Masters of our wine universe, George Fernandez and Willy Martinez, in the Roanoke Cabernet Sauvignon Block, August 18th, 2022
The Fall 2022 Member's Portfolio
The change of seasons brings us closer to the harvest. Between now and then there will be much time spent worrying about storms, flocks of hungry birds, and hours bent over temperature and humidity graphs while the Weather Channel drones on in the background. Honestly, it’s all very exciting, but not for the faint of heart or risk averse. We love the vineyard work, and we can control a lot of things with smart techniques and elbow grease. However the things we can’t control make this job truly exhilarating. This moment is a great time to commemorate the end of the summer, and to reflect on new memories and new friends. The fall member’s portfolio offers three wines worthy of any celebration. All three of these are ageworthy, perhaps most notably the 2019 Gabby’s Cabernet Franc, which will continue to improve through at least 2029 to 2035. If you’re not thinking that far ahead, enjoy it tonight, because it’s fabulous right now. We’re hoping you’ll join us for the 2022 harvest in October, and that the experience will make your wines that much more enjoyable. As always, we’d like to thank you for being a Roanoke member.
2019 Roanoke Vineyards Gabby’s Cabernet Franc
This wine is a celebration of a truly remarkable vintage, and absolutely worthy of the Gabby’s name. Most of our members will recall that the Twelve Rows block of Cabernet Franc was developed and farmed by Vineyard Master Gabby Pisacano through the 2015 vintage. Gabby produced ten Cabernet Francs beginning in 2006, that redefined the varietal and exceeded all expectations on Long Island. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2019 was the hottest summer on record (only just surpassed by 2020), which combined with a hurricane-free autumn, and remarkably low rainfall during the growing season, made for perfect conditions. The 2019 Gabby’s Cabernet Franc is awash with riotous cherry flavors that linger long into the mile-long finish. There is remarkable poise and balance despite the intensity, and these qualities make this wine the perfect pairing for adventurous menus. Don’t imagine this wine will fade from your memory any time soon; it is as tenacious as its namesake. 93.5% Cabernet Franc from the Twelve Rows block, 5.5% Merlot, and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon.
2020 Roanoke Vineyards > (Greater Than)
2020 was an excellent vintage for all three varietals in this quintessential North Fork blend, and we think you’ll agree after tasting it. Perfect at home with an elegant risotto on a chilly night, or on the deck with your friends in the summer. This wine will remind you of a fresh Briermere cherry tart, with a hint of high altitude Colombian espresso on the finish. 67% Cabernet Franc, 19% Merlot, and 14% Cabernet Sauvignon.
2021 Roanoke Vineyards Site Specific™ Rosé
There are lots of rosés out there, but if you want to make one that’s different you’ll need pristine fruit, and you’ll want to put the wine in French oak to give it additional complexity and depth. We bled our open-top vats of estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, then moved the wine directly to barrels for a long winter nap. This is a wine you can age, assuming you have the patience, or enjoy right now with just about any menu you can think of.
The Summer 2022 Member's Portfolio
The season has finally changed. The farm stands are open, the fish are running, and there’s the opportunity to once again be outside (without your coat!). We’ve assembled the summer member’s portfolio to suit the al fresco dinners you’ll have with friends, the times you’ll spend on the beach, and the celebration of your skills grilling fresh fish, steak, and the first asparagus of the season.
The 2021 Roanoke Vineyards Rosé will be the talk of many dinners on the beach. This vintage the blend includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and some Sauvignon Blanc that will keep your attention. This is a Provencal-inspired wine, with beautifully balanced flavors and acidity; perfect for heirloom tomato toast, with burrata, fresh basil, and spring garlic.
Our 2021 Roanoke Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc is exactly what you’ll want with Peconic Bay oysters or soft shell crab from Mecox Bay. Balance is key in any wine, but in a Sauvignon Blanc acidity needs to find equilibrium with flavor. It’s true that we’re going to be the vineyard that goes for saturation in this varietal (think: apricot, summer melon, and gooseberry), but this is a complete and well tailored wine.
Chardonnay comes in a lot of styles these days, however The Wild! for 2021 remains a crisp, stainless steel-fermented, wild yeast beauty. Indigenous yeast can mean some residual sugar, however this wine is dry as a bone and refreshing as ever. The unusual Muscat clone we use suggests notes of toasted pine nuts that harmonize with ripe melon and citrus flavors. Grilled Monkfish with poached lobster would make an excellent pairing.
Chances are good that at some point over the summer you’ll fire up the grill on a cool evening. Whether you’re grilling leeks, zucchini, or steak, the 2019 Roanoke Vineyards Single Acre Merlot will make the evening. With just one acre of planted Merlot, there’s only enough for the wine club, and it’s a real treat. The silky 2019 vintage is awash in Bing cherry, plum, and Madagascar vanilla, but that’s just now. Here’s a wine that will continue to improve for ten years or more (assuming you have patience and self discipline!). Drink now, or any time before 2053.
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 2019 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 Parr 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.