I am officially launching my first wine review, and I think I am already not living up to my pseudo mission statement introduction. My excitement got the best of me and I decided that my intention of pairing food and wine as best I could may not apply tonight. Earlier tonight I posted my first entry, and this left me with the urge of opening a bottle to celebrate. I didn't care if I'd have to drink it with leftovers from lunch. More specifically fried eggplant sticks from my local Italian restaurant, combined with homemade sauce from the freezer, shredded mozzarella, and grated reggiano.
My choice of Lenz Merlot 2002 from the Northfork of Long Island was less to do with the food pairing as it was with the appreciation of what living so close to wine country has done for my taste buds. Ever since a couple of good friends started pouring wine on the weekend at a Northfork winery, I have got to taste wines I would normally not come into contact with. My merlot experiences of the past were always with California merlot that I always associated with dark full bodied red wines that left me thirsty and ultimately sweating from the heat or spice on the finish. The handful of merlots I have tried on the Northfork seem to be much more drinkable to me. Something about the light body or the brighter flavor that makes me inclined to search for these when in the market for merlot.
My visit to the Lenz Winery was an enjoyable one. I was greeted by a passionate employee that gave me a detailed description of each wine. I tasted their reds and was impressed with the quality of each. In general they seemed to be more complex than the other merlots I have tasted in the area. Their commitment to aging their merlot for 2 years in French oak may contribute to this. I remember trying three Merlots..the 2002 Merlot, the 2000 Estate Merlot, and the Old Vines Merlot. Each was enjoyable, but the 2000 Estate which was the middle priced of the three, was most to my liking. Although, since I was looking to find wines that I can drink often and without hesitation, that won't break my bank, I ended up with the $16 2002 Merlot.. the cheapest of the group.
Perhaps it's fitting that I'm drinking it with my "make the best out of leftovers night" dinner because it seems to be a good comparison to my experience. The wine is dark ruby red. It smells of raspberries and dark cherries, and my girlfriend thought she may have smelled violets. Cherry and plum stood out on the palate with smooth tannins and a subtle finish that was quicker than I remember from the vineyard tasting. It also wasn't as well rounded as I expected. Turns out I might have expected more out of this wine because of the experience I had with their wines a whole.
The estate and old vines vintages had the good qualities of this wine plus the complex finish that aging their best fruit in oak for 2 years can bring. The wine was enjoyable but I know next time I am faced with the decision of which to buy at Lenz I will pay the extra bucks to get what I really liked at the winery tasting. Overall satisfying, but I know it could have been better with the best primary ingredient available in the kitchen or vineyard in this case.