For Casual Crowds, Second Labels

FrenchWine

When the number of guests at a party or a barbecue threatens to overwhelm the wine budget, second labels can come to the rescue.

A few Long Island vintners sell their second-best wines under second-label programs, generally for under $20. I customarily equate second labels, which vintners sometimes call second wines, with restaurants’ carafe wines.

Second labels usually signify wines that for various vineyard and cellar reasons fail to meet producers’ highest standards for quality and style, but are suitable for early, casual consumption.

They are for drinking, not thinking. At a minimum, they should be serviceable, pleasurable and, if possible, not too far in quality from their superior siblings.

Earlier this month I tasted Bridge Lane wines from Lieb Cellars, in Mattituck and Cutchogue; Collina wines from Macari Vineyards, in Mattituck; and the Richmond Creek series from Osprey’s Dominion, in Peconic.

Lieb’s standout was the charming, flavorsome 2012 Bridge Lane cabernet franc rosé ($19). (Bridge Lane is a small street bordering a Lieb vineyard.) Its 2011 Bridge Lane chardonnay ($15) was vivacious. The 2011 Bridge Lane merlot blanc ($17) was amiable — a white blend of merlot and pinot blanc for late-afternoon sipping. And the 2007 Bridge Lane merlot ($15) was soft and voluptuous.

Macari’s light nonvintage Collina chardonnay was lemony and refreshing ($13), and the rustic Collina nonvintage merlot ($13) had a punch. (Collina — Italian for “hill” — takes its name from the Mattituck Hills, the bluff above Long Island Sound, on the north side of Macari’s property.)

Osprey’s Dominion’s spicy 2009 Richmond Creek merlot ($14), offering a sweet aroma, was easy-drinking. (Richmond Creek borders Osprey’s Dominion’s southern edge.) The quite-light 2011 Richmond Creek cabernet franc ($13) was extra pleasant when slightly chilled. At $12, the fresh, smooth, satisfying nonvintage Red Blend was a best buy.

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