The height of Merlot’s popularity has waned a bit since the hit flick “Sideways” brought the claret-colored vino to the forefront of the mainstream pop-culture audience. In the decade since, purveyors and patrons alike have turned to the arguably more accessible Pinot Noir or Malbec. But the humble Merlot refuses to be forgotten, especially on the East End where the terroir is uniquely suited to producing world class bottles year after year. Merlot remains a mainstay and Dan’s Best of the Best is honoring voters’ favorite sumptuous red wine.
Wölffer Estate Vineyard (139 Sagg Road, Sagaponack, 631-537-5106, wolffer.com) in Sagaponack is home to a collection of fine Platinum winning Merlots. Wölffer’s 2012 Merlot is dark red, brick colored with a lush, round flavor. The vineyard also produces the literary inspired line, Grapes of Roth, a play on the John Steinbeck classic combined with the name of winemaker Roman Roth. The 2008 and 2010 Grapes of Roth are dark red, nearly black in color with rich dark chocolate and black cherry tastes. Wölffer’s 2010 Christian’s Cuvée Merlot is a 25th anniversary wine with floral notes and seductive complexity. Another Wölffer Merlot with a classic, full, layered flavor is the 2011 Lombardo Merlot.
Lenz Winery (38555 Route 25, Cutchogue, 631-734-6010, lenzwine.com) is Dan’s Best of the Best Gold winner for best Merlot. Lenz, located in on the North Fork in Peconic, produces a number of Merlots. The 2007 Old Vines Merlot contains classic varieties of dark fruits, including plums, cherries and raspberries. The North Fork winery is also home to the 2010 Estate Selection Merlot and the 2012 Merlot.
McCall Wines (22600 Route 25, Cutchogue, 631-765-0200, mccallwines.com), which started growing and selling Pinot Noir and Merlot in the mid-1990s in Cutchogue, is our Silver winner for Best Merlot. They have a host of French oak barrel aged Merlots, including their 2009 and 2010 Merlot Reserve. Their most popular, however, are their 2009 Merlot and their 2008 Merlot Reserve Magnum, with its dark ruby color and rich, full-bodied palate. McCall continues to produce mainly Pinot Noir and Merlot.
Lieb Cellars (35 Cox Neck Road, Cutchogue, 631-298-1942, liebcellars.com), also on the North Fork, is Dan’s Best of the Best Bronze winner for their 2013 Reserve Merlot. Lieb’s Merlot is aged 18 months in French oak barrels and its deep garnet color with mulberry, pine and cocoa flavors provide a smooth, round and elegant finish.