For nearly 40 years, Lenz Winery in Peconic has been producing quality wines for satisfied customers all across the East End.
Lenz wine is Long Island grown, bottled and labeled, and almost everything is done in-house. The winery is the second-oldest on Long Island, though it changed hands to the Carroll family in 1988, ten years after its establishment by the Lenz family. The tasting room is open year-round, seven days a week, and also carries a selection of artisanal jams, cheeses and other foods. It’s decorated with large, intricate displays of chalk art (redrawn monthly by a local artist) and displays a number of sculptures and wall-mounted art pieces created through an art therapy program for the disabled.
Tasting room manager Jerol Bailey guided me through a range of Lenz’s most popular wines, starting with the 2009 Gewürztraminer. This variety, which is not usually grown on Long Island, is an Alsace-inspired wine that is fermented dry. Because it has had time to sit, it has a fruit-forward, gingery taste and body—it’s crisp and dry without losing any of that powerful flavor. Bailey recommends pairing this vintage with “Thai food, Mexican food, anything bold and spicy.”
Next up was the 2010 Cuvee, a sparkling wine made from 100% pinot noir grapes. It has been aged for four years and is classified as “extra brut,” which explains its thorough dryness. It tingled going down, leaving the palate craving another sip. Lenz maintains a “sparkling cellar,” and often aids other wineries in developing sparkling wines.
This soon gave way to the 2007 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon. Bailey told me that cabernet is often “the last grape to ripen, so in cool years it doesn’t reach its full potential”—but the 2007 harvest was “spectacular,” leading to an extra-ripe, full-bodied wine with a velvety mouthfeel. This ripeness carried over to the 2008 Estate Selection Merlot, which featured an array of black fruit flavors and a heavy fruit scent while still remaining pleasantly light.
Tete-a-Tete, a white blend of Gewürztraminer and pinot gris, proved to be light and refreshing—perhaps the most thirst-quenching of the bunch. Its decorative label, designed by in-house artist Pat Olstad, gave some indication of the satisfying drink inside the bottle.
I finished out my tasting with a few sips of the 2007 Old Vines Merlot, which has an interesting history. This wine, made with fruit from the oldest vines at Lenz, is equivalent in taste and body to Chateau Petrus, the famous (and famously pricey) Bordeaux from southern France. The winery has conducted a number of comparative blind tastings over the years, and, with its cherry and plum notes and smooth, long finish, the Old Vines Merlot is consistently a favorite among wine connoisseurs. In fact, New York Times critic Richard Jay Scholem wrote in 1998 that Lenz wines “equal or surpass” French superstars.
Lenz hosts a wide range of events throughout the year, including its popular Merlot Classic. Celebrating its 25th anniversary on September 13, the Merlot Classic features a selection of fine merlots from all over the world.
The Subscriber Program, Lenz’s wine club, offers many special privileges and discounts, including reduced costs at Lenz-sponsored events, quarterly shipments of subscriber-picked wines, complimentary tastings, access to rare Old Vines vintages and even the use of the Lenz Guest Cottage, a farmhouse located in the winery’s courtyard. The program, as a group of excited patrons noted, is “well worth it—you get access to wines no one else has even tried!” But even if you’re not a Lenz subscriber, the trip up to the North Fork is worth it for the enchanting wines behind the counter.
Lenz is located at 38355 New York 25, Peconic. For more info, call 631-734-6010 or visit lenzwine.com.