In a month dominated by pints of pumpkin ale and transitional sweaters, it's easy to lose sight that this is transitional wine weather, too. Mid-fall is when versatile, lighter bodied red wines — bottles you can chill slightly if you want, or not — reclaim their rightful place at the table, where they can love on autumn dishes like roasted chicken and squash soup.
Enter cabernet franc, a grape that can vary from lusty and robust (under warmer conditions) to bright and fragrant (in cooler climates and years). Because the 2018 harvest was the latter on the North Fork, some fruit did not ripen as much as growers and winemakers would have hoped. Yet there are unexpected boons, too: For instance, the only cabernet franc produced from Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck in 2018, called Mojo, is a spirited gem.
“[The harvest in] 2018 was challenging, but the grapes benefited from a very long hang time, and we were extremely selective in the vineyard,” said Stephen Scarnato, owner of Long Island Vine Care and vineyard manager for Shinn Estate Vineyards. Shinn was selective on the sorting table, too, said Scarlato, after the fruit was harvested in late October. “Our crew is super-sharp and can tell the difference between a so-so cluster and an excellent one.”
Shinn is devoted to sustainable vineyard practices, such as eschewing fungicides, and it shows in this fresh, focused wine. When I first tasted it this summer, it was like meeting someone with whom you have instant chemistry: Refreshing and approachable, herbaceous and kind of tart, like cranberries blended with the barest hint of fall spices like cinnamon. Winemaker Patrick Caserta uses steel, not oak, to age Mojo, letting its gutsy fruit just be itself.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one seduced by Mojo; there are about 20 cases left at the vineyard, said Chelsea Frankel, who co-manages the tasting room and is the daughter of owners Barbara and Randy Frankel.
Which means, sadly, it might be gone by Thanksgiving, a meal this wine would fit like a glove. While it lasts, the 2018 Mojo is $26 per bottle at Shinn Estate Vineyards, a place whose patio is a must-visit in the fall.
Shinn Estate Vineyards, 2000 Oregon Rd., Mattituck. 631-804-0367. shinnestatevineyards.com