Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Good Wine for Halloween

I spotted a little bottle of wine called "Envelope" in Smith & Vine, the Brooklyn wine store. It was 70% Chardonnay. Yawn. But 30% Gewurztraminer! Hmm. It was the work of Channing Daughters, the dependable Long Island stars. Hey. The back text said they were inspired by the winemakers of Friuli, Italy. Whoa!

Channing Daughters? Friuli? Weird grape combo? It was pushing all my buttons. Price? $42! Yikes! For a Long Island Chard? Better check this out with the staff.

"Is this worth $42?" I asked. The staff kind of swooned. "That is the best U.S. wine in the store in my opinion," said one. Then the owner, Patrick, came in. "I think that is the first truly great wine to come out of Long Island," he declaimed. OK, OK. I bought it.

So, what is this weird little wine? Well, like the label says, it's a Long Island Friuli wine. The Channing Daughters took their hard-harvested Chard and Gewurz and fremented them on their skins in an open top fermenter. It was then aged in seven French and Slovenian oak barrels for 13 months. They made only 158 cases.

One of the things I love about skin-fermented white wines is the color. These wines can achieve absolutely beautiful, and sometimes deeply strange, colors. Envelope (hate that name, by the way; "pushing the envelope" is such a tired expression) is a rich apricot color. Almost pumpkin really, if I must invoke J. Crew-like color designations.

The pumpkin doesn't stop there, though. I am not messing with you: there is pumpkin on the nose, and there is pumpkin on the palette. I'm not trying to turn you off. It's there and it's cool. There is also squash, spice and stewed apricots on the nose. Basically a wonderful autumn scent. The smell of retired fields.

The mouth-feel is medium-full, viscous, with light tannins. There is apricot again, pumpkin as I said, meaty nut flavors, celery, scallion, and—believe it or not—roasted pumpkin seeds.

Which all leads me to say that this is the perfect wine, and color and taste, for Halloween. It really is.

Is it the best wine Long Island has produced? No, I don't think do. I've had less showy wines from Shinn and Lieb that were better overall. But it's audacious. It shows great talent. And it might age fantastically.

At $42, will I buy another bottle. Yes. One. For a Halloween party I'm invited to.

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