And on the sixth day, it rained (and rained and rained and rained and rained). My visit to Long Island began and ended on a soggy note (heck we endured an entire waterlogged orchestra). Thankfully Lenn was able to successfully skipper us to our first tasting appointment with Macari Vineyards.
Psst. Macari Vineyards employs a number of "natural" practices. Did you know that? Neither did I - until about half-way through my visit with Alexandra Macari, who heads the winery with her husband, Joe. You won’t see the words, “Organic!” or “Biodynamic” on any of Macari’s bottles. I get the feeling that Macari believes in growing grapes as naturally as possible, without relying on these practices as a marketing crutch. They want their wines to stand on their own.
Alex is proud as punch at the reception Macari wines have received in international competitions. So naturally I asked if they had plans to expand Macari’s Long Island vineyards. She answered with an emphatic no. She and her family are simply passionate about sharing their wines with wine lovers around the world. I get the feeling that Macari won’t be Long Island’s little secret for much longer.
And now onto the good part - the wine. Here are a few highlights from the tasting.
The first wine I sampled was Macari Sauvignon Blanc, 2004 ($16). It’s springtime in the glass. Light, delicate scents of herbs, mineral, and peaches served as a nice little intro to tangy flavors of grapefruit and peach. In my opinion, this is how young Sauvignon Blanc should be done.
I sampled both the 2004 & 2005 (not yet released) vintages of Macari’s “Early Wine” ($13) - a style borrowed from Austrian wine tradition. The 2004 vintage was exceedingly pleasant, filled with scents of pink grapefruit, flowers, and honey. In the mouth, it started off ever-so-slightly sweet and then finished fresh & crisp. The 2005 vintage was much more honeyed on the nose, with apricot and peach scents. I also noticed a slight hint of petrol (which made me think the wine may contain Riesling). As I swished the ’05 in my mouth, I detected slightly more sweetness along with a creamy mouthfeel. This little number is not quite yet ready for release, but I expect it to be next spring & summer’s perfect picnic basket companion. Oh, and did I mention that Macari’s early wine is all Chardonnay? I would never have guessed that. Chardonnay is indeed the chameleon grape.
With the Merlot Reserve 2001 ($26), we climbed a few bars on the swank-o-meter. This aint no fruitbomb. It offers up scents of cedar, mushroom, and black cherry. In the mouth the Merlot feels silky smooth and possesses soft, chewy tannins. I was most impressed that this wine offered so much flavor and structure without clubbing me over the head with giant alcohol. It was medium-bodied and produced a lengthy finish without excessive heat. Drink this and then try to tell me you don’t like Merlot (which, by the way, I usually don’t).
Let’s conclude with the grape, which I believe represents Long Island’s terroir, Cabernet Franc. Macari’s 2003 Cabernet Franc ($24) strikes an impressive balance between “delicate wine” and “structured/layered wine.” This Cab Franc introduces itself with subtle scents of black cherry mated to more exotic aromas of olive and sweet spices. I scribbled in my tasting notes that this wine offers, “evolving, enveloping flavors.” When I open my next bottle, I plan on spending the evening with it and seeing just what evolves in my glass. This is an excellent wine that is both unique and very food-friendly.
Macari’s wines fit perfectly into the middle price range niche. For $15-$30 you’ll likely have a difficult time finding wine that offers this much character and quality. The next time you find yourself in one of these stores, pick up a bottle or two of Macari. I’m certain you’ll find them compelling and very likeable.