has released Long Island's first sparkling syrah.
The wine, a salmon-hued, brut-style bubbly made using the traditional methode champenoise process, is selling briskly at $24.95 a bottle at the winery's tasting room in Jamesport. Twenty out of the 200 cases produced were sold in just two weeks since its release, in part because of the relatively low price tag.
"I want people to experience it," said Jamesport Vineyards' owner and winemaker Ron Goerler Jr. of the new wine.
The new wine, he added, has a touch of sweetness with 0.5 percent residual sugar. But Groeler quickly added that the wine, which has been in the bottle for two years, is "not a sweet sparkler by any means."
To be sure, the wine itself is usual. Sparkling red wines are scarce outside of Australia, where deep red sparkling wines made with shiraz — another name for syrah — have developed a following. Also, winemakers in Italy produce sweet red sparklers from brachetto grapes grown in the Piedmont region, and a few Portuguese winemakers produce espumante tinto bruto, sparkling reds from the country's unique grape varieties, tina pinheira, jaen and baga.
For many American wine drinkers, sparkling red wine may conjure up memories of Cold Duck, a carbonated, sweet wine that was popular in the leisure-suit era of the 1970's.
The new Jamesport wine has its origin in the challenging, slightly cool 2008 vintage, one in which East End growers found it difficult to achieve desirable sugar levels and large quantities of fruit. Goerler, who grows about 4 1/2 acres of syrah between his two vineyards in Cutchogue and Mattituck, which total almost 60 acres, said that 2008 syrah grapes ripened to only 19 degrees Brix — several degrees short of what's necessary to produce a decent table wine.
Rather than produce a still syrah as he did in 2007, Goerler decided in 2008 on a sparkling syrah variation, despite an earlier promise to himself to never again make a sparkling wine. He said that the process is tedious and time-consuming and requires frequent riddling, or turning of the bottles, in a specialized rack.
This pink bubbly won't necessarily be made again, he insists.
"It's one of those one-time deals," because the fickle syrah grape ripened better in more recent vintages, he said.
Syrah can do well on Long Island, said Goerler, but it is a grape that requires a long, warm growing season, because the grapes grow in large clusters and take longer to ripen.
"The syrah this year is stunning," he added.
Syrah or shiraz, a grape whose ancestral home is France's Rhone Valley, has been mostly used as a blending grape on Long Island, but several wineries, among them Jamesport, ,, , , and , have produced still wines using this as the primary varietal grape.
The new Jamesport offering is not the first red bubbly produced in the region. in Peconic produces a sparkling merlot and sweet sparkling red wine, also made from merlot, called Dulce Patricia.
Jameport Sparkling Syrah currently is available only at the winery's tasting room, but soon will be available to retailers through Jamesport's wholesale distributor, Mattituck-based Portfolio. Established in 1981, Jamesport grows a wide range of grapes and produces about 5,000 cases of wine annually.
Jamesport Vineyards is at 1216 Main Road, Jamesport.