North Fork Wines

NORTH FORK WINES

by WILLIAM SOKOLIN

Every North Fork vineyard is located between Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay. Incredible water on both sides separated by thirty miles of the North Fork. Get the picture? Water on both sides reflecting the warmth that great vineyards require. What’s more, there are trade winds coming down from Canada that flow exactly over the North Fork. It is WINE HEAVEN. Not all the great vineyards of Bordeaux are located near the Gironde River. No water on the other side. This is important. But, in the end, great winemakers are needed and great vineyard managers are required. The great winemakers and the great vineyard managers are here. They have evolved over 30 years.

Eric Frye of Lenz, Winemaker; a story. Eric first worked at Mondavi in California many years ago, a great place to learn his trade, then on to Bordeaux at various Chateaux for 5 years. He then asked his mentor, Andre Tchelichef (one of the world’s great wine experts) where next? Andre replied, “Go to the next great winegrowing region of the world, the North Fork”. Thus Eric took up residency at Lenz and came to fully understand their wonderful wines and the process of their creation. Lenz today, along with Bedell and Paumanok, stands atop the North Fork wines, but they will have to run to stay there. The other vineyards are beginning to catch up. No question that the wine action will be on the North Fork for the 20 to 30 years or more.

Almost 40 years ago, Alex and Louisa Hargraves saw the possibility for winegrowing on the North Fork. It is truly a miracle to think we have this great area 100 miles from New York City, one of the best sales markets for wine. Every year there are more and more vineyards being created. From that one intrepid winery, there are now almost 50 labels. Even the South Fork with the most expensive acreage in the world has gotten into the act with 3 excellent wineries: Wolffer, Channing Daughters and Duck Walk.

Flashback to 1955. Bordeaux is the subject. In that time, I bought a case of Lafite Rothschild for $42 the case of 12. I remember that a 12-bottle case of Lynch Bages 1953 was $23. That seems impossible. Imagine 12 bottles of Haut Brion 1949 for $29 per case. I put it to you that we will see a replay of that time in the next 20 years for Long Island wines. By example, Lenz Cabernet Sauvignon Old Vines is currently $480 the case and the regular Cabernet is $276.

I spoke with the winemaker at Lenz Vineyard, Eric Frye. Like his wines, he is a winner. The conversation was dazzling. Eric told me he was born in 1953, a very good year for French wines. He remarked that Lenz Merlot was simply better tasting than his marvelous Cabernets. The 1953 is $175 per magnum. The rationale is that the wines of Peconic are like the wines of Pomerol. You know that the great wines of Pomerol are Petrus, La Fleur and La Conseillante which are all Merlots. In the early 1950s Petrus was no more than $50 the case of 12. Today 1953 Petrus can fetch $3,000 to $6,000 per bottle. Recent vintages are about $30,000 per case.

We must mention Paumanok Vineyard owned by the Massoud family. They make world-class wines which are primed to escalate in price in the years to come. Their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Tuthill’s Lane Vineyard started out selling at $20 per bottle and is now priced at $75. It is not unreasonable that it might be worth $1,500 to $3000 per bottle at some future date. Their Grand Vintage Cabernet Franc 2010 at $45 per bottle is a replica of Chateau Cheval Blanc 2010 (St. Emilion), the classic red Bordeaux at $1,500 to $2,000 per bottle.

So we are left with the North Fork Merlots which resemble Pomerols, but may be better now and even more so in the future. This includes the wines of Paumanok, Bedell and Corey Creek as well as many others. I would invest a few dollars in the North Fork and dream about great returns in the future. Remember, in case of emergency you can always pleasantly divest yourself of these wines if all else fails. What can you do with stocks that have crashed?

The prices for these North Fork wines could escalate dramatically, more than Bordeaux, because it is such a tiny area. The approximately 500,000 cases now being produced by the entire North Fork represent one medium-size winery in California. Incredible wines are coming from the North Fork. Invest some money in them now and put them in a warehouse for safekeeping. They will be worth a lot more in years to come.

Bill Sokolin 631-726-4579 or gsokolin@foxresidential.com