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(Photo credit: Amy Zavatto)

Forty-plus years ago, Peter Lenz planted, among other grape varieties, a little bit of Pinot Noir, because… why not? In those fledgling years of Long Island wine, trying this or that was part of the adventure. And still is, because when you’re a winemaker or a vineyard manager, the learning never stops. 

Lenz winemaker Tom Spotteck learned something from those old Pinot vines; that just because something was always done one way, it doesn’t mean that it must be your trajectory forever, amen. 

With little exception, Lenz has kept their Pinot plantings for use in their sparkling wine (which, if you’ve never tried, you really should; former winemaker Eric Fry had the touch, if you can get your hands on some of the library bottles still hanging around). But the year after Spotteck took the reins from Fry, he knew Mother Nature had handed him something special.

“The 2019 vintage, we brought in some of our best quality fruit in our history!” says Spotteck. “The warm fall accompanied with a cool sea breeze in the evenings provided the ideal growing conditions for our best-quality fruit.” 

With it, he made a stunner of a Pinot Noir. It’s nearly garnet in color, odd for such a youthful wine, but its nose directs you back to its current stage in life, all fresh summer raspberries and cherries, a spring walk in the woods after a light rain.

And then it starts to go from fun to fascinating—there’s something almost meaty lingering beneath the surface, along with dried mushrooms, a little sprinkle of allspice. In your mouth, it’s wonderfully juicy and mouthfilling—a rush of cherry fruit on the middle of your tongue that fans out with little, fun prickly pinpoints of just-right tannic grippiness, and an earthy concentration and depth that linger and yearn for another sip.

The details you taste have as much to do with the weather as Spotteck’s care with his craft. Hand-picked and sorted right down to the individual berry, fermented for about 3 weeks in oak, slowly and gently taking color and tannin from the berry skins. He then does a little aging in French oak—not so much that the fruit is overwhelmed but, instead, complemented so very nicely.

Lenz is well-distributed on the South Fork, but only 48 cases of the 2019 Old Vines Pinot Noir exist in the world. And with that limited allocation in mind, if this sounds like the style of Pinot you typically favor and you’d like to get your hands on some, you’ll need to call and order directly from the lovely folks at Lenz. But it’s just a fork and a little FedEx away.