October 2009

Impressionism in a Glass

...complexities suggest the dabs and streaks of colors in Impressionist paintings... 

Christopher Tracy has turned the Bridgehampton cellar in which he makes Channing Daughters whites into a kind of artist’s studio. Even when simple, these dry wines aren’t monochromatic; their complexities suggest the dabs and streaks of colors in Impressionist paintings. 

An experimenter, Mr. Tracy addresses each vintage’s unique characteristics by shifting the proportions of the grapes used in blends and by calibrating the flavor relationships and accents, seemingly in restrained fashion. These wines have uniformly long aftertastes. 

This approach explains why, year by year, Mr. Tracy’s portfolio of boutique whites, influenced by food-oriented styles in northern Italy, is Long Island’s most ambitious. 

Channing Daughters’ prettily aromatic, appetite-whetting 2008 pinot grigio ($20), made with a dollop of chardonnay, has an elusive mintiness. The attractively hearty 2008 tocai Friulano ($24), produced from grapes from the Mudd West Vineyard, on the North Fork, evokes a late-summer melon. 

Mr. Tracy’s zippy, creamy, palate-cleansing 2008 Scuttlehole chardonnay (a good buy at $16) is faintly figgy and pearlike. Produced in steel, it avoids the oak-barrel influences that have diminished the popularity of overly wooded chardonnays. 

Channing Daughters’ 2008 Sylvanus ($24) is a masterly field blend: it uses muscat ottonel, pinot grigio and pinot bianco grapes that were farmed, picked and fermented together. The wine has a charming flower garden scent and flavors swirling with subtleties. 

The weighty, refreshing 2007 Vino Bianco (a $20 bargain) is a triumph of blending: tocai Friulano, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio and grapes from two different chardonnay clones. It delivers a sweet bouquet and, in the glass, hints of honey and herbaceousness.

—Howard G. Goldberg

Web Page: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/18/nyregion/18vinesli.html