Blends are the basis of some of the world’s most exciting wines, each grape lending a different layer, a new facet to the final aromas, flavor and texture. But single grape variety wines have their well-established place in your glass, too. In any given year, they’re the most wonderful, clear-eyed snapshot of time and season.
When it comes to wine, sometimes people forget that it’s not just the liquid in your bottle; it comes from plants. And in the same way certain plants grow better in particular climates (we don’t have banana trees here for very good reason!), grape vines, too, perform better and worse in different climates and soils.
Merlot is a grape that has long done well on Long Island; it’s why we grow the most of it among the other red grape varieties planted in our soils, all of which have their own set of charms and growing foibles. Merlot’s amiable qualities, though, sometimes make some folks proclaim, Eh, merlot—so boring! But like Colin Farrell says in this year’s Oscar contender, The Banshees of Inisherin, “It’s nice to be nice!”
Merlot is better than nice, though; especially when the fruit comes from the herbicide-free, sustainably committed acres of the Macari family, who’ve been working this land for around 50 years.
Its age-ability and continual evolution in the bottle is something that third-generation family member, Gabriella Macari, gained some insight on recently; the kind that’s helping her think on and plan for the future of the winery started by her grandfather, Joseph Sr..
“Recently, I shared a taste of our 2005 merlot with a California winemaker who has an incredible palate. He mistook the wine for a Cheval Blanc, one of the top estates in the world,” says Macari of the famed right bank Bordeaux estate. “This experience has encouraged me to not only encourage others to drink more Long Island merlot but also to age them.”
The 2019 vintage was pretty well iconic—lots of warm, sunny days and a beautiful, dry early autumn. All that sunshine and dry heat is reflected in the alcohol, pushing well above 13%—the upper echelons of abv for Long Island. It’s so pretty to drink now. Classic dark cherry and plum aromas and flavors, a just-right structure of tannic scaffolding, and pretty lacings of baking spice, vanilla bean and dark chocolate from some time spent in new French oak on the finish.
“Thanks to the freshness, lively red fruit, and textured tannin profile of our 2019 merlot, this wine is delicious today but also has massive potential to gain complexity with time,” says Macari. “Although we’ve primarily focused on blends in the past, I can’t help but be blown away every time I open a bottle of merlot from our library of aged wines. This grape not only is joyful in youth, but also has the potential to gain tremendous complexity with age.”