Alsace and Long Island: an eclectic combo done right at LENZ

My wine of choice these days without a doubt has been LENZ’s Alsatian-style ’06 Gewürztraminer. After two very recent trips to Long Island’s North Fork (in addition to my initial visit a year and a half ago) I can confirm that LENZ Winery is my favorite North Fork destination.

Obviously, the quality of the wines has something to do with that, but this also has to do with the fact that every time I visit LENZ I have a downright fabulous time. My first visit took place at the end of February of last year when a former boyfriend convinced me to join him for a three-day, hands-on excursion to Long Island Wine Country, otherwise known as “Wine Camp” (needless to say, it didn’t take much convincing).

Of all the wineries we visited during Wine Camp, LENZ had the most lasting impression. During our stay we participated in a blending session lead by notorious winemaker (and self-proclaimed communist) Eric Fry. This session included two competitions: 1) create a Chardonnay blend with wines from grapes picked at varying degrees of ripeness and 2) develop our own “Bordeaux blend” with barrel samples of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.

It was a fun competition and we actually walked away with the winning Bordeaux blend (hmm… a prognosis of things to come?). However, as the session was coming to an end and the group was dispersing for the day, Eric approached us and asked if we wanted to come out back with him and do some barrel sampling. He only had one condition: WE MUST SPIT!

For almost two hours we followed Eric around, tasting this and that and spitting wine literally everywhere. Aside from being quite tipsy in the end and realizing that—even if you do spit—you can still get loopy, the most memorable moment was having Eric introduce us to his prized Gewürztraminer. Of all his wines, I got the impression that this was his favorite. He explained he had spent some time in the Alsace region of France where he had a girlfriend who obviously made a lasting impression on him. I would guess he makes this wine in her honor.

Going Gaga for Gewürz

LENZ's winemaker, Eric Fry, teaching us proper spitting techniques.

The North Fork is best known for making wines using Bordeaux grape varieties (certainly not for Gewürztraminer). However, the one we sampled at LENZ was honestly quite stunning. Though still unfinished, the sample was extremely aromatic, full of fruit (notably the token lychee flavors you find in most Gewürztraminer wines), but completely dry—or what Eric would refer to as being “Alsatian-style.”

Fast-forward to two weeks ago when I visited LENZ for a second time, I noticed the Gewϋrz was now on the tasting menu. Wow… still awesome. Though I always thought of LENZ as being a great Merlot producer (still do), I feel the Alsatian-style Gewürztraminer is its most distinctive wine—and arguably one of the most distinctive wines on the entire North Fork.

I was impressed enough to buy a bottle (I’m not a case buyer, so purchasing a bottle when visiting a winery is kind of a big deal for me). A few days later I found myself in Queens, NY at the apartment of a good friend. Would you believe it—inside the fridge is yet another bottle of LENZ Gewürz! She and her boyfriend also recently visited the North Fork and fell in love with this wine. As planned, we made yet another trip to Long Island Wine Country, where my now third visit to LENZ was again the day’s highlight.

Long-story short: the duration of my stay in Queens included several bottles of ’06 LENZ Gewürztraminer. I think I smelled of lychee fruit by the time I headed back to Rhode Island, so I promised myself to lay off the Gewürz for awhile. However, last night rolled around and I was meeting a good friend for dinner at a local BYOB and well, there was still that bottle I bought of ’06 LENZ Gewürztraminer just lying there on the rack…

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