Long Island's only cooperative wine organization has created its first rosé merlot, but don't get too excited. It won't be on the market until spring 2017.
Merliance Rosé is a project of the Long Island Merlot Alliance (LIMA), a cooperative effort of five New York State wineries -- Martha Clara Vineyards, Raphael Vineyard & Winery, T'Jara Vineyards, Wolffer Estate Vineyards, and McCall Wines.
Unlike the red wine LIMA has been making, the rosé is being made from a single clone of the merlot grape, with all the grapes hand-picked and crushed on the same day, October 4. When it comes to market, it will be sold through the LIMA members' wine clubs at a price to be announced closer to that time.
Although Long Island vineyards have a wide range of grapes, their merlot acreage is approximately 700 acres, which represents 30% of the region's overall vineyard acreage, making it the most widely planted wine grape on the Long Island.
Merlot, French for "little blackbird,” is believed to have been developed from a variation on the name Merle in Bordeaux patois. Notes LIMA, "It is not certain whether the name reflected a comparison to the color of the birds or a testament to the fact that blackbirds in Bordeaux love feasting on this luscious grape variety. Either way, the use of the name merlot has only been found in the literature since the last 200 years. A report in 1784 referred to merlot as one of the better libournais blending varieties. We can trace the origins of merlot varietal back to the 1st Century in France, but merlot as the noble Bordeaux varietal standing on its own doesn’t appear in the literature until the 1800s."
The first merlot plantings on Long Island's North Fork were in 1974.