Mixing Grapes from France and Long Island, Maiden + Liberty Creates its First French-American Wine

Maiden + Liberty combines French and Long Island grapes to create French-American wine. • Photo by Monique Singh-Roy

Long Island boy meets South of France girl. They get married and make wine happily ever after.

Sounds like the beginning of a great romance and a great wine, and it is for Maiden + Liberty winemakers James and Alexandra Medwick of Manhasset.

Working with French and Long Island grapes, they’re making a new type of wine, blending grapes from both regions to make their first French-American wine.

“We always wondered what a French and American wine would taste like,” Maiden + Liberty’s founder and winemaker James Medwick said.

Born on Long Island, Mr. Medwick grew up in Manhasset, while Ms. Medwick was born in Languedoc, a province in the south of France.

“Languedoc is the largest wine-making region of France,” Mr. Medwick explained. “It’s less well known than Bordeaux and Burgundy, but known for making a rhone—a Provence-style wine.”

Ms. Medwick’s family works in the winemaking business in France, so when James and Alexandra married they began traveling there to learn winemaking. Mr. Medwick had just begun law school at NYU, while Ms. Medwick worked in the New York banking industry when the idea of making their own wines changed their focus.

“We weren’t planning on doing this,” Mr. Medwick said. “But then we began playing with ideas and I put together a business plan, looking at the wines growing in each region.”

It was also during this time that they began mixing grapes from both countries.

James and Alexandra Medwick at a recent wine event at Oheka Castle. • Photo courtesy of Maiden + Liberty

“We started playing around with different wines and seeing what it was like if you mixed them,” Mr. Medwick said. “We examined wines in each region, which thrives where and their style, but we viewed that as a positive, giving us more variety.”

Mixing grapes from different countries is unusual, but not unheard of. It’s a process Mr. Medwick calls cross-blending.

“We focus on different grapes when we’re in France and different grapes here on Long Island, he explained. “We’re not picking the same grape and doing two different versions of them, we’re picking the grapes best suited for each climate.”

Maiden + Liberty currently buys Long Island grapes from Lieb Cellars and Pellegrini Vineyards. French grapes come from Domaine Chartreuse de Mougeres in Herault, France and are shipped already fermented to the Premium Wine Group in Mattituck. Mr. Medwick said it’s safer to ship French grapes already fermented because the alcohol preserves them. In Mattituck, both grapes are blended, cellared and bottled.

Using cross blending, Maiden + Liberty has produced two French-American wines, a white and a red blend. The white is Long Island Chardonnay and Viognier, blended with Macabeu and Vermentino from France. The red is Long Island Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon blended with French Syrah and Grenache.

“We make them full bodied, with lots of aromas, especially in the white,” Mr. Medwick said. “With the red, there’s plenty of fruit expression, plus a healthy dose of minerality.”

The French-American blends join the Maiden + Liberty wine list that already includes a Long Island Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc, plus a French Rosé.

After explaining their wine blends, perhaps the biggest challenges for Maiden + Liberty has been choosing which region of the wine store to display their wines: France or Long Island? Then there’s the question of their name.

We were looking at maps of Manhattan and stumbled on the intersection of Maiden Lane and Liberty Street,” Mr. Medwick explained. “We’re trying to create innovative wines, so maiden is like a maiden voyage and liberty is “Liberté, Égalité and Fraternité” to France, while we have “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” in the U.S. It’s a shared value we can apply to the French and American side of our work.”

To find stores that carry Maiden + Liberty wines, please visit http://maidenandliberty.com.