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He’s in a Cab Franc State of Mind


Another change came in 2001 when Mr. Schneider decided to make a Loire-style 100 percent cabernet franc. He called it Le Breton, a Loire synonym for cabernet franc, and, unlike his blended cab francs, which received prolonged barrel age, the Breton was bottled before the next harvest.

The 2001 was delightful 18 years later, lively, energetic and joyous, with pretty flavors of dark fruits. With this wine, Mr. Schneider was ahead of his time, anticipating the American stylistic swing a decade later toward lighter wines based on acidic liveliness rather than on the power of fruit and oak.

In 1998, Mr. Schneider and Ms. Baker, who by then had married, bought a potato farm in Riverhead and planted it with numerous clones of cabernet franc, as well as some cuttings of cab franc and merlot that had originally come from Vieux Château Certan, a famed Pomerol estate.

The 2003 Breton was the first wine I tasted made entirely from fruit grown in their vineyard. It was earthy, minerally and savory, not concentrated but lasting on the palate. The ’04 Breton was cool, breezy and delicious. Then came 2005, a landmark Long Island vintage.

“It was the most crazy, freaky, incredible vintage I’ve ever experienced,” Mr. Schneider said. At one point that October, it rained 17 inches in eight days, leaving the grapes swollen with water. Then, miraculously came 10 clear, dry days, which dried them out. Mr. Schneider, who at this point had taken over most of the winemaking, made several unusual cuvées that year.

La Bouchet, his Bordeaux-style wine, was complex, rich and earthy, with fine tannins and lovely red fruit flavors. He also made a one-off, La Cloche, made exclusively from the Vieux Château cuttings, a floral, pretty, high-toned wine that was structured yet delicate. I thought it was superb. Both these 2005s have years ahead of them.

“I’m stunned by the youthfulness of the ’05s,” Mr. Schneider said.

By 2005, however, Mr. Schneider and Ms. Baker had already decided to sell the vineyard. With a daughter, Chloe, they preferred to live in New York City. As good as the vineyard had turned out to be, it was also too much for them to manage.

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