The Grapes of Roth by Wolffer Estate


Tasting Notes from The Wine Advocate April 2010 ( #188)
David Schildknecht

2004 The Grapes of Roth Merlot:  92
2005 The Grapes of Roth Merlot:  90
2008 The Grapes of Roth Riesling:  89
2009 The Grapes of Roth Riesling Late Harvest:  89

Roman Roth (winemaker for Wolffer Estate, where his own wines are also vinified) is crafting in small quantities some of the finest red wines in Long Island.

The Grapes of Roth 2004 Merlot
Slated for release this spring, the Grapes of Roth 2004 Merlot relies on fruit from the McCullough vineyard in Jamesport (as this cuvee has from its 2001 inception until 2005). High-toned kirsch and fresh cherry aromas are tinged with intimations of cherry pit, iodine, and graphite, all of which lend dark, faintly bitter complexity to a palate of energetic brightness and pure, perfectly ripe fruit. This finishes with terrific tenacity and mineral-like character, reminding me of the 2001. I would anticipate at least 5-7 more years of fascination and satisfaction from it.

The Grapes of Roth 2005 Merlot
Incorporating 15% Malbec, Roth’s 2005 Merlot – from Schneider vineyards – smells of cardamom-tinged cassis, joined on a dense but texturally pliant palate by darkly-roasted coffee and nuts. Suggestions of salt and char add invigoration to an intense finish. This is more opaque and thicker than the corresponding 2004, with imposing ripeness but it is manifestly unevolved. It won’t be released until spring, 2011.

The Grapes of Roth 2008 Riesling
Having been asked repeatedly – due to his German home town (though not in a growing region that favors this grape) – why he did not make Riesling, Roth decided in 2007 to comply, and his 2008 Riesling – from the same Split Rock Vineyard tapped the previous year – demonstrates the potential of both Roth and Long Island’s coolest, easternmost sites (here with some riper fruit from westerly Martha Clara Vineyards blended in) to do justice to this noble grape. Peach and lime aromas and flavors are backed by the sort of infectious juiciness and some sense of transparency to spicy, saline, and stony nuances that one expects in Riesling’s European homelands but so seldom encounters abroad. As is frequently the case with New World renditions of this grape, even a mere 6 grams of residual sugar engenders a faint sense of sweetness (which would never happen in Germany at that level) but this in no way diminishes the wine’s admirable clarity and charm. There’s a bit more bitterness here than in the 2007, but that too is well-integrated. It can only remain to be seen how these wines will age, but I am anticipating that this vintage will prove to have been best drunk within two years.

The Grapes of Roth 2009 Riesling Late Harvest
From tank, Roth’s dry 2009 Riesling is promising, too, and I do not want to pass up a chance to describe his already-bottled 2009 Riesling Late Harvest, because sweet Riesling is so seldom successful in the New World. Scents and flavors of pear nectar and apple jelly are laced with caramel, cherry stone bitterness, and salt. An oily richness of texture thankfully does not preclude a welcome sense of refreshment, and the sweetness comes off without being cloying. While not profound, this delicious Beerenauslese-like bottling should prove delightfully capable of true dessert wine service over at least the next 6-8 years.

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