Lenz has some of the oldest vines on Long Island, having planted its first ones in 1978, and they are quite proud of the fact that all of their wines are made from their own grapes. The attractively rustic tasting room (open every day all year long) is not very big, though it is augmented by an outdoor seating area in the summer, and their selection of wine-related gifts tends to be somewhat less hokey than others. In addition, a winery dog made a brief appearance—always a plus in my book. Both of the servers we talked with were smart, attentive, and knowledgeable, with an evident passion for the wines.
Despite the slushy streets and cold rain, we shared the room with a small group of women who had arrived in a limo and a few other couples and small groups.
The tasting menu offers two main options, the Estate menu of 5 wines for $12 and the Premium list of 5 wines for $15. You can also put together an all white or an all red tasting, plus there are a few additional wines—dessert, sparkling, and Late Harvest wines—not included in the tastings. We opted to do one of each menu, sharing tastes as we went, and our server quickly caught on to what we were doing and carefully arranged the samples, pointing out which of the two or three tastes to begin with. I mark the Premium selections with an *.
- *2010 Old Vines Gewürztraminer $30
This, our server tells us, in an Alsatian style Gewürz, so it is dry and refreshing. Indeed, it is quite dry, with lots of pineapple and mineral tastes. Hmmm, maybe a bit too dry, and a bit harsh on the finish.
- 2011 Tete-à-Tete $25
Since they only make the Gewürztraminer in years when they are particularly happy with the grapes, they decided to use the Gewürztraminer grapes in a blend in 2011, so this wine is 50% Gewürztraminer and 50% Pinot Gris. Good decision! We really like this one. The aroma is rather mineral, but when we taste it we definitely get the pineapple of the Gewürztraminer and then some earthiness, maybe mushroom? I could see enjoying this with a creamy clam chowder.
- *2010 Cuvee $40
100% pinot noir grapes were fermented using the Champagne method, we are told. Sniff. “Apple pie!” exclaims my husband, perhaps, I think, suffering from Briermere pie withdrawal (they are closed for the season). But he’s right. Not only does it smell all warm and toasty and apple-y, it also has a definite apple taste. This is a relatively simple sparkling wine, but quite pleasant.
- 2011 White Label Chardonnay $15
We are now about to have one of my favorite tasting experiences—tasting two very different wines made from the same grape. The White Label Chard is steel fermented, yielding a light, crisp, flinty, very drinkable wine, perfect for summer sipping. The aroma is of baked pear. Very buyable, which we do.
- *2012 Gold Label Chardonnay $20
After ten months in oak, the wine definitely has the typical vanilla and freshly baked bread aroma of an oaked chard, but it is not too oaky. The finish is both tart and sweet, and my husband tries to convince me that it reminds him of Reese’s Pieces. I was with him on the apple pie, but not on this!
- 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon $25
The reds all seem to note that they are unfiltered and unfined. We’re doing another head to head comparison, this time of cab sauvs. This one has a delicious woodsy and berry aroma, and a taste of ripe plums. It is good, but simple, with no tannins. “It lacks gravitas,” opines my tasting companion. I could see it with barbequed sausages.
- *2007 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvnignon $40
You can age this wine for ten years, enthuses our server. We’re not so sure, as it also doesn’t seem to have much in the way of tannins. However, it is a lovely wine, with a delicious aroma and good fruit tastes—raspberries, plums. Though it is primarily cab sauv, it also is blended with merlot, malbec, and cabernet franc.
- 2011 Merlot $20
This is a perfectly fine table wine, we agree. We smell spice and cherry, with none of the earthy smell some North Fork merlots can have. The taste is also of cherry. The tasting notes suggest having it with roast turkey, and I think duck would also work well.
- 2010 Merlot $28
We have in front of us a line-up of three merlots. What fun! This one is a bit of a blend, and though it is 80-90% merlot it also has some cabernet franc, malbec, and petit verdot. We do smell a touch of earthiness, but also lots of cherry. The wine itself is very dense, tannic, and dry. Despite the blend, the taste is rather simple with a flat finish, but overall we like it.
- *2007 Old Vines Merlot $60
Now this one you can age for 20 years, we are told. We should live so long, as my grandmother used to say. You can definitely smell the wood from the oak it was aged in, and also another smell my husband compares to rubber bands. Perhaps. The taste is terrific, with dark fruit flavors and lots of interesting layers, though again not much in the way of tannins. For the price I would probably try to find a Bordeaux—from France.
Reasons to visit: pleasant tasting room with good selection of gift items; very knowledgeable and attentive staff; the Tete-à-Tete, the White Label Chardonnay, the 2007 Old Vines Merlot.