Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lenz is Still One of the Best Wineries on the East Coast

The first time I went to Lenz Winery was in 2005. It was my tenth wedding anniversary and I told Dominique that we could go anywhere in the world for our anniversary. She chose Long Island! We did the wine camp, out on the North Fork, and it was one of the best vacations we ever took. On that trip we met Eric Fry and tasted Lenz wines for the first time. And I was hooked. I've had lots of Lenz wines since. But you always wonder, how are their wines now, whenever you've been away for some time. Has quality been kept up? I can;t lie. I wondered....but there was no need to worry.
Founded in 1978, the winery has some of the most mature vineyards in the region. Lenz have nearly 70 acres planted with these vinifera grape varieties: chardonnay, gewürztraminer, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec, petit verdot, pinot gris and pinot noir. According to Sam McCullough Vineyard Manager, "At Lenz, our philosophy in the vineyard is high-touch. We are interventionists and we intervene, at great cost in time and effort, to micro-manage each vine to ripeness each year. Leaf removal, shoot thinning, cluster thinning, crop reduction, triple catch wires, super-attentive pest and fungus control (our "open canopy" approach keeps fungus problems to a minimum), all combine to add cost (unfortunately) but to ensure fully ripe grapes of the highest quality."
According to Eric Fry, the winemaker, "In the winery, our philosophy is low-touch, though not taken to dogmatic extremes. If a wine needs an acid adjustment, it gets it. If reduction threatens a sulphide problem, we fix it. And we use cultured, not wild yeast to start the fermentation. Beyond that, we want the wines to express the character we've brought out in the vineyard by developing full "varietal ripeness". One important facet of our approach is the "estate" element. All our wines are "estate bottled" which legally means that the wines are made entirely from grapes grown in our own vineyards or vineyards under our own direct care and control. In general the commitment to creating only "estate bottled" wines signifies an approach that eschews winemaking-as-chemistry."
So last week I happily braved the doors of Lenz for the first time in a long time. A did a small tasting, and again was again entranced.

2008 Old Vines Chardonnay - According to the notes, the Old Vines style is "intended to emphasize fruit intensity, balance and elegance." Fry only usesvery limited barrel fermentation and oak-aging tends to be 'neutral,'" meaning they only use older barrels that leave less of an oak fingerprint on the wine. Big, bright flavors of apple and pear come through as promised, and something more along the line of fig or dates also comes through. This is a apectacular chardonnay. Beautiful and elegant.

2005 Cuvée is a traditional Méthode Champenoise sparkling wine made from 100% Pinot Noir. A big nose of yeast and apple and a whiff os something tropical is delicious. This 2005 Cuvée offer bright white cherries with hints of apple and a touch of lime and kiwi. This wine has big flavor, great acidity, and tremendous refreshing dfinish. Brilliant!

1999 Cuvée RD - If you can believe it, this is a new release! Lenz is releasing 60-70 cases of aged sparkling...a program they have established. Fantastic. Huge kudos just for that. The French refer to Champagnes made using this 'late-finishing' process as 'RD', or Récemment dégorgé (recently disgorged). This was incredible experience. This 1999 Cuvee' was more subtle. There was a nuttiness, or an earthiness around it. Something more developed and softer. There was apple, and pear, and honey, more delicate than the 2005. It was golden and soft, more wine than fruit, but an elixir hard to describe. Lots of layering flavors, Extremely complex. This is a fixed taste. If you like aged, vintage wines, you will absolutely love this wine!

2007 Cab Fran/Malbec was a big chewy red. Lots of bold fruit up front, cherries, raspberries, with nice acidity and well balanced tannins. Dark rich color. A fun, delicious wine.
2002 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon - This unfiltered red wine was a tremendous wine. This Cabernet Sauvignon was blended with small amounts of Old Vines Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc to give this wine the full body it achieved. Big flavors of dark sewed fruits, tart black currant, ound out this sumptuous wine. The 2002 OV Cabernet Sauvignon is lush and smooth across the palate with flavors of tangy red currants and dark raspberries, rich black cherries and a smooth hint of vanilla. This is wine that can be drunk now or in five to ten years. Fantastic!

2002 Old Vines Merlot - This unfiltered Old Vines Merlot is made from grapes grown in Lenz's oldest blocks, planted more than 30 years ago. Dark-fruit characters of black plums, black cherries and raspberries come through as promised. This is an excellent European-styled wine. Great structure. Great acidity, good tannins, nice long lasting fruit on the palate. And exquisite wine.

The thing about Lenz is that everything they put out is quality. It's incredible. A joy to taste and expereince. Fantastic! Still one of the best wineries on the east coast.