Recently I met with Les Howard, wine maker at Pindar vineyards in Peconic, NY. I have tried to get out and visit with him for a while and catch up with him and see what has happened in the vineyard and in the cellar for the 2009 vintage.
I was there not too long ago for a Demystifying Mythology demonstration where those that attended had the opportunity to bend your own Bordeaux style wine. Following the day, I told Les that I would be out soon. Well, as things would have it, soon became later.
However, when I did get the chance to catch up with Les and talk about the 2009 vintage and taste some of the 2009 grapes from barrel, we had a great conversation about wine and about the vintage and about what Pindar Vineyards has in store for future releases.
Les is a fantastic person. He has a presence about him that is warm, inviting and passionate. He is soft spoken and mild mannered. I could not ever imagine him getting angry. When Les speaks, I find myself holding on to every word. Moreover, his descriptions are remarkable and his palate is unmatched.
So, we began our tastings walking around the steel tanks and tasting through different Chardonnay’s. Some will be for Pindar Vineyards Peacock, some will be for Sunflower, some will be used in sparkling wine, and some will go into blends. He was still fine-tuning them but they were all tasty. Some still had a bit o a yeasty note as they were still going through fermentation, but every single lot I tastes showed promise.
We then moved outside and tasted some of Pindar’s Sauvignon Blanc, Pindar the son, not the vineyard. He has a block that he tends to. Les offered me a taste. Pop! It was all there; Juicy and tasty, tropical and floral with zinging acidity. Sauvignon Blanc from the 2009 vintage from across the Island will be a winner, this just cemented it.
We then tasted pinot meunier, this goes into Pindar’s Vineyards Cuvee Rare sparkling wine. It was very interesting to taste this prior to it going through fermentation and Méthode Champenoise, the process of making Champagne.
Les and I then walked over the Pindar vineyards warehouse. This is where they house their tanks and barrels. During our walk, over Les and I talked more about the 2009 vintage and how devastating it was; they lost alot of crop. The gray June, where the sun never seemed to shine through, hurt not only Pindar Vineyards, but it hurt alot on the North Fork. However, in the same sentence, he talked about how the fruit that was left was excellent. He talked about the low yields producing prime fruit, which turned into great juice that is slowly turning into quality wine.
Les, also told me how Pindar, the vineyard, did a majority of their harvesting by hand. A major task considering how large their land is. I would guess that this was the most that they have ever harvested by hand. It seemed that every barrel we went to Les said that this block or this varietal was harvested by hand. Les was happy that they were able to hand harvest and because of the hand harvesting and some hand sorting in some sections, the quality and the taste of the wine is reflected. I am sure it was a backbreaking process, I remembered doing it myself, but in the end, the results are worth the labor you put into it. I hope this year I will be able to sneak away and give Les and the crew a chance to harvest some fruit.
As we walk around the barrel room, we tasted through various barrels from different blocks across Pindar Vineyard of the 2009 vintage. I am going to let you know about the different wines we tasted and some of my thoughts on them. There was no rhyme or reason for the tasting; we just went through them as we walked. Pindar, the son, joined us for this part, but he was in and out tending to matters of the vineyard. The reds will not be bottled for at least another year, while the whites will be bottled soon.
Cabernet Sauvignon: Hung on the vines until the end of November, most of the leaves fell off. Les let this hang for as long as he could. The wine had some coffee and tobacco leaf notes with some blackberry and grilled plum. Ultra tannic and young. Has alot of potential and needs alot of time.
Malbec: Very nice! Tannins were chewy, but the fruit was right up front. I was getting some spice and earthy notes as well.
Merlot: Solid. Juicy, smooth and balanced. The tannins again were chewy, but there was a perfect amount of acidity. I would have taken a bottle of this home right away
Cabernet Franc: We tasted through a few different blocks here and the one block P6 was the stand out. Incredibly flavorful with ripe Cherry and raspberry, with minty herbal notes. Had a cobbler aroma to it too. This was my favorite tasting of the day at Pindar. I begged for a Barrel Reserve bottling of this one. And to think, this was in the barrel for about 6 months!
We then went back and tasted through some other 2009 Whites.
Viognier: I love the 2008. Therefore, I was expecting something just like it. What I got was something better. Loads of white flowers up front. Some melon and apple wrapped around those white flowers. The mouth feel was more velvety and the flavors were more pronounced. I cannot wait for this to go into bottle. This Viognier will be a limited production, just as the 2008 was, so expect it to be gone shortly after release.
Riesling: Les firsts ferment the Riesling they harvest. After, from the grapes they harvest, they then also make a sweeter, more concentrated wine from those same grapes and ferment them separately. It is a process that I would love to watch, but they make their Riesling with some of the concentrated, desert wine like wine that adds the sweetness to a Riesling. They bring up the Residual Sugar with concentrated Riesling juice. They do not add sugar as a sweetener. The Riesling alone was delicious. Thirst quenching and plate cleansing razor sharp acidity that was showing some tropical notes along with some pear and apple. A very delicious wine itself. The super sweet concentrated wine was very fun to try; it had an “ice wine” like quality. It was syrupy and thick. With loads of dried pineapple and apricot, but it had some mild acidity. Blending these two will be the challenge to make a Riesling that will be balanced and not too sweet. Les will get it right.
After our tasting, Les invited me back to the tasting room to finish the day tasting some 2007 Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and some Port style wine. You will see reviews of the 2007 red here soon, but it was fun to finish the day with Les and some Cabernet Port.
I really enjoy spending time with Les. He is one of my favorite wine makers. Growing up on Long Island, Les has a real feel for the Long Island and cares about the Long Island. Because of this, he cares about his wine. There is alot of wine that Les works with and makes blends and bottles. Les takes his time with each barrel and tank to make sure it is the best wine possible. He puts as much care and attention into all of his wine that he makes, whether it be Autumn Gold or Cabernet Franc.
I cannot wait for the opportunity to one-day work with Les in the lab, blending wine. Something I am so intrigued by and very interested in. I hope that this year, if the baby allows, I will be able to give a hand to Les and Pindar and help with the harvest this year.
Thanks again to Les and Pindar for the opportunity to taste the unreleased wine and give me the opportunity to bring you the exciting and tasty things happening at Pindar Vineyards.