March 2006

Not Enough, But Tasty

THERE is good and bad news from Channing Daughters Winery. The good news is that its 2005 sauvignon blanc is one of the finest Long Island has produced in a decade and there is an ample supply — for now. The bad news is that its 2004 Meditazione, a mind-bogglingly complex seven-grape white blend, is sold out. 

The sauvignon blanc grapes in the Channing Perrine sauvignon ($18) came from vines planted at Mudd Vineyard, in Southold, in 1975; they are among the Island's oldest. (Perrine is Larry Perrine, the president and chief executive of the winery, in Bridgehampton.) 

The bouquet and flavor are enchanting, partly because of the effect of 17 percent musqué chardonnay. Musqué is a clone that delivers a muscatlike effect. 

The sauvignon is a whirligig of tropical-fruit aromas and flavors, notably grapefruit, and of coconut notes and herbs. 

Sip after sip, the bright acidity zings the palate, cleansing it for the next appetite-sharpening round, while the soft texture caresses the palate. 

James Christopher Tracy, the winemaker, is an incessant experimenter. Meditazione seems like a blending venture driven by chutzpah. In seeking synergy, the recipe invites risk: chardonnay (55 percent), sauvignon blanc (15.5), viognier (11), pinot grigio (6), Tocai Friulano (5.5), malvasia bianca (4) and muscat ottonel (3). The staff learned the percentages by weighing the different grapes separately. 

The grapes were fermented together on their skins rather than being blended after separate fermentations off the skins, the norm; compounds in the skins inject color and depth. 

This bold wine nearly amounts to a Rube Goldberg contraption, but it works — some but not all of the time. Give a graying wine buff a taste, and it may fetch a quizzical look. 

The flavors chase one another around almost frantically; the powerful razorlike acidity and heat (13 percent alcohol) converge almost masochistically. The bouquet's density resembled that of gardenias. The elixir seemed to combine citrus, spice, dried raisins — all mingled with a breath of oxidation. 

Channing Daughters mimics the fresh, fruity whites of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, a region in northeastern Italy. Meditazione ($40), which helps define Long Island's high-stakes wines, took its cue from Italians' vino da meditazione — mediation wine, intended to appeal to the intellect and digestive system. 

Only 29 cases were made and immediately allocated to Channing Daughters' wine club and a few choosy New York restaurants, among them Bouley, Danube and Hearth. The 2006 vintage will yield 60 cases if nature cooperates. 

The scarcity of Meditazione teaches a lesson about rising boutique wineries like Channing, which makes 7,000 cases of wine annually: To avoid frustration, consumers should learn wineries' wine-release dates and sign up for queues. California's limited-production wineries have long kept mailing lists, and people have waited years to become regulars.

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