The soft white grapes used in the 2010 Estate Reserve Riesling at Martha Clara Vineyards are handled very gently.
Winemakers take special care to hide the grapes and their juices from oxygen to prevent oxidation. The grape juice is then fermented in stainless steel, and upon pouring a golden glass of the finished product, floral aromas with hints of white tea leaves waft through the air.
On the palette, a distinct sweetness is subtly balanced with acidity.
That’s why the winery’s riesling was rated the highest among 564 other wines at the 7th Annual Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association Competition last month in Haymarket, Va.
Entries were submitted by 118 wineries from 11 states.
“This is a big deal for Long Island and a big deal for the North Fork,” said Martha Clara Vineyards winemaker and general manager Juan Micieli-Martinez.
The wine’s victory — which won Best in Show and Best in Category, meaning it was the best riesling overall — came somewhat as a surprise. The best riesling typically flows from the New York Fingerlakes region, which has a cooler growing climate conducive to producing that wine, Mr. Micieli-Martinez said.
“The Fingerlakes has always been given credit for their dynamite riesling,” he said. “For us to win down here on the island is even more of a special honor.”
He credits Martha Clara’s win to its location — its land and soil — as well as the management of the vines and careful attention to detail and the handling of the grapes and juices.
The competition’s 19 judges considered aroma, taste, structure and overall concept in each wine entered, according to Gordon Murchie, president emeritus of ASWA. Each judge had to be familiar with east coast wines, as grapes in the east differ from those in the west.
He said Martha Clara’s Riesling earned its honor by reaching a certain “level of sophistication.”
“It shows, in the factors of tasting the wine, that overall this is a top quality wine that is going to do extremely well in the consumer marketplace.”
Since the winery has won, it will only sell three bottles of its 2010 Estate Reserve Riesling to members of the public or six bottles each to Martha Clara Vineyards Wine Club members. One bottle costs $19.99.
Other North Fork wineries were bestowed with awards for their wines as well. Sherwood House Vineyards in Mattituck took two silver medals — one for a 2007 Cabernet Franc and one for a 2006 Sherwood Manor.
Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue won a silver for its White Table Wine and a bronze for its 2010 Riesling.
A bronze medal went to the Harbes Family Farm and Vineyard in Mattituck for the 2007 Blue Mack, and Martha Clara also won silver medals for the 2010 So Vin Yon Blonk — which also won Best in Category — and 2009 Cabernet Franc, as well as a bronze for the 2007 Clusters.