Monday, August 04, 2008

Howard G. Goldberg Waxes Poetic About Long Island's Raphael Winery

Published: July 27, 2008
New York Times

The East End’s lobster-claw shape evokes thoughts of dockside eating and the chilled dry whites that wash down oysters, clams, scallops, mussels and all sorts of white-fleshed fish hauled up from surrounding waters.

If Raphael’s 2007 sauvignon blanc ($22), tinged with sémillon, were served unidentified in Montauk, it could be confused with one of the bracing white Graves poured in seafood restaurants along the Gironde estuary in Bordeaux.

Enlivened by a slight spritz, Raphael’s bracing, light-bodied white wine, citric and almost saline, could qualify as an entry in one of the major contests matching wines to oysters on America’s East and West Coasts.

So could Raphael’s 2007 clean, bright, palate-cleansing chardonnay ($16). The winemaker, Richard Olsen-Harbich, wisely produced it only in steel vessels, which preserve acidity and fruitiness. This light, balanced, appetite-quickening chardonnay, tasting of green apples and limes, could add dimension to cod or poached halibut in butter sauce.

Richard Olsen-Harbich

I would be happy to see the last of Long Island’s heavy California-style chardonnays that have been reared in brand-new oak barrels, whose intrusive woody, spicy, vanilla flavors neutralize the delicacy of saltwater dishes. Most rosés are intended as frivolous wines to be knocked back under the late-afternoon sun. But Mr. Olsen-Harbich, whose gravitas is evident to those who have tracked his long career, made a 2007 rosé ($15) that is, well, seriously frivolous.

This delicate, savory mouth-filling salmon-pink rosé exploits merlot, the signature wine of Raphael, in Peconic. A small infusion of malbec gives it depth. Like the sauvignon and chardonnay, it was reared in steel, so its pizazz remains intact.

Customarily, red wine — merlot, for instance — best accompanies a tuna steak. Raphael’s rosé can play this role in hot weather.