Bedell Cellars North Fork First Crush 2007
As a New Yorker, I have a natural curiosity about wines that are produced just a stone's
throw from my home. The Long Island North Fork can actually be a gut-wrenching,
gasoline-spewing, struggle of a trip—they don't call it “Long” Island for nothing—but at least
I have what they call an E-Z Pass to pay painlessly the fee to cross the bridge into Long
Island. Formerly potato fields, the North Fork vineyard region is surrounded on three sides by
salt water and—ravenous birds excepted—is an ideal place to produce cool-climate wines. The
area has a lot going on, and I access Long Island wines whenever they come my way.
Bedell Cellars ferments this wine (54% Merlot and 46% Cabernet Franc) entirely in stainless steel without oak aging. The $18 wine is a deep ruby with violet edges. The first note on my nose was a brilliant fresh tomato, with fresh basil, beets, chive, red berry, cherry and blackcurrant. The wine is also a touch smoky on the nose with—dare I suggest this for an American wine—a lovely touch of dirt. Somehow Cabernet Franc without that touch of soil is something along the line of “why bother.”
A dry wine with some forceful acidity, the First Crush puts me in a backyard vegetable and fruit garden. Tomato, the cool variety one loves in a gazpacho, is one of several elements on the palate; the wine adds basil, parsley, and pungent rosemary to the mix before moving in more of a fruity direction with black cherry, tangy pomegranate, stewed prunes and nutmeg. The fruit notes tend to crowd out the vegetable and herbal notes once the wine gets to work, but at each point in the process I enjoyed a definite herbal edge.
To the energetic acid, the wine adds vigorous tannins, though these are fine-grained rather
than chunky. This is a wine with good body, unapologetic mouthfeel, and plenty of fruit,
spice, tannin and acidity to chew on. The attack is extroverted, the mid-palate respectable, the
finish a fitting complement to the beginning. Ultimately, this is a wine that is more fun than
sophisticated, in a manner in-your-face, and that is good. That said, this First Crush has every
element needed to become a sleeper value of a wine if only we had the patience to cellar it a
solid five years. If only.
Close to home, Long Island North Fork keeps speaking up and demanding to be heard.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman