Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mattabella Vineyards - It's All About Family (NY)

I was recently in Long Island for a business trip and decided to do a little wine tasting while I was there, as I have been known to do. My wife admonished me not to spend too much money because the wine cellar is full. Hah! While I was down, I thought I would visit several of the vineyards that I would visit as many wineries as I could that I had not been to before. This is the first of six or seven reviews from that trip. It was a wonderful weekend!

Mattebella Vineyards is a small family farm, located in the State of New York’s oldest town, Southold (established in 1640), on the eastern end of Long Island. It was originally named the Silver Nail vineyard by those who planted it some years back. It has predominantly European clones of grape varietals, tight spacing (6×3), and low vigor rootstock.

The vineyard an winery are owned by Chris and Mark Tobin who have owned it about five years or so. There is no Mr. Mattebella, as one might envision...some swarthy southern Italian brimming with old world gusto like Anthony Quinn. No, it is a name derived from the names of Chris and Mark's children, Matthew and Isabella. Mattebella. I liked it immediately. Of course, Matthew an Isabella, while certainly the inspiration for the winery's name, are less interested in all things wine than they are in finding something else to do with their day than working there, as most children would be. But make no mistake, this is a family affair.

The winery is unique. Somewhat like Sherwood House, Mattabella doesn't exactly have a tastingroom much as a beautifully appointed shack. It is extremely cool, and wonderfully charming. Also, much of the tasting is done outside, on a beautiful patio, wonderfully appointed with a variety of furnitures, that overlooks the vineyard. Stunning.

One of the things I liked about Mattebella is that they insist that they do things the old fashioned way. After I was there for a while, I agreed. I didn't get a chance to hang out with Mark, but I did see him in action, working outside, busy, industrious, trying to get as much done as possible. And as one who has been to a number of wineries, this was old school, single winemaking.

I like the fact that all their grapes are picked by hand. And I liked that Mattebella Vineyards is committed to using sustainable viticulturural practices, while incorporating as many organic practices as possible into their farming methods. In committing to a healthy, responsible approach, they hope to make a footprint in our memory but not on the environment.

Some of the vineyard practices that are used at Mattebella include:
•using biodiesel fuel to run all of its tractors
•relying solely on under the row tilling to eliminate the use of all herbicides
•using organic fertilizers
•using fish emulsion and kelp for foliar feeding
•using either organically approved fungicides or those considered “low impact” by experts
•using naturally occurring plants as a cover crop to increase the biodiversity of the vineyard

They may not be LISW standards (newly established) but it is a codified approach that other wineries who claim they are sustainable do not make.

As I went into the tasting room I was greeted by tastingroom staff member John. John was extremely friendly, and he and Chris made me feel right at home.

The first two wines were the Chardonnays. The 2008 was very much a Chablis-styled wine. 20% was aged in oak. Pear and apple and old honey some through on the nose. Nice great big appetizing wine. The second Chardonnay 2009 was brimming with orange, peach, melon, and vanilla. This was an excellent food wine, with fresh fruit and bright clean acidity.

Then there were the two wonderful rose's. The 2009 Rose' was exploding with strawberry, watermelon, and a big dollop of pink grapefruit. It was a lovely, dry, elegant classic European-styled rose'. The 2010 Rose' the wine was left on the skins for seven hours. Here the strawberry was much, much bigger. More nice watermelon. A nice big note of citrus was also more evident. These were two wonderful roses'. Excellent!

The Famigilia Red was an eye-opener. This is the winery's non-vintage table red. Cherry, cherry, cherry say my notes. And I still remember it. A blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, this wine, a blend of sometimes two and three vintages, was a knockout. Possible one of the best table reds in the state. All the wines are aged in oak, as single clones, then blended together later. Great structure. Very, very nice!

2007 Old World Blend is a dry blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon was big fruit, big acids, big tannins.Nice vanilla. A Touch of fallen leaves. This is a very nice Meritage-style wine. Very lovely. The 2008 was something similar. Big fruit. Big tannins, Big acids. Classic Bordelais-styled wine. The vanilla was more pronounced in this newer wine. Both will age beautifully for another 5 to 10 years. These are classic reds. Very well structured. Big wines ready to drink now, but absolutely, guaranteed cellarworthy.

I was also lucky enough to taste the 2005 Old World, the first wine the winery every made for commercial sale. Prune, plum, vanilla, fallen leaves, fabulous and excellent were my two notes. Big soft dark fruit up front. Nice tannins. Chewy. Exceptional!!!!

It was a great time. The setting was lovely. The tastingroom was charming. The wines were wonderful. It's a little bit off the beaten path, but Mattabella is well worth it.