Here is part II of that piece.
Our last winery stop on North Fork was at Macari’s new tasting room in Cutchogue. Macari has a special place in my heart. In my Vintage days, I had a list of favorite wines I’d recommend, and there was more than one Macari among them, including the rosé and the unoaked Sauvignon Blanc, but their Bergen Road was my favorite Bordeaux-blend from Long Island. It made a lasting impression on me, and over time, I got to know the Macaris on my annual trips.
That humble list of favorites that started behind the counter at Vintage has grown since then, and winemaker Gilles Martin (Sparkling Pointe and Bouké) has joined its ranks. I thought he was joining the list, that is, but on this last trip to Long Island, in a serendipitous discovery, I learned that he’d been there all along. Gilles was formerly at Macari and responsible for the Bergen Road. Like coming across that old clipping on Vintage, life always circles back.
Both Joe Macari and Gilles Martin greeted us at Macari to taste sparklers and sweet wines. I was excited to see an ultra brut from Shinn Estate. It was my first Long Island zero dosage, a sparkler with no sugar added which results in a very dry wine. But alas, it was rather disappointing. Gilles and I ended up having a dosage talk. He wanted my opinion on zero dosage and brut nature wines. Even though I’m a big fan of low dosage wines, I think sugar is to wine as salt is to food: it completes or enhances the flavor. You can’t just take the sugar out to force a stylistic point. So I love a low dosage sparkler when it’s perfectly balanced. Not an easy feat, so despite the rising popularity of low-dosage bubblies, few can pull it off well.
Of the sparklers we tasted, I was most taken with Gilles’ 2004 Sparkling Pointe Topaz Imperial Rosé ($33), a discrete and elegant rosé blend of 48% Pinot Noir and 52% Chardonnay.
Few people may know this, but Long Island wines run the gamut from sparkling to dessert wines. There is now a producer dedicated to sparkling wine, Sparkling Pointe. Hot off the press, their new tasting room just opened to the public this past Sunday. And the dessert wines really shine. From this tasting, I especially liked Macari’s 2005 Block E Sauvignon Blanc ($55). For someone without a sweet tooth and who’s big on acidity, I found the texture just right (it has weight but isn’t cloying), and the acidity hits mid-palate, confident and intact. Another hidden sweet gem is Joe Macari’s honey ($12). I’m addicted to its deep, rich flavors. With some lemon and hot water, it’s my home remedy for colds.
And on that sweet note, I’m full of nostalgia for the early days of pouring New York wines at Vintage. I think about how far both New York wines and I have come since then.