When you think of the best wines in the world, what region first comes to mind? The North Fork of Long Island, right? Okay, it may not be as renowned as the Loire, for example, but you may be surprised to find out that over 40 wineries call this region home. If you live in the Northeast and drink wine, there’s a good chance you’ve run into a North Fork wine before. Because the region produces such a wide range of different wines, there’s no end to the varieties you can try there.
Living in Boston, it’s relatively easy to snag a Long Island wine, and I got my hands on four from the region: two whites and two reds. Luckily for you, I’ve done the hard, backbreaking work of sipping these wines in the middle of my workday so I can report the 411 to you, responsible reader who may not be able to pass off tasting wine as work. Here’s what I discovered.
Because I am a simple, uncomplicated wine girly who really feels like my destiny is to sit on the beach all day, I, like most of us, love a good Sauvignon Blanc. That’s why I was excited to try Suhru 2020 Sauvignon Blanc. Although it’s definitely not the best Sauv Blanc I’ve ever had, it makes for easy sipping when you just can’t be bothered to open a bottle of bubbly.
On the nose, it’s pure lemon-lime goodness. Maybe a hint of grapefruit if I’m really stretching it, and a touch of pear to round things out. But on the palate, it’s a bit more interesting. It’s quite dry and acidic, and those citrus flavors come through strong. Honestly, I thought it tasted a bit like grown-up Sprite without the bubbles. It’s not the most exciting wine I’ve ever tried, but it’s definitely not a bottle I’d turn down if offered.
I’ll admit that I enjoyed the second white I tried a lot more than the first, perhaps because the flavors were a bit less expected. The first thing I thought when I got a whiff of Lieb Cellars 2020 Pinot Blanc was that the aromas were intensely floral. Notes of rose and a bit of violet with undertones of green apple made me perk up and got me excited to take a sip. When I did, I was surprised at this wine’s tartness, though the finish is quite soft.
That pear made a reappearance on the palate, along with lemongrass and honey. It also had just a bit of a salty, marine quality that made it taste unexpectedly refreshing. Pinot Blanc is a notoriously versatile grape, so I didn’t entirely know what to expect, but I wasn’t disappointed with this easy drinker.
Red blends aren’t usually high on my list of must-try wines, but I thought I’d give the As If 2019 “Spark” Red Blend a taste. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised. A mix of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc, this wine was tarter than I had expected. The aromas of cherry and strawberry were not a shock, but the slight note of jalapeno convinced me I was in for something out of the ordinary.
On the palate, chocolate, plum, and black cherry come to the forefront. This wine saw eight months of oak contact, which is perceptible but not overwhelming. Slightly creamy and silky, I would definitely not describe this blend as overly simplistic. While I’m generally not a huge fan of oak aging (with some notable exceptions), the oakiness in this one isn’t overdone. Since there’s nothing too wild going on, this is a wine I wouldn’t be afraid to open with a group that has divergent tastes.
Of all the wines I tried for this tasting, I think I enjoyed the Macari 2020 Syrah the most. This winery is known for its commitment to responsible farming practices and growing their grapes sustainably. I know I said I didn’t like a lot of oak, but this one is actually pretty oaky… and it’s great, perhaps because of its intense fruitiness. It has those rich, smoky, black fruit flavors you’d expect from a Syrah, but it’s not the big, bold red you may expect. Medium-plus acidity, lighter body and notes of white pepper give it a zip that’s undeniably fun. I like that this bottle was a little something unexpected.
Samantha Maxwell is a food and wine writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter.