How is it possible that Lieb Cellars is 30 years old? It’s a little hard to get your head around because winemaker Russell Hearn is always ahead of the curve. He was the first winemaker in New York to release (quality!) wine in can; the second (Paumanok got there first) to ditch corks and bottle the brunt of his wines under screw cap. And he was early to recognize that Cabernet Franc—that elegant, deeply colored, lovely red grape originally from France—really likes it here in Long Island.
Lieb Cellars was founded by Mark and Kathy Lieb in 1992, and Hearn has long been the only winemaker (he became an owning partner after the Liebs sold the winery in 2012) and has played an important role in forming the vision for the company, making decisions like planting Cabernet Franc vines back in 1999.
The fruit of those nicely matured botanical beauties are in this bottle, the same 20-plus-year-old vines surrounding their pretty tasting room on Oregon Road in Cutchogue on the North Fork. You can pick up a bottle of this most recent release at Southampton’s Bottlehampton, and here’s why you should:
Hearn’s version, which blends in a bit of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape for girth and the Italian red grape, Teroldego, for some extra oomph in color and bright red fruit, is such a great party guest—like those people in your life who you can invite to anything and they talk to anyone.
Here, that means you can bring it to the table with a multitude of dishes, or just clink glasses of it all on its own with your favorite fellow sipper. There are aromas of dense black cherry and raspberry, a shy whisper of mint and licorice, and some baking spice and sweet cigar, too, from the 10 months in hangs around in Hungarian oak. Its flavors and bitter-sweet tannins are concentrated, but it’s still super juicy and, at a deft 12.8% alcohol, awfully easy to drink. Make it your new favorite friend at the table.