Uncorked with Sommelier Eric Larkee: Barrel Sample Tasting

This past week I had the pleasure of tasting 2009 barrel samples with Mark Tobin, owner of Mattebella Vineyards of the North Fork of Long Island. During my time in New York it seemed that the state’s local wines had their fifteen minutes, a shop specializing in the local fare came and went, and curious customers tried them with similar conclusions, quality was there but value was absent.

Mattebella’s 2008 Chardonnay offering defies this faint praise. Backing off even more from the already light oak usage of the 2007 vintage, green apples and lemons jump out of the glass and the mouth watering acidity begs for food.

The 2009 Chardonnay samples showed promise but were undergoing malolactic fermentation, making tasting a bit difficult. After reading several vintage reports I was ready for the red samples to be under-ripe. 2009 was a more than difficult vintage for most Long Island growers. Four weeks of rain started right at fruit set, reducing crop yields thirty to sixty percent with many growers. Christine Ferrari Tobin had a positive spin on the weather, saying that it saved her the pain of dropping fruit later. The cool summer make full ripening difficult with many frustrated growers leaving grapes on the vine into November. Mattebella used every trick in their sustainable farming toolbox and produced beautiful, ripe fruit. The non-vintage Familigia Red has been a fabulous, casual, no worries wine and the Tobin’s have all the pieces from 2009 to make a great vintage version of the wine.

We also tasted several versions of the 2009 rose and worked on the final blend, getting the right blend of fruit, mouth-feel and acidity. With the blend just about finished, the wine should be ready in about eight weeks, hopefully summer will be on time for the wine.

I look forward to tasting the final release of the Familigia Red and I believe that this will be a vintage where the quality of Mattebella will shine and will be even more impressive when it doesn’t come with the normal Long Island price.

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