Tuesday, November 4, 2008

East Coast Merlot

We picked this bottle up last spring when we visited the Hudson Valley. It's actually a Long Island wine but, Rivendell sells wines from all over New York and we'd been happy with a Cab Franc we had from this producer before.

If you're into trying New York wines, I think this bottle is worth the $10.50 we paid. Do I sound a little hesitant? Okay, the truth is, this isn't a stellar example of varietal character. I got Long Island wine blogger Lenn Thompson's (from Lenndevours.com) take on it: He asked me what vintage it was, and whether the label said "North Fork" on it. I replied that it was a 2004 and it did say "North Fork." He explained that in 2003/04 Palmer had to get a lot of fruit from California because of a poor harvest, and that it was a cool year. He also said the Palmer wines sells for around $20 at the winery. Good to know--I'm glad I consulted him.

So, what we have here is a true North Fork vintage, but from a cool year. Luckily, it wasn't $20, it was $10.50 which is only a few dollars more than you'd pay for a homogenized, mass-produced fermented grape-juice product. Here are the tasting notes:

Palmer 2004 Merlot

ABV: 12.8%
Price: $10.49
Aromas: Cranberry, cherry, smoked meat, barnyard
Flavors: Tart cherry, veg, licorice

Summary: This wine isn't particularly Merlot-esque and I guess the cool 2004 temps are partly to blame for that. It's a little brighter and more vegetal than what you'd find in a typical soft and rounded Merlot. The nose on this wine is a blend of tart red fruit and herbal notes with some barnyard in there as well. On the palate there is quite a lot of cherry: Tart cherry on the front, and canned cherry on the moderate finish with a hint of black licorice that almost goes toward petrol. Good balance of acidity and tannins that mostly carries through to the finish. By the second day, I pick up some tomato on the nose, and some of the tartness and finish has dissipated. It's definitely ready to drink now--some visible oxidation can be seen at the edge in the glass. I haven't had many New York wines, but this seems pretty true to type for the region if not the variety. A solid NY wine for the price.


john witherspoon said...

your tasting notes were very intriguing. Despite the lack of finish non Merlot mouthfeel it sounded like something I would like. And at just over 10 bones, heck I have had a lot worse for more. Problem is, probably can't find it here in Virgnia. :(
Oh well. Nice post B.

Lenn Thompson said...

I wish I could remember which year it was that Palmer had to buy non-local fruit. Sorry about that.

Based on your tasting note...what you're noting as atypical of merlot might just be what is unique about Long Island merlot. You're not going to get the straightforward, plush, soft fruit that you get in Cali versions. Herbs, spice and a little earthy funk are pretty common...especially in cooler years (such as 2004).

When I get you, and the rest of the east coast crew down here for a little reunion, we'll taste a TON of local merlot and I think you'll see what I mean.

john witherspoon said...

Hey Lenn and B
Sounds very similar to a good portion of the Merlots here in Virginia. Lots of dry herb aromas, cherry and more red fruit than dark. Merlot just doesn't get the hang time required for the higher brix to make the "lusher" style. I say most because there are a good handful of VA wineries that can knock out some fuller bodied Merlots. Personally I love a little funk on my merlot.

YES - When is the East Coast reunion??


Taster B said...

Yeah, I can see what you mean Lenn--it has more in common with other NY varietals I've had than with merlots from other areas...

John, I think we may have to take over reunion planning! ;)

Lenn said...

Some wineries are really focusing on some vineyard practices to reduce the herb and/or green notes in their reds lastely (mostly reducing canopy and getting the berries direct sunlight). That, coupled with some hot vintages (05 and 07) have led to a bit more lushness in some wines.

As the the reunion...I'd really love to have you guys come out here. Plus, with the kid, that will make it much more possible. And, LI is half way between VA and MA, right? :)

Taster B said...

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