Anthony Nappa is a curious winemaker. Sometimes he seems traditional, crafting beautiful but expected Long Island faves like the lovely estate merlot and cabernet franc he makes at his “day job” for Raphael Wine. But then he goes and does a bunch of other things that make you think, wait, is this the same guy?
That’s always been Nappa. He burst onto the New York wine scene in 2007, making wine for the former Shinn Estate Vineyards but boldly (some might even say brazenly) launching his own label, Anthony Nappa Wines, that same year, with 200 cases of pinot noir. Pinot noir! On Long Island! If the incredulity is lost on you, know this: It’s not an easy grape to grow in our climate (which is why you don’t see that much of it here), and it’s even less easy to bet your entire first vintage on making a good one.
But Nappa did. In 2008, he continued on this pinot parade making a funny little wine called Anomaly that he dubbed a white pinot noir. People and critics went nuts over it, as much for how bright and lovely it was as for its head-scratching vinous description. “Is there white Pinot Noir?” curious sippers would ask. The answer, of course, is no. It’s a red grape that gets the white-grape treatment, crushed and stripped of its skins, so that just a hint of pink remains.
It’s been over 14 years since he made that first anomaly, which is no longer called Anomaly. It’s simply White Pinot Noir now, but Nappa remains the same curious winemaker he was as a young gun. Steadfast, talented but traditional in his day job, but dreamy and a little bit of a risk-taker when its his own name on the label, scratching that itch to learn, create and stretch. He also has a farm now where he grows his own grapes and makes small lots of lovely things under the label Shared Table Farmm. But we’re really glad that he didn’t stretch so far that he left the White Pinot Noir behind. It’s got the tell-tale cherry note of classic pinot, but it’s fresh and alert, with a grounding undercurrent of dried herbs and a near full-bodied and pleasantly weighty mouthfeel and zesty finish that makes it more autumnal than summery, and certainly very, very food friendly. That funny little anomaly, it seems, has matured into a Long Island classic.