Have you ever gone past a place along your normal trip to wherever you may be going, and pass the same landmark time and time again, take a look over at it and continue on down the road?
Have you ever been so close to something that you have never visited because it is just there and you will get to it sooner or later?
Have you ever read reviews and notes about a place that is on your radar but neglected checking on the place yourself?
Well I have and I am ashamed to say that I have not tasted Roanoke Vineyards wines since they opened back in 2004. I spent many summers out in Baiting Hollow as a kid not too far from the tasting room. Living in Rocky point, I am a mere 13 miles to the tasting room. And sadly on all of my trips out east, I always travel past Roanoke Vineyards….usually zipping right by.
Well this will not happen anymore. Thanks to a wonderful 2005 Merlot and a fantastic tasting room personality.
My visit started with a tweet, on twitter to Adam Ehmer, Roanoke vineyards tasting room guru. It went something like this…
First a little history about Roanoke Vineyards, it is owned by Richard Pisacano and his wife Soraya. Richard has been tending to vines on Long Island since the late 1977. He is from Huntington, so he is a true Long Islander. He has been the vineyard manager at Wölffer Estates since 1997. He has been working closely with Roman Roth, the winemaker at Wölffer Estates. Richard purchased his first vineyard in 1984 and began planting his own grapes. He started to sell them to local wineries and also made a small lot of his own wine he produced. He also produced a small amount of wine that local restaurants could buy and sell as their own brand in their restaurants. It was in 1997 when Richard joined Roman Roth at Wölffer Estates. He has been working closely with Roman Roth, the winemaker at Wölffer Estates ever since.
In 2004 Roanoke Vineyards’ Tasting Room opened on Sound Avenue in Riverhead. The 10 acre property was designated with 7 acres which are dedicated to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.
This is from Roanoke Vineyards website; it explains the direction and the type of wine they make at the vineyard:
At Roanoke, our goal is to make the highest quality, limited-production, hand-crafted, ultra-premium artisanal wines possible. We want our wines to express both the singular characteristics of our unique appellation (subtlety, refinement, elegance, culinary companionability), and the long-standing and legendary characteristics of the great wine traditions we admire (balance, harmony, smooth muscularity, earthiness, rusticity).
So on to the tastings; I agreed to meet Adam at 11am on that Monday and as it would be, we both pulled into the Roanoke Vineyards at the same time. It took a little time to get into the tasting room since Adam had to jiggle the lock to get us in, but it was worth the wait.
It was nice to walk into a tasting room and be the only person there, Adam was able to give me some information and tell me about what Roanoke is all about and then I was able to taste what Roanoke is all about.
First up Adam started me with some of Roanoke 2008 Chardonnay. Now, you must be thinking, “Didn’t you say that Roanoke only grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot?” Well yes I did, but this Chardonnay comes from a planting of grapes that Richard planted just down the road on Sound Avenue back in 1983. It retails in the tasting room for $18.00.
I tried this Chardonnay 2 ways. Just off chill at about 55 degrees and also at chill at about 48 degrees. And there was a big difference. I have never had this done to me in a tasting room and it may not happen often, but if you have the chance try it. It is quite interesting and fun. You may not even realize you are tasting the same wine!
On the nose, at 55 I was getting some apple and some fresh cut grass. There was also a toasty note that came from the small percentage that is in barrel ferment, most is all stainless steel. I tasted some buttery notes along with some apple. It had a small amount of acidity, and was in great balance.
On the flip side, the one at 48 degrees was amazing. I almost thought I was drinking a Sauvignon Blanc. There was the interesting citrus and tropical note on the nose. The taste was even better; there was this zinging acidity that was really cleaned my palate. I was also picking up some citrus zest.
We then went on to taste Wolffer Estate Pearle. The advantage that you have by visiting Roanoke Vineyards is the opportunity to taste, on occasion some of Wolffer Estate wines and some of Roman Roth’s own, Grapes of Roth. I was really digging this Chardonnay from Wolffer. It had great balance and wonderful aromatics. It was lush and toasty with just the right amount of fruit to balance this wine and make it one of my favorite Chardonnay.
I then tasted Roanoke vineyards 2008 De Rosa Rose. This is an off dry rose that is a blend of 55% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Chardonnay. Most rose’s that I have tried; the first fruit I pick up is strawberry. This was a little different; I was picking up raspberry and a hint of peach. There was this cool minerality about it that I just really enjoyed. It brought me back to the summer. Very nice and enjoyable and at $16, this is a great value.
Through the tasting Adam keep me entertained, helped customers find the right vineyard, offered suggestions and helped wine club members with their shipments and purchases. We chatted for a bit about where we were from, what we are doing and where we are going. Adam is a personality that fits so well in a tasting room.
Next up was Roanoke Vineyards 2007 Marco Tulio. This is named after Soraya father, released on father’s day 2009 and it is the first release of the much talked about 2007 vintage. It is a blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Cabernet Franc, 9% Merlot. A perfect blend of all of the fruit that is grown at Roanoke vineyards. On the nose I was picking up some wonderful cherry and raspberry notes with some earthy fresh green herbal notes. The taste was quite different. I was picking up some Blackberry and plum flavors with a wonderful rocky minerality. The best way to describe this wine…It smelled like Cabernet Franc, but tasted like Cabernet Sauvignon. Retailing at $24, it could become my new go to cellar wine for that special occasion.
Next up is my favorite berry, Cabernet Franc. This is Roanoke Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Franc release. A 2007 Gabby’s is in the works and that should be a killer. But this 2007 was bursting with alot of wonderful franc fantasticness. On the nose there was alot of Cherry and raspberry and plum. I was picking up some bell pepper and some fresh-cut green herb. There was a touch of vanilla in the glass as well. I could not keep my nose out of the glass. When I taste this it was thirst quenching and mouth-watering all at the same time, if that makes any sense at all. All of the elements that I was picking up in the glass, I was getting on my palate, with a kiss of chocolate at the end. It had a nice long finish that ended with a little fresh ground peppercorn. There was some great acidity and nice tannins that really the fruit shine through. It was well balanced. This is a wine and it kinda was like a teenager just passing their road test. It would do well to decant this and I am sure that it will hold up a few days in. I will let you know, because I picked up a bottle of this to try it out and see what happens. It is retailing in the tasting room for $34.
Next on the list was Roanoke Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. I am not a big Cabernet Sauvignon fan, and it could be because I don’t drink enough of it and is not my first choice. But this is one that I enjoyed very much; I could not get my nose out of the glass. ON the nose I was picking up some wonderful dark berries and some current. It was a little woody with a sweet vanilla aroma. There was some smokiness to it too. The taste was even more intoxicating; big fruit, some chocolate covered cherry notes, grilled plum, blackberry and some boysenberries. There was a little bit of a rosemary note to it that I liked along with an earthy minerality that was reminiscent of slate. This is in the tasting room at $40.00.
If you think that Adam ended with this, your wrong, he happened to pull out the big one for me, well maybe not for me, but he just happened to have one lone bottle on hand. Roanoke Vineyards 2005 Merlot. It was retailing for $45.00 It is sold out and it is too bad. And if you happen to have one, hold on to it. It will be worth it. This Merlot receive 89 score from Wine Spectator, and this was the notes from the blind tasting: “The Roanoke Vineyards 2005 Merlot certainly testifies to the quality of the vintage, as well as to the talent of the team that produced it”
Adam poured this for me as we took a walk to look at the dormant vines. On the nose I was picking up some wonderful red berry. A touch of licorice was also in the glass. It was soft and luscious. The palate opened up with some wonderful blue berry and raspberry notes. There were soft supple tannins that rounded this wine out. This was awesome.
As Adam and I walked the vines and he showed me Gabby’s block and the other blocks, I continued to find new exciting elements in this wine. There was alot happening. He told me about the events that happen at Roanoke and what plans are in store for Roanoke, but my nose kept going back to the glass. It was truly one of my favorite Merlot’s. I am very sad to see it sold out, but I will always remember this tasting.
My tasting was just about over, and about ready to head on home. I picked up a bottle of the 2007 Cabernet Franc and thanked Adam for his hospitality. I had wished I had the opportunity to meet Richard and thank him for the fine wine he is producing. But I am sure that time will come.
As I said farewell to Adam, I told him that I’ll tweet ya later, (something folks on tweeter say when they say goodbye). I also have learned my lesson. Don’t take things for granted. All this time I missed on stopping by Roanoke, I missed out on some of Gabby’s 2006 Cabernet Franc and some 2005 Merlot. This is something that I will make sure never happens again.
A few weeks later, Adam tweeted that gift boxes were being prepared with Gabby’s 2006 Cabernet Franc. I told him to hold one, and I would be out soon. That was Saturday, just after Christmas. I gave myself a Christmas gift that I will not use for a while. And when I do, you will find it here.