Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Wines of Castello di Borghese, Long Island, New York State

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Borghese's Assistant Manager Evie Kahn

We tasted the wines of the Castello di Borghese Vineyard and Winery on Long Island, New York State. The Castello die Borghese is owned and managed by Prince Marco and Princess Ann Marie Borghese, who live on the premise.

There are more than 30 wineries on Long Island and the list is growing. The first winery on Long Island was founded by Louisa and Alex Hargrave in 1973. This is when it all started and the Hargrave couple can be considered as the parents of the wine industry in Long Island. Marco and Ann Marie Borghese bought the vineyards and the winery in 1999 and renamed it Castello de Borghese Vineyard and Winery.

The reference to vineyard, where the grapes are grown, and the winery, where the wine is made, in the name of the Estate may appear strange to European readers, because both processes are typically in the same hands in Europe, in the US they are often not. The special mention of vineyard and winery in the name is intended to show clearly that at the Castelleo di Borghese wine is made in the European tradition, where wineries rarely buy grapes from others but typically grow them themselves.

Marco Borghese comes from the famous Borghese family in Italy, which includes many well known personalities, including Pope Paul V (he was Pope many centuries ago) and Marco’s cousin, well know from the popular TV romance US reality series “The Bachelor: Rome,” in which attractive and sexy women were competing for an eligible, handsome, and presumably rich bachelor, Marco’s cousin.

When the Borgheses bought the property from the Hargraves, they inherited an unenviable tradition of making Pinot Noir. Although this hard-to-manage Burgundian grape does not seem well suited to its East End maritime agriculture habitat, the Hargraves made successful Pinot Noirss periodically. The Borgheses have continued on this route and the Pinot Noir has become the flagship wine, although many consider Long Island to be a Merlot region. The vineyard has 84 acres under vine and produces around 10,000 cases per year.

In little over a quarter of a century the Long Island wine industry has grown from one small vineyard to 3,000 acres of vines and over thirty wineries producing outstanding wines. Located in New York State, on the East Coast of the United States, Long Island extends some 120 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. Its maritime climate, geography and soil characteristics provide ideal conditions for producing wines of exceptional quality.

Looking over the vineyard of the Borghese Estate, I could see why this piece of land has attracted Marco Borghese and how it probably has recalled the Tuscany of his youth to him, where for centuries his noble family had farmed and made wine.

We tasted the following wines in the wonderful tasting room.

Chardonnay 2007 Estate $17—stainless steel fermented; straw-yellow in the glass, pear and green apple on the nose, clean and crisp on the palate, with a rich texture and straightforward fruit aromas.

Riesling 2008 Estate $22-- Stainless steel fermented for 3 weeks, light-yellow in the glass, attack of green apple on the nose, scents of pear mate on the palate, coupled with mineral flavors, lovely balanced wine with a crisp and bright acidity on the finish.

Pinot Noir Barrel Fermented 2005 $44—Purple-red in the glass, a lot of cassis notes on the nose, with hints of dark chocolate and toasted oak, a full-bodied wine with a strong tannin profile, both round and velvety. This wine has been aged for a year in a blend of virgin and vintage French Oak Barrels. The Borgheses are making a special effort to promote the Pinot Noir on Long Island; it is a difficult effort, but can be very rewarding as this wine shows.

Merlot 2002 Reserve $29—Aged in a blend of vintage French and American Oak for 20 months, dark-red in the glass, aromas of raspberries and black current on the nose, restrained in fruit notes, coupled with a charming finesse and elegance and a noticeable profile of tannins that promises well for keeping the Merlot in the cellar for a couple of years. In July 2009, Borghese became the seventh member of the LIMA (Long Island Merlot Alliance), joining Clovis Point, McCall, Pellegrini, Raphael and Woelffer, although Pinot Noir remains Borghese’s flagship wine.

Meritage 2005 $60—Aged for 2 years in the French Oak. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (40 %), Merlot (40%) and Cabernet Franc (20%). Bordeaux’s tend to be blends, but with either the Cabernet Sauvignon or the Merlot dominating. As a very broad generalization, Cabernet Sauvignon (second most planted variety) dominates the blend in red wines produced in the Médoc and the rest of the left bank of the Gironde estuary. Typical blends are 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc & 15% Merlot. Merlot (most planted variety) and to a lesser extent Cabernet France (third most planted variety) dominate in Saint Emilion, Pomerol and the other right bank appellations. These blends are typically 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc & 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. This Meritage is half and half Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, very big, juice, full wine, with lots of vanilla, cassis and dark chocolate aromas on the palate, lasting finish with a strong tannin profile, as I have detected by all Borghese red wines. Not cheap, but worth the money of someone, who is prepared to spend that amount.


  1. Do they still make their rose? I didn't get out to Long Island this summer so I didn't get to check it out.

  2. Gretchen,

    I did not taste any Rose, but if I remember correctly, they had a Merlot based Rose on their list.