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Saltbird Cellars “Migratus” sauvignon blanc. (Photo credit: Madison Fender)

Lately, because of certain large-scale producers making rivers of porch-pounder versions of sauvignon blanc, the grape has been suffering a little bit from the same overexposure as, say, merlot back in the ’80s. Or maybe even more apropos, all that over-oaked, lick-a-vanilla-bean chardonnay from the ’90s. We’re just crawling out of those tainted all-encompassing misconceptions gleaned from a few bad apples. Remember the ABC crowd (Anything But Chardonnay!)? Poor sauvignon blanc has been dangerously teetering on a similar stereotype.

Saltbird Cellars owner and winemaker Robin Epperson-McCarthy. (Photo credit: Madison Fender)

But that’s where place comes into play (and really thoughtful, good winemakers). Wine grapes express themselves in different ways from different places. Add to that the choices of the vineyard manager and winemaker, and things get more particular, interesting and downright delicious from there.

Saltbird Cellars owner and winemaker Robin Epperson McCarthy has made wine all over the world—Australia, New Zealand and California, among the far-flung places she’s worked and learned her craft—but when it came to setting down roots, it was her home area of eastern Long Island that called to her.

An avid sailor, McCarthy has a deep connection to the land and sea here, and loves the way those aspects express themselves in her wines.

She also likes to play around in the cellar a little bit, too, stretching and layering what Mother Nature gives alongside the tools at her disposal.

“The ‘Migratus’ sauvignon blanc is barrel fermented and aged in neutral barrels,” says McCarthy. “This style has the fresh citrus acidity we expect from sauvignon blanc with the full mouthfeel of a sur lie wine.

(Photo courtesy of Saltbird Cellars)

Sur lie translates to mean “on the lees”—which further translates to: Wine hanging around on the bits of used-up yeast cells leftover from fermentation (that is, when sugar from grapes chows down on yeast cells and makes—voila!—alcohol). Sur lie is one of those little winemaker decisions we mentioned earlier. It adds texture; a sort of creamy feeling on your tongue that wouldn’t exist in the wine without letting those dead yeast cells hang around.

So what you get here is bright, maritime-influenced, zingy sauvignon blanc—as it should be here on eastern Long Island—but with this extra, interesting, super-satisfying texture that makes it just a little bit more intriguing. Plus: Damn, it’s good with fish! Especially the recipe we posted this week for chef Jeremy Blutstein’s fluke crudo.

“The acidity from the crudo plays off the fatness of the wine and complements the fresh salinity of late-winter fluke,” says McCarthy. Go check out the recipe, grab yourself a bottle of Migratus from Cork and Jug in Hampton Bays and remind yourself of the beauty and bounty we have right in front of us here on the East End.