June 2006

East End Days

Howard Goldberg writes up the 2005 Cuvee Tropical Chardonnay, 2005 Pinot Grigio and 2005 Tocai Friulano.

On a July afternoon, if you could step magically into Fairfield Porter's peaceful summer paintings in the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, you would want to take a glass of a Channing Daughters white from Bridgehampton. 

Three newly released 2005's — the Channing Perrine Cuvée Tropical, pinot grigio and tocai Friulano — seem made for repasts that Porter's subjects could have served on the languorous East End days he portrayed. 

As a chef and sommelier, Channing's winemaker, James Christopher Tracy, produces appetite-sharpening whites inspired by the quicksilver whites of Friuli Venezia-Giulia in northeastern Italy. 

His latest releases deliver pleasurable drinking, with pretty aromas; fruitiness tending toward subtlety, and long, crisp finishes. 

The Cuvée Tropical will jolt and then woo buyers whose idea of chardonnay has been shaped by heavy butterscotch-and-vanilla versions from California. Light and delicate, this prototypical Northeastern chardonnay ($17) reflects Long Island's cool conditions and Channing's measured stylistic choices. Its tautness is reminiscent of a Chablis. 

The grapes, from 31-year-old vines in the Mudd Vineyard in Southold, are a clone called chardonnay musqué, which yields an attractive muscat-like scent. (The name Perrine on the bottle's neck label refers to Larry Perrine, who owns Channing Daughters with Walter Channing.) 

Mr. Tracy's pinot grigio ($18) puts to shame the insipid ones that stream out of Italy. It is an ideal aperitif. 

The tocai Friulano ($24), as light as a patch of cirrus cloud, is an understated wine that is likely to blossom soon. Channing Daughters made only 146 cases, and they are likely to disappear quickly.

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