Long Island Wine Country: Shinn Estate Vineyards

New York is producing many exciting wines.  I confirmed this during my recent trip to the North Fork of Long Island.

It was my first time visiting Long Island wine country and my first time tasting wines from this region (though I have enjoyed several whites from the Finger Lakes).

I went into my adventure with an open mind.  I didn’t have any expectations, but I did hope to find some noteworthy wines.

I had just that experience at Shinn Estate Vineyards.

The North Fork wine trail lies along two main roads — Route 25 to the south and Route 48 to the north — with smaller roads that connect the two.  Shinn is centrally located in the town of Mattituck but is a little off the beaten path, on a small road north of Route 48.  It’s so close to the Long Island Sound that you can smell salt in the air.

Shinn Estate Vineyards has the kind of ambiance I like when I visit a winery.  Their tasting room is inside a barn that was originally built in the 1880s.  It’s small and intimate, with friendly staff who make your visit feel special.  When I walked in I was greeted by an energetic black and white dog named Panda and the music of Bob Marley playing from a small stereo.

The first wine I tried was the 2008 Anomaly ($18), a white Pinot Noir.  I was intrigued by the idea of a white Pinot Noir, though I realized I’ve had it before — in Champagne and sparkling wines (like a Blanc de Noirs).  White Pinot Noir is made by quickly removing the skins from the juice once the grapes have been pressed, so the skin don’t transfer color.

The Anomaly is so light in color that it almost looks like water; it’s a surprise when your first sip is full of red fruit flavors.  The wine has notes of white raspberry and strawberry with a long clean finish.  It goes well with chicken or fish, or on its own on an evening when it’s just too hot outside to drink red wine.

Shinn’s red wines were my favorite of all the red wines I tasted at North Fork wineries.  I couldn’t resist buying a bottle of the Non Vintage Red ($14) to take with me.  The wine is a mix of Cabernet Franc and Merlot and has bright flavors of red berries and cherries.  A hint of oak gives the wine soft tannins.  Easy to drink with a smooth finish, this is a great everyday wine.

Also impressive was the “Wild Boar Doe” ($29), a playful blend of 54% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Petit Verdot, 13% Malbec and 12% Cabernet Franc.  Medium bodied in structure, this wine has juicy flavors of cherry and plum with black pepper and warm spice on the finish.

Had I not been on a budget, I would have loved to buy a bottle of the 2006 Cabernet Franc ($38).  Lush and full bodied, this is a delicious wine by any standard.  It could easily stand up to Cabernet Francs from California.  The wine is aged for 16 months in small French oak barrels and has ripe flavors of blackberry and black cherry, with a hint of vanilla and spice.

It was hard to leave the quaint and cozy tasting room but I knew there were other wineries to explore.  The good news is that if you find it hard to leave too, you can always book a room at their bed & breakfast.

For more information on Shinn Estate Vineyards visit shinnestatevineyards.com.