By Ken Schechet
If I was going to describe Roanoke Vineyards in one word it would be “class.” Your first impression on driving in is the meticulously manicured vineyard, one of the most strikingly beautiful I have ever seen. I did not have to be told that nothing mechanical ever touched these vines. Clearly someone is lavishing a lot of care and love on each and every vine, and that someone is Richard Pisacano.
Rich is a native of Long Island, originally from Huntington, who has been growing grapes on the Island for 30 years and has worked in several vineyards on the North Fork. In 1997 he became the vineyard manager at Wolffer Estates, one of the prestigious vineyards on Long Island, and also began a partnership with winemaker Roman Roth (of Long Island’s famous Grapes of Roth) that is still going strong at both Roanoke and Wolffer.
Despite still working at Wolffer, Rich started his own vineyard to concentrate on a few varietals. The tasting room at Roanoke opened in 2004. Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are planted on 10 acres. Other grapes are purchased but are checked carefully because the microclimates on Long Island can be very different depending on your proximity to the water. The resulting wines are all very European in style: unfined, unfiltered, aged in French Oak and are made for longevity and food friendliness.
The wine comes in some of the most beautiful bottles ever. Inspired by Mouton Rothschild’s use of artist paintings on their labels, Roanoke has linked up with Scott Sandell, an artist whose work can be found in museums, private collections and US embassies. Scott has a passion for creating works of art for use on wine labels that reflect the wine, so there is passion in the bottle and on the bottle. After seeing the vineyards and then the bottles you really want to taste the wines.
2005 Merlot ($45) is 100% Merlot from a one acre lot. It is big, complex, exceptionally fruity with sweet tannins and a flowery bouquet. Plum and coffee flavors predominate. It is almost like a Zinfandel in its power and fruitiness. Even people who don’t like Merlot could love this.
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($40) is made from an early ripening clone and is blended with 9% Cabernet Franc and 3% Merlot. It is a smooth, classic cab with black current flavors. It was a big, smoky, all-around excellent cab.
2006 was the first vintage for Cabernet Franc and it sold out fast. The 2007 Cabernet Franc ($30) was bottled about 6 months before I tasted it. It was delicious but I suspect will be even better in a year or two. There is a big range of ripeness for this grape and Roanoke goes for grapes as ripe as possible. This gives a very floral wine with some spice and raspberry tastes and a nice finish.
Roanoke makes two wines from purchased fruit that I did not taste, a Chardonnay that’s a unique tank and barrel blend, and a dry rose'. The wines are all made to a very high standard. Roanoke has no intention of expanding. They want to remain a limited production vineyard producing hand crafted, full-flavored, premium artisanal wines. The wines can only be purchased at the vineyard or online.
Have you ever been to Roanoke Vineyards, or have you tried one of their wines? Share your comments and insights with the community!