Events Return @ Roanoke
Beginning next month our event schedule resumes after a long hiatus. Dates and times are being determined right now, but look for all of our staff on the upcoming 2022 schedule. There will of course be tastings, but also discussions in the vineyard about terroir, crop yields, and our secrets to growing stellar fruit. Our new members night will also return (twice!), offering newcomers an opportunity to get to know the vineyard while tasting a selection of library wines and pre-releases. Watch our "Happenings" page for complete information.
The 2022 futures offering was a smash hit, and we'd like to thank everyone who participated. As most of our members know, the production of many of our wines is very limited, and the futures offering is your best chance to stock your cellar at the best pricing. We make nine estate wines that are only available to our members, and these are offered either as components in our quarterly wine club portfolios, and sometimes only during the annual futures program. Watch your Roanoke Vineyards emails for up to the minute information on availability of these gems.
Tasting the Future
Scott Sandell, extremely late winter 2022
In advance of our 2022 futures offering, we bottled barrel samples of four of our estate reds. The idea was that our members could take the wines home and taste them thoughtfully, out of their own glasses, and with one of their favorite menus. While futures are always exciting, having an idea of what you're investing in is reassuring.
Below are my notes and observations after tasting the four barrel samples on several occasions. In each case the wine had an hour to breathe, and with each passing minute, all of the wines seemed to unspool, open up, and show a lot more of what's ahead with time. The 2020 growing season was wonderfully short of humidity, disease pressure, and rain. Near perfect. What made the vintage even better was that, except for the single acre of Merlot, our wine club members harvested the entire vineyard on one day. Late in the day, sporting face masks, and with their boots covered in Havens Loam dirt, the club members made The Hill field blend right on the vineyard lawn. It was a heroic effort we should all celebrate with a toast of . . . The Hill 2020!
Roanoke Vineyards The Hill 2020 (@50% Cabernet Sauvignon and @50% Cabernet Franc from the Twelve Rows block)
I am a huge proponent of field blends for a couple reasons. First off, I feel wines are a creative statement, and who better to make that statement than the grower or people closely involved with the vineyard. Some years you may make an odd wine, but it would be your odd wine, and your creative statement. Secondly, the fact that the two varietals have an opportunity to harmonize even before fermentation occurs allows a seamless blending of flavors, which even at this point is apparent in The Hill. Harmony is a key element here.
As the wine opened up it became more floral, but at no time did one of the varietals step into the lead position. There is balance, and somewhat surprisingly at this point, the tannins are already softening up. One wants to stay away from big sweeping statements, but this is especially complex right now, and I’m guessing that aspect won’t change as it ages. Making wine that will peak in ten years is much like deciding to become a Christmas tree farmer; you’re betting people will still celebrate Christmas, and if they do, that they won’t opt for a plastic tree. In the end you’re casting all hope of your future to your own optimism, and in the case of The Hill 2020, we can all be optimistic.
Roanoke Vineyards 2020 Gabby’s Cabernet Franc (90% Cabernet Franc from the Twelve Rows block, 10% estate Merlot)
From the first sip you knew exactly what this was and where it came from. There is no other Cab Franc on Long Island that has this silkiness and lithe quality. 2020 was an excellent year, and that means the Cab Francs will tend to be bigger. There is significant depth, but it’s not weighty like the 2007 or 2013 where food pairing became problematic. The 2020 is perfectly balanced, and a very elegant statement. This will be the first of the four wines that is ready for prime time, and I think will find a wildly enthusiastic audience.
Roanoke Vineyards The Poet 2020 (100% estate Cabernet Franc)
Of the four, this wine is the most fun at the moment. Why Roanoke's Cabernet Franc evades the raspy bell pepper found in other Long Island Cab Francs is something we could talk about for years. It may be terroir, but I think it’s more than that, and probably just the close attention we pay to the vines. The Poet has a chewy quality that some of the bigger California wines have, and sports multiple layers that play well together. People who liked the 2018 Poet (which was a blend of Cab Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cab Franc) will equate the youth and vibrancy of that wine with its 2020 cousin. Once released, this wine won't stay on the shelves.
Roanoke Vineyards 2020 Lightning Fields (100% estate Cabernet Sauvignon)
Cabernet Sauvignon is what sets RV apart from every other producer on Long Island.
While we can make Merlot that is plushy and over the top, and Cabernet Franc that is of the quality of Samur or Bordeaux, growing really good Cab Sauvignon is our parlor trick. Much of the success comes from the heavy lifting done in the vineyard, and this seems to be enhanced by fermentation in open-top stainless steel vats. At this point with at least six more months ahead in the barrel, Lightning Fields is a bit tight and requires some breathing time. But once it starts to open up even a little, the cherry waves prove almost surfable, and the depth becomes apparent. Remember, this is unfinished. If you’re familiar with how wines develop, shape shift, and sometimes prove as moody as a teenager, you can see the solidity and intrigue ahead in this wine. I would bet that in 2025 this is going to be beyond reproach.
If you've tasted the 2020 barrel samples this winter, send us a note! We'd love to hear your thoughts!
The 2022 Spring Members Portfolio
March may roar in like a lion, but all three of the wines in your spring member’s portfolio will help take the chill off. Each of these wines reflects a different vintage and a real spectrum of varietals, which should make your experience with them that much more fun.
Roanoke Vineyards 2020 Rhyme and Meter Chardonnay
After finding a new source for lovely Chardonnay, we decided to redirect this wine just a bit. There is a trend toward fresher Chardonnays, and while this can be a good move, we’ve found all too often the essential characteristics of the varietal are lost to acidity. We wanted freshness and vibrancy, but refused to give up the joy of ripe melon, peach, and our favorite tropical fruits. This vintage was fermented in steel, moved to French oak before bottling. While beautiful now, in a year you’ll find its Burgundian qualities beginning to shine.
Pair with grilled Norwegian salmon on a sliced Bermuda onion, followed by an arugula salad served with Humboldt Fog.
Roanoke Vineyards 2019 Marco Tulio Red Blend
The exact blend of Marco Tulio changes every year, but the goal remains making a wine that champions the North Fork. This vintage is 68.2% Merlot, and 31.8% Cabernet Franc. The Merlot provides depth and fresh plum, while the Cab Franc brings a spicy note with a delightful cherry finish.
Enjoy this wine now through 2024, and don’t hesitate to serve it with something off the grill.
Roanoke Vineyards 2017 Prime Number™
Blend percentages in any given wine are extraneous details when the evening is lit by candle, and romance fills your glass. That said, the ’17 Prime Number calls evenly on all three of the varietals in our vineyard blocks (33% Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc), delivering a wonderfully clean and fresh wine. At this stage the Cabernet Sauvignon is speaking just a bit louder with its raspberry and boysenberry dazzles.
For best results, pair with a fresh baguette and a cloth-wrapped Montgomery Cheddar, or go French with a Gruyére. Drink now for a life affirming experience, or hold if you’re under forty.
Since we first tasted the wines of Raj Paar we've been wild about his efforts in the vineyards of Oregon and the Santa Rita Hills. Raj and his partner Sashi Moorman are making fantastic wines under their Evening Land and Domaine de la Cote labels. If you're a wine geek, The Sommelier's Atlas of Taste; A field guide to the great wines of Europe (Ten Speed Press) is required equipment, as it details the travels of Raj and writer Jordan Mackay through the best vineyards of Europe. Their interviews with growers and winemakers not only makes for great reading, but details how nuanced terroir can be. You can order the book here.
Spring in the Vineyard
At this time of the year romance is a little hard to find in the seven and one half
miles of vines that make up our estate vineyard.
The vines have been pruned back with just three canes rising into the sky. But it
won't be long before the first buds break out, the lush canopy returns, and the
vines begin to flower with the promise of another vintage.
Later this spring you'll want to join our Vineyard Master, George Fernandez, for
his program about crop yield and how it makes all the difference in the wines.
The photograph on the right illustrates how severe the pruning we do is, and also
shows our love for growth under the vines. Roanoke does not use glyphosate in
our estate vineyard, and always opts for an organic approach. This not only results
in a healthy vineyard, but also keeps our team healthy, and prevents the terroir from
being disguised or impaired. The undergrowth is key to controlling the amount of
water the vines get. If the weather is wet, we'll let the weeds grow, which pulls
water from the vines and keeps the fruit concentration. If we hit a dry spell, the
weeds will be cut back so the vines don't need to compete for water. It's a lot of
work, but well worth the time.
Want to start your own vineyard? If you're lucky enough to be at the vineyard
shortly after we prune, we'll let you take some cuttings home. Put them in a tall
vase with plenty of water, and find a sunny spot. In about five weeks you'll
have budding vines that you can plant in your garden! Make sure the forecast is
for warm weather ahead before you plant, and give them a lot of water. Your
home vineyard will flourish, and return year after year. Grapes? We can help
you with that.