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The Harvest at Roanoke Vineyards

One of the things we think is critically important is staying agile, and for this vintage doing so paid off big time. 


Roanoke's harvest took place in three stages. October 23rd was a sunny and warm day that started with great numbers in our Merlot block. A skeleton crew pulled beautiful fruit off the vines in just two hours. By 2:30 the berries were destemmed, had passed through the sorting table, and placed in one of our stainless steel open-top fermenters. The fruit was absolutely pristine, and it seemed like the perfect moment to bring it in. 


Then . . . it rained . . . for three days. The only calm person in the room was Richie Pisacano, who had been in this situation before, and had complete faith he could pull a rabbit out of his hat, which he did. 


Our sandy Havens Loam soil allowed most of the rain to drain quickly, and the healthy crop of weeds under the vines soaked up whatever moisture was still in the ground. Brisk twenty knot winds blowing through the rows helped as well, aiding dehydration. On October 29th we invited our members to help harvest 23 rows of Cabernet Franc, which they did with great enthusiasm. Celebrity chef Sean McClellan was on hand to grill lunch, and by 2 PM the fruit was en route to the winery. We had hoped to have the members make The Hill field blend, but the weather report for the following week called for six days of brilliant sun. This is a game of risk and reward, so we opted to wait. 


On November 3rd we did a random sample of Brix readings from the Hill block and the Twelve Rows block. This botrytis-free test read 26 Brix, and while we thought the balance of hanging fruit was probably a couple degrees less, it did indicate waiting on this fruit was smart. Early on November 4th a very small team picked both remaining blocks, then crafted The Hill. 


The Hill has historically been even measures of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from the Twelve Rows, however the intensity of the Cab Sauvignon suggested a bigger wine could be built with a 66% to 33% Cab Franc ratio. Now with this wine soaking on the skins, it's even more evident this was a good move. Patience! Risk! That's what we do!


At 8:30 PM on the night of the 4th, our vineyard master, George Fernandez hung up his sorting table gloves, and the harvest was complete. Many thanks to our members who came out, got muddy, scratched by vines, and woke up with a sore back the next day. And our sincere thanks to everyone on our team who got up early, and stayed up late in an effort to make this vintage truly great. Check out some photographs from this year's harvest below.


















































The Fall Portfolio


The Roanoke Vineyards fall portfolio is one of the most diverse selections we’ve ever released. The four wines are wildly different from one another, each arriving with a good story, and each asking for a little attention to your glass to fully appreciate. This wide angle selection wonderfully illustrates our scope and vision. 


Let’s begin with the 2020 Roanoke Vineyards Site Specific Rosé, which pushes the limits of the genre. The world is full of rosé, and because the expectations for any rosé are very specific and rather limited, it’s an easy bullseye. If the wine is cold enough, not too sweet, and vaguely pink, it’s considered a home run. Past that, none of us ask too many questions, but that’s the wrong way to look at wine.


Several years ago Roanoke trademarked the term “site specific” for a particular reason. We know that good wine can express not only a sense of place, very unique flavors and characteristics, but also the philosophies of the grower. This wine is built from estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, that, like all our estate wines, was grown without herbicides and with an organic approach focused on the health of the vineyard, the health of the planet, and your health. And because the Cab Sauvignon brings such depth and complexity to the table, this wine really benefits from a little aging. That’s not to say that you won’t find it a lovely companion to tonight’s dinner, but that it will be best appreciated on a special occasion at some point in the future. This is the richest, cleanest, and most beautiful rosé on this side of the Atlantic.


Historically, Merlot from Long Island’s North Fork has had a very singular flavor profile that comes from its maritime climate and Havens Loam soil. The Roanoke Vineyards 2018 Merlot shows none of that, and could easily be mistaken as a wine from another region entirely. This wine is bright, fresh, and loaded with strawberry, sage, cinnamon, and tarragon.  The color is deceptively light for a wine of this depth, however there’s balance and a radiant acidity that will make food pairings a breeze. This is a young wine, but this is the time to drink it!


The Wild! from 2020 is everything we look for from this particular wine. Technically, this is a site specific wine, coming from Steve Mudd’s easternmost vineyard planted in 1982, and really showcasing the Muscat clone Chardonnay. If you’re not a fan of big, barrel fermented Chardonnays, this crisp, stainless steel Chardonnay will speak to you. There’s an abundance of melon, citrus, and fruit cocktail, making this wine its own ruckus party. Because this is a wild fermented wine, each year can vary widely, however the 2020 is a wild success.


Just to the west of the vineyard’s tasting room are the twenty three long rows of Cabernet Franc, where the 2019 Site Specific Cabernet Franc grew under the attentive eye of our vineyard master, George Fernandez. Much like the Gabby’s Cab Franc that grows just to the east, this wine abounds with Bing cherry flavors that are stunningly pristine, and free from pyrazines that can send Cabernet Franc into a bell pepper tailspin. Of the varietals we grow, Cabernet Franc is the most susceptible to wet weather, but the 2019 arrives in your portfolio as a solid cruiserweight, ready to take on a fresh Montauk tuna steak, or Wagyu steak tartare. 95.1% estate Cabernet Franc, and 4.9% estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Unequivocally, this is our best Cabernet Franc, ever, and the best value in our portfolio.   


Scott Sandell

Roanoke Vineyards


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Just a few photographs from the harvest!


Wine club director, Jennie Spencer shows us how it's done! Below Jen is Paul Demato, who took a day off of work to work his fingers to the bone in the vineyard. Matt and Deb Sforza are seen next to our celebrity chef, Super Sean McClellan. Steve Pieffer and Paul Vogel were helped by Kevin Short, as they tossed baskets for The Hill. Our Kikka Harrison says "this beats being a banker!" Lorraine and Don Romard sailed their way to the vineyard. Mario Fasano's first harvest proved super by all counts. And last, but not least, wine educator Gloria Frazee is shown "testing" the Cabernet Sauvignon. Watch for more harvest photographs here and in the Roanoke emails!