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A Cabernet Franc Winner on Long Island
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Nov 4, 2014
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Macari Vineyards, North Fork of Long Island (New York) Cabernet Franc 2010 ($35):  Long Island’s beginning as a wine region occurred forty years ago, but the region today is still a very young one.  Grape growers and winemakers continue to experiment with grape varieties, vineyard location and winemaking styles. Most wineries produce a wide range of white and red wines, continuing to learn about their vineyards while also hedging their bets against unpredictable weather that could devastate one grape or another in any given year.

One Long Island winery that is currently enjoying its time of glory is Macari Vineyards, a family-owned winery founded in 1995.  This summer, Macari earned the distinction of being named New York State Winery of the Year at the NY Wine & Food Classic, a tasting competition of 800-plus wines from across the state’s viticultural areas.  Moreover, the 2010 Macari Cabernet Franc was named by the competition’s judges as the Best Red Wine of the show.

Macari Vineyards has produced Cabernet Franc since 1997, and of the 100 acres of red vines on the estate, Cabernet Franc accounts for 35 acres.  “We really enjoy making Cabernet Franc on Long Island,” a family member commented.  “The diversity of styles that vintage variation brings adds a very exciting element.”  In 2010, the growing season was one of the warmest and driest ever in the region, and the 2010 Cabernet Franc was therefore “a very atypical version of Macari Cabernet Franc…a standout wine for us.”  In fact, the wine’s fullness, richness and sweet fruit ripeness are uncommon in red wines from what is actually a cool wine region.  In cooler years, the Cabernet Franc shows more of an elegant, delicate style.

When I tasted the 2010 Cabernet Franc, I was immediately struck by the wine’s mouth-filling style and the ripeness of its fruit expression.  The wine is full-bodied but not at all heavy, with silky texture and with powdery tannins that are very well integrated.  The wine’s aromas suggest raspberry and black cherry, baking spices and the slightest fresh-herb note; in your mouth, the wine is very flavorful with red and dark berry flavors, dried cherry notes, dark chocolate accents, and dried herbs.  The way the flavors unfold in your mouth and carry across the whole palate length shows that this wine is not just a delicious, flavorful red wine but also a serious wine that can continue to sustain age.

Winemaker Kelly Urbanik employed a painstaking regime in making this wine.  The grapes were harvested on four different dates, from October 9 to 21st, and each lot was fermented separately.  “We took a 20 percent saignée from one tank, 5 percent from a second, and no saignée from the remaining two tanks,” she explained, referring to a technique of increasing the ratio of grape solids to juice by drawing off some clear juice before fermentation.  Two of the tanks had cooler fermentations (maximum 70 and 75 degrees), which typically enhances fresh aromas and flavors, while the other two fermentations were warmer, with maximums of 85 and 90 degrees, which generally enhances color and tannin extraction, and darker aromatics.  Total skin contact time was long: “Maceration time for all four tanks was between 27 and 34 days,” she said. The wine matured in French oak for 26 months, with 17% new oak.

“We are huge believers in Cabernet Franc as a stand-alone varietal on Long Island,” says winemaker Urbanik, “and we also love the way it works with our blends.” She notes that the savory, spicy and earthy notes of Cabernet Franc bring complexity to her red blends.  Combine that enthusiasm at the winery with an increased demand for Cabernet Franc from customers, and the future could very well see Macari’s estate growing even more Cabernet Franc than now.

92 Points