John Leo has a cult following as a winemaker out on the North Fork. That is my honest opinion. He is a consulting winemaker for Premium Wine Group in Mattituc; the winemaker at Clovis Point Vineyards and now he has his own wine in bottle, Leo Family Cellars.
John Leo has been in the wine industry for years now, originally from the Hudson Valley. It all started for John in the wine industry in the early 80’s. But it started on here back in 1994 when the John and his family moved here to Long Island. Working with various people he landed a job with Pellegrini and eventually wound up with Russel Hearn, winemaker at Pellegrini, and owner of Premium Wine Group a custom crush company in Mattituck.
In 1999 he started to get into wine production when he was allowed to tend to 2 acres of vines in the hopes of turning it into his own wine. He did all the maintenance on those vines; pulled leaves, snipped clusters thinning them out, harvesting by hand, learing the techniques that would help hone is talents in the cellar. John waited for the right time to make that wine he always wanted to make. He made wine each year, but in his opinion it was never good enough to bottle and put his name on it. Eight years later, Long Island was blessed with 2007. And John Leo felt the time was right. The first vintage of the Leo Family Cellars would be born.
Leo Family Cellars 2007 Red ($40) is a Merlot based blend. The Merlot (which is 80%) comes from the two acres he tends to, which is now at Pellegrini Vineyards, 7 % Syrah which come from Schneider Vineyards, 6% Petite Verdot from Russel Hearn’s vineyard in Peconic, 5% Cabernet Franc from a vineyard in Greenport and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon from Clovis Point.
The nose brings aromas of cherry, blackberry, plum, blueberries and warm bramble. Earth and spic with notes of savory herbs and hints of smoke and dried flowers compose the aroma’s in my glass.
The palate is packed with concentrated red, blue and black fruit. Distinct chocolate and coffee aroma with hints of sweet vanilla, spice and dried cherries. Tobacco and cedar notes round out the palate.
Velvet smooth tannins, and the bright acidity are well-balanced and really bring the fruit front and center.
A delicious, well made wine. It kept me captivated for well over 3 days in the bottle.
It may have taken John Leo eight years to release his first wine, and it was worth the wait. I hope we don’t wait another 8 years.
Leo Family Red can be purchased at The Winemaker Studio on Peconic Lane in Peconic.
And for those of you who are fans of John, be sure to check out the last of John’s Winemakers Series Dinners at the American Hotel in Sag Harbor on April 26th. I hope to make it to this dinner, the menu looks incredible. You will be able taste this wine along with all of the wines he makes for Clovis Point Vineyards.
Sláinte!*I received this bottle as a sample from the vineyard