I was enamored with Jamesport Vineyards on Long Island. Maybe it was the first winery that morning. Maybe it was the previous day’s mixed results. Maybe we share the same birthdate.
Either way, they looked professional. The tasting room was spacious, sharp and uncluttered. The band, who arrived late, actually played something original (a rarity in Long Island). The labels were confident. No animals. Little kitsch. Just a bar of color, a bar of white, gold logo, and clear text. The glasses weren’t plastic cups, nor cheaply etched stemware stubs, but clean, stemless goblets. Even our pourer, Jake, knew where residual sugar comes from (not riesling elves).
For $15, you get to taste only 2 whites and 2 reds. Why? Because tourists from NYC and the Hamptons will pay it. Luckily, we were early, so we tried everything.
The vines. Ron Goerler Sr. and son (Ron #2) sustainably turn sixty acres of grapes into seven thousand cases a year. These include chardonnay, riesling, pinot noir, cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc, as well as grapes that usually freeze before they ripen in the Northeast: sémillon, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah and the latest ripening of the lot, petit verdot. Which was stellar but $100.
My wife reasoned me from buying it. Back to earth, I bought Jamesport’s sauvignon blanc. It was 24 bucks. They have a 16 dollar “East End” range of wines. They’re decent but decidedly simple.
Once summer’s excitement waned into September, I pulled the wine from the fridge, worried. Getting stuck in New York City traffic had heat damaged some of the wines. Hell is sweating in the car, with dead air-conditioning, knowing the 100 degree heat was killing eighteen hand-picked, overpriced bottles in the trunk. Was the Jamesport a victim? Or had it been packed deep enough into luggage?
Chance had favored it.
The bottle retained sauvignon blanc’s traditional varietal notes. Except for the nose, which was quiet considering such a typically aromatic grape. Nonetheless, it had all the expected cool climate high acidity, with grass, grapefruit and citrus flavors dominating. The body was far from thin, with a viscous richness. Mineral notes kept it interesting. Jamesport’s sauv blanc would snap to attention most lightly prepared white meats, salads or goat cheeses.
How did North Fork Long Island pull it off? They share Bordeaux’s latitude. That means similar sun exposed seasons, allowing this late budding, early ripening grape enough time. They share the Atlantic’s water. That moderates temperatures from severe spikes or dips. Since the bordelais consider this grape native or wild (sauvage hence sauvignon), it makes sense that, with Jamesport’s close attention, it can thrive across the pond.