Thursday, November 29, 2012 Highlights Six New York State Beverage Makers You Should Know

[Photographs: Max Falkowitz]
A few weeks ago, I spent some time eating, drinking, and touring my way through upstate New York, a northward trip from the Hudson Valley through Troy and Cazenovia, and up to Utica. We've already taken a look at the incredible applejack from Harvest Spirits, the European-style cider from Harvest Moon, and the Utica icon that is theFX Matt Brewery, but the good stuff didn't stop there.
Quite the opposite: New York State's drinks scene has never been more vibrant, and that includes everything from wine and spirits to hard cider and beer. Here are six beverage makers you should know, and what you should sip from them.

Good Nature Brewing

Good Nature Brewing has a staff of two: the husband and wife team of Matt Whalen and Carrie Blackmore, who work out of a 1,700 square foot space to supply central New York with with ales using New York-grown barley and locally grown hops when available. Their beers are clean and easy-drinking, but also layered and surprising. Take their chocolate-forward American Brown Ale, which is almost egg cream-like, but nutty and hardly sweet.
Brewer Matt Whalen and his homemade bottler.
Whalen and Blackmore met near Lake Placid and began their married life in Massachusetts, but moved back home to central New York to be closer to family. The brewery, less than a year old, is their love letter to New York, a way to contribute to the economic and cultural revival of the area. "I love this place," Blackmore tells us. "I want to raise a family here. And if beer's the answer to making that happen, that'd be great."

Adirondack Distilling

The brand new Adirondack Distilling, a short walk down the street from FX Matt Brewery in Utica, has a corn-based vodka (made with New York corn) that just hit liquor store shelves. Well, they call it vodka, but it drinks like white whiskey: smooth and a bit sweet, and full of corn flavor, but lacking the harsh alcohol heat that plagues all too many new-wave designer moonshines.
We also got to taste their very first test batch of gin, which had an almost creamy character I haven't tasted since my introductory sip to the incredible Blue Gin from Reisetbauer in Austria. Keep an eye out for Adirondack's gin in the months to come.

Breezy Hill Orchard

Breezy Hill Orchard sells an array of apple products: pastries of all sorts, sweet cider, and a delicately effervescent hard cider that I've been sipping as a substitute for dessert. The brew, available by the growler, is on the sweeter side but not overly so, and has layers of baked and caramelized apples given lift and brightness by a gentle carbonation. Open this growler slowly: it'll bubble up fast on you, even if you unscrew with care.

Hudson-Chatham Winery

Though Millbrook Winery is the most talked-about spot in the immediate area, Ghent's Hudson-Chatham Winery has also received acclaim and awards in its short history. The winery boasts the now-classic story of a husband and wife, wine fans both, who said, "Let's just start a winery! It'll be a fun part-time thing!" As they sell at several markets a week, host innumerable events at the winery, and, oh, also make wine, Carlo and Dominique DeVito are re-thinking the part time bit. Their Baco Noir, made with a hardy grape that can withstand the Hudson Valley's less-than-ideal weather, is deep with sour cherry and dried fruit flavors, smooth, and refreshing—an autumnal treat also available in an oak-aged Reserve edition.

Brookview Station Winery

Like Harvest Spirits and Harvest MoonBrookview Station Winery is an extension of an orchard operation looking to diversify its products to 1) increase profits from extra fruit and 2) draw tourists in year-round. Their still apple and fruit wines run the gamut from semi-dry to dessert sweet, and are geared towards table wines that happen to play well with food.
They recently started brewing a hard cider that's fresh, clean, and light—a little like the PBR of cider (comparably priced, too), which I mean in the very best way. Most large-scale ciders available in the States are grossly sweet and taste more of the steel tanks they're fermented in than actual apples; here's an honest brew made for gulping after mowing the lawn on a hot summer day. At their tasting room, you can also have what they playfully call a "Hudson Valley Kir": a cup of hard cider with a spare pour of their very own cassis.

Aaron Burr Cider

When I brought a bottle of Aaron Burr Cider to the office—a find from a trip to the New Amsterdam Market in NYC—it admittedly received mixed responses. But it may be just the thing for an appetite-stimulating pre-dinner sip. The dry cider is aged in bourbon barrels and made barely effervescent with tiny, Champagne-like bubbles. You smell sweet oak and corn on a whiff, but a taste is all dry, funky cider apples—until the very end when the bourbon comes back for a sweet boozy kick.
About the author: Max Falkowitz is the editor of Serious Eats: New York. You can follow him on Twitter at @maxfalkowitz.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cape Gazette Raves About Nassau Valley Vineyards (DE)

Check out Nassau Valley Vineyards for holiday sipping

By John McDonald | Nov 24, 2012
Cape Gazette

Just received my Happy Thanksgiving Day letter from my pals at Nassau Valley Vineyards, with a great recipe for pumpkin cheesecake. Same as mine, with the exception that I prefer fresh pumpkin. Fresh is probably not a good option though, for the one- or two-pie maker, unless time is no problem. The Nassau Valley Vineyards recipe works beautifully for the pies. You may go here for the recipe and a full listing of wines with pricing and schedule of events:

I really don’t give Peggy and Suzanne enough ink in this column. They do a spectacular job. Pioneers in Delaware wine making, the Raleys fought tooth and nail to get Delaware to allow them to place a winery in coastal Sussex County. The punditry panned the idea, sotto voce, with “It’llneverwork” rhetoric and "Who do they think they are?" articles, initially. Wrong, as usual, bureaucrats and pundits! This little winery that could is probably succeeding better than even the ever-optimistic and adventurous Raley family were hoping it would. If you haven’t laid in your Turkey Day wine, a visit to the winery would serve you well. The value on these wines is A++! They make wonderful gifts.

Winemaker Mike Reese has added 29 medals to the impressive list the vineyard has accumulated over the years. Germane to the season are Cape Rosé, Meadows Edge and Peach Ambrosia from the 2011 vintage. These have won multiple awards, go well with holiday fare and can be sampled at the winery. Please try the wonderful fruit wines. These are especially good. In addition to a selection of 13 wines, NVV offers a wide range of fun stuff, instructional programs, a neat museum and some very cool, hospitable people to meet. If you are reading here and have not been to the vineyards you are cheating yourselves. NVV is located just a short drive off Route 1 or Route 9 near Five Points. Two accesses, just follow the signs.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Valley Table Raves About Tousey Winery

In the December 2012 issue of The Valley Table, Robin Cherry wrote a great article about Ben and Kimberly Peacock of Tousey Winery in Germantown, Columbia County, New York. Tousey, in a short amount of time, has made tremendous strides in creating great quality wines. Another resounding success in the wine industry of the Hudson Valley.
Congrats to Ben and Kimberly!
And congrats to publishers Jerry and Janet!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Village Voice: Red Hook Winery Crippled by Sandy!

Two Weeks After Sandy, Can Red Hook Winery Be Saved?

Red Hook Winery tasting room post-sandy.jpg
Lauren Mowery
A few weeks ago, I wrote about celebrating the new Brooklyn wine trail. Both Brooklyn Oenology and Brooklyn Winery, featured in the story, were relatively unscathed by Hurricane Sandy. But Red Hook Winery is located right over the water, nearly at the end of Pier 41, and the facility was completely exposed with zero buffers from high winds. When Sandy brought 11- to 16-foot storm surge waves, the winery was pummeled. TheAndrea Gail in The Perfect Storm comes to mind.
The first heartbreaking report on the damage came from Christopher Nicolson, head winemaker, through an interview given soon after the storm to Nona Brooklyn. He forecasted a near total loss after winds blew planters through the glass doors, and waves swept through the winery, flooding the space with five feet of water. The flood ruined electrical equipment like forklifts and pumps, scattered barrels of aging wines, and soaked and smashed hundreds of bottles as though Charlie Sheen and the devil teamed up for a Bacchanalia.
I visited RHW a week later to see if any hope had been dug up from the debris, spending last Friday with Christopher Nicolson and winemaker Abe Schoener. I can confirm that, sadly, the winery will not be hosting tastings and tours anytime soon.
RHW is still without power. They are working without light and heat (and it's cold with that winter wind blowing off the water). Lots of renovation will be required, including the removal of several walls and its recently refurbished bathrooms, to flush out trapped water. To make matters worse, insurance won't cover loss from flooding.
But for all the destruction, Abe and Chris feel blessed. The Red Hook Initiative sent dozens of volunteers daily to assist in clean-up; Luciano Racca of Domencio Clerico wines in Piedmont, Italy, spent three days volunteering after his NYC appointments to promote his own wines were cancelled; and staff from Terroir wine bar lent a hand.
If RHW is unable to salvage any of their current vintage, numerous offers showing support and solidarity among the winemaking community have rolled in: a winery in Oregon offered a vintage worth of juice; Hermann Wiemer up in the Finger Lakes offered juice, equipment, and general assistance in hopes that RHW won't have to go a season without making wine.
Lauren Mowery
But Abe and Chris now believe the wine gods kept an eye on their babies after all. After tasting through the wines, some stored in sealed stainless steel tanks, others in puncheons, they found much of the juice alive, in excellent condition. Ironically, the lack of heat coupled with the chilly air might have saved a lot of their wine. Assuming the final product is technically sound and they are happy with the results, the other caveat which is thecaveat to saving any part of the vintage, is whether the EPA tests will conclude all or some of the wines are OK for sale, or instead deem them "salvaged" from a flood or contaminated. Nobody knows that answer yet, so in the interim, the plan is to keep calm, carry on, and make wine.
So that's what they did for four days in the dark, cold winery. Last Friday, I helped drain tanks by gravity flow and we sent North Fork Chardonnay into barrels with a donated pump. The wines I tasted were fresh and good, but mere caterpillars propelled into wooden cocoons where they will lay for the next year, hopefully to emerge with wings and an EPA stamp of approval.
Abe seemed optimistic, an attitude both inspiring and, frankly, dumbfounding given the circumstances. When asked the best way to support the winery, the answer from the entire team was a definitive BUY WINE. RHW managed to save a large share of bottles that didn't get wet and have updated its website to inform customers of their offerings, with orders to be placed via phone or e-mail and then shipped out. For alternative retail sources, check USQ Wines, Brooklyn Wine Exchange, Acker-Merrall, and Amagansett Wines. Several local restaurants are extending support through glass and bottle sales; visit Gilt, Terroir (multiple locations), and Arthur on Smith for a drink and a bite.
Red Hook Winery lost a lot, and, without insurance coverage, it might be enough to put them out of business. But for now, with spirit, community support, and a little luck from vinous deities, the odds are looking better that RHW will be around another vintage.
Lauren Mowery is a wine and travel writer based in NYC. She blogs at Chasing the Vine
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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

East Coast Prometheus: Celebrating Dr. Frank’s Legacy One Sip at a Time

Prometheus was the Greek God who gave the gift of fire to mankind. For this gift, the Gods, who had purposely kept the secret of fire from man, punished Prometheus. Konstantin Frank was the Prometheus of east coast wine. Frank first came to prominence when he delivered what others insisted what could not be done – he grew vinifera grapes for Gold Seal champagne in the age of hybrids. In the cold climate of the Finger Lakes he grew chardonnay and pinot noir.

He was punished early, forced to take menial jobs, and be spoken down to and condemned much of his life by the university crowd, even as many of his theories were proven right. He was not an easy man. I have heard good and bad stories. He was fiery and passionate. In many instances he caused his own problems. But in the end, he was right, and he helped set in motion a revolution that has been going on now for more than 50 years. This is winery is what fire has wrought.

Thus, when we walked into Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars this past summer, there was a huge banner celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the winery. Earlier this year the winery had held a celebration, hosting a star studded wine party with the likes of NYWGF President Jim Trezise, and wine business rock star and two-time James Beard Award winner Kevin Zraly.

I have long been a fan. And Konstatntin Frank’s son, Willie, who sometimes gets overlooked, was just as influential as his father. Like Robert Mondavi of California, Willie was the man who spread the good word about quality Finger Lakes wine well beyond the region. He was as essential to the region’s success as his father. Where Konstantin could grow vinifera and make wine, Willie could make better wine…great wine…and he could sell it…better than anyone. While Konstantin gave the gift of fire, Willie invented the wood stove or the jet engine…pick something. But that’s why Willie was so important.

And of course Fred has kept the home fires burning, increasing sales, and insuring the quality of the wines in the last decade. Because growing good grapes is important, and making great wine from them is just as important. And this winery has been getting great reviews for decades. They’re all over the walls, and rightfully so.

So, knowing this, I took my spot at the counter, and circled a couple of choices. And I was on a Pinot Noir kinda mood…so here goes.

2011 Konstantin Frank Pinot Noir Dry Rose – A lovely salmon pink wine, with strawberry and cream notes, with a lovely lime finish. Fantastic!

2010 Konstantin Frank Pinot Noir Old Vines – Cherry, spices, eucalyptus, with notes of vanilla, a woodiness, and a nice dose of pepper. Nice acidity, so the fruit stays lively on the palate, and solid tannins. This was a tremendous wine. Easily one of the best reds in all the Finger Lakes, and certainly among the best Pinots on the east coast. Absolutely terrific!

2010 Salmon Run Pinot Noir – Salmon Run, Frank’s second label, is one of the better second labels on the east coast. And this was certainly an excellent example. The fruit was a bright cherry, with a little more vanilla, good acidity, and soft tannins. A lovely, lovely wine. And for the price, an exceptional value! A great everyday wine for the house – it should be bought by the case.

2008 Salmon Run Meritage – A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. Big fruit up front of cherry, blackberry, and raspberry, with good acidity and nice tannins. Very nice!

Chateau Frank Celebre Rose’ – Chateau Frank is the sparkling wine house Willie established when he removed himself from his fathers’ winery many years ago. The two were eventually united. Chateau Frank is one of the few houses to specialize in sparkling wines on the east coast. This Celebre Rose’, a pink colored sparkling wine, is an absolute winner. Strawberry and rhubarb come through first, with a hint of yeast or fresh bread. A nice creamy finish. An excellent celebration wine. Fantastic!!!!

Want to taste a little history? Want to taste some great wine? Whether you buy it in the stores, or try it at the tastingroom, you have to taste these wines. You have to know what all the fuss is about. This winery continues to be one of the best producers in the state, and one of the best ambassadors of New York wine…period.

What are you waiting for? You’re not afraid of a little fire, are you?


 There are certain wines or wineries that are decidedly pretty or not pretty in my view. And I do mean in “my view.” Just like with people. What small tick in me signals whether it is a beauty mark or a wart? Cindy Crawford had a beauty mark. Cloris Leachman in Young Frankenstein had a wart. But sometimes I see a wart when others see a beauty mark and vice versa. I am weird guy, what can I tell you?

For me, McGregor has been a wart….but not for others. It’s just been me. They have everything I like in a girl…er, winery. They have lots of different wines. They have lots of reds. They have exotic grapes (I’m a freak for weird grapes). And they have the whole Scottish angle (which I think in the end is freakin’ brilliant btw). Being a closet Anglofile, I wanted so badly to join “the clan.” I was always jealous of those WASP and Irish guys whole competed in the Scottish games.

So why was I so reluctant? I’d tasted their wines before. I liked them. I had met John’s wife at the wine festival several times. A friend, David Jackson, a former wine professional and a connoisseur (who wears a dashing kilt and a black jacket and bow tie to formal affairs), has told me for years I should go. So this summer I relented, and went with two other people while visiting the Finger Lakes.

Maybe I was jealous? Angry? I mean these folks are brilliant marketers. You don’t join another wine club…you join the McGregor Clan. You get invited to Clan parties. You wear kilts. And who ever heard of Scots making wine? A little too corny? Not sure. When you’re in their tasting room you’re not sure if you’re in a wine shop or a yarn store with lots of Scottish food. Everything’s in plaid! It’s so not your average tastingroom. I’ll admit, I was charmed. I wanted to linger….and that’s just what they want you to do.

They don’t have a tasting bar. You sit down at benches. They have two huge rooms, with fantastic views of the lake and their vineyards. The rooms are lit with strings of lights, lined up with rows of big picnic tables, and hand you wine menus. They bring you crackers and cheese, and then you do your tasting ordering your samples from a vast menu of choices. It smacks of marketing…but it’s freakin’ brilliant. I was pissed because my camera died as we entered the tastingroom.

But there was in me a suspicion. Anything this smart and this well thought out could not possibly produce good wine. It had to be a trick.

In 1971, John McGregor and his family began planting twenty-eight acres of premium Vinifera and Hybrid grapes overlooking the beautiful East Bluff of New York's Keuka Lake. The local wine industry (which was essentially dependent upon native American grape varieties) watched with skeptical interest. Today, the thriving McGregor Vineyard includes Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Muscat Ottonel, Cayuga White, and Vignoles. McGregor Vineyard is also home to the rare (in the United States) Vinifera grape varieties Sereksiya Charni, Saperavi Rkatsiteli, and Sereksiya Rose'.

The McGregor family established their winery in 1980 and began producing Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir that year. Since its inception McGregor Winery has followed the European philosophy of winemaking. Each year's production of estate bottled wines is a reflection of the "voice of the grapes", the skill of the vineyard manager and the art of the winemaker. John’s son, John, and his wife, Stacey, now run this family business.

The first wine I tried was a 2009 Seyval Blanc. I admit, I tried few whites, really wanting to sink my teeth into the decidedly big and different red list. But I thought Seyval might be a good place to start. It was. Bright, light, refreshing, and lemony. The grapes were from Emory Vineyards on the west side of Keuka lake. Apple, pear, and lime all come through as promised. A very nice, refreshing white. A good start.

But my eyes glazed over at the red list. As they always do.

I LOVED the estate 2009 Pinot Noir. It’s very light in its color extraction and flavors. Almost a dark rose’. But it was wonderful. Bright cherry and raspberry spill out of the glass, couched in vanilla and spice. A wonderful, lean, crisp bright red wine. I loved it!
The estate 2008 Cabernet Franc was also lovely. Dark red cherries, vanilla, and a much more aggressive oak spice. The fruit lingered on the palate nicely. Very nice.

The estate 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon was lighter than I expected. But is too was very good. Bright cherry, black berry, and cassis were all in evidence. Nice acidity and good solid tannins mixed with a spicer finish. Smooth. Very good drinking wine. One of my favorites.

The 2008 Rob Roy Red was terrific. A blend of Cabernet Franc (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%), and Merlot (20%), was aged in French and American oak for 17 months. It’s an all estate wine. Cherry, cranberry, elderberry, and blackberry all come through as promised. Reviewing my tasting notes, all I can see are exclamation points!

I also tried the 2007 Black Russian Red – 30 Month Barrel Reserve. This is the wine at the heart of all the fuss. This wine is so famous Evan Dawson devoted a whole chapter to it in his book, Summer In A Glass. At what point is the wine hype versus great wine, in my mind? I was about to find out.

The wine is made with Saperavi and Sereksiya grapes. Saperavi (Georgian: საფერავი; literally "paint, dye" - due to its intensive dark-red colour) is an acidic, teinturier-type grape variety native to Georgia, where it is used to make many of the region's distinctive wines, along with the Alexandreuli and Rkatsiteli varieties. Leaves are 3-lobed, large, and roundish. Berries are medium to large, elliptic, dark bluish, and thin-skinned; with a maturation period of approximately 5 months and moderate productivity. It has the potential to produce high alcohol levels, and is used extensively for blending with other lesser varieties. It is the most important grape variety used to make Georgian red wines. Saperavi is a hardy variety, known for its ability to handle extremely cold weather; and is popular for growing in high altitude and inland regions. It is a teinturier grape, containing the red anthrocyanin within the grape pulp as well as the skin; and is unusual in being one of very few such grapes used in single-varietal winemaking (most are used in small amounts, strictly for blending).

Sereksiya is also known as Băbească Neagră, which is an old native Romanian - Moldovan wine grape variety. It is cultivated in the south of Moldova and in Romania (region of Moldavia, Dobruja and Wallachia), and is the second most planted grape variety in Romania, with about 6,300 hectares (16,000 acres) in 2005. The name Băbească Neagră means "grandmother's grape". Wines made soley from Băbească Neagră are light, fruity red wines.

This blend is an estate wine aged in American oak. It has big fruit up front and big oak. Blackberry, cherry, plum, cocoa, and eucalyptus all come through. So does some vanilla and some spices. This was a big, dark, deep, red wine. Amazing. I have to tell you I loved it. Absolutely loved it!!!

Now, I must be sincere, and say that this was 1. The last stop of the day, and 2. One of our favorite stops along Keuka Lake. We sat at the table, three of us, ordered two extra servings of bread, and bought numerous bottles, but only opened one, and finished it within a reasonable amount of time. We had a great time.

OK, gimme the kilt. Wrap me in plaid. I have been seduced! I surrender to the charms of this gorgeous woman they call McGregor Vineyards. Tall, thin, attractive, pretty and polite, I am bewitched. And you will too.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Eric Asimov Recommends East Coast Wines for Thanksgiving

Paumanoak, Millbrook Winery, Dr. Konstatin Frank, and Boxwood were all recommended in this selection from the New York Times. Congrats to all!

 - C. DeVito

Wines That Make Friends Easily at a Crowded Thanksgiving Table

WHAT would happen if Thanksgiving were canceled? The wine panel inadvertently tested this proposition when Hurricane Sandy collided with our annual holiday wine tasting.

Every year, our home team — Florence Fabricant and I, along with Julia Moskin, Pete Wells and our tasting coordinator, Bernie Kirsch — gathers for a preliminary Thanksgiving meal. We drink a series of wines with a typical feast, assess their compatibility and make some recommendations.
That was the plan this year, too. But the storm made it impossible for us to gather on our appointed day, or the next day or the day after that. By the time the way had cleared, the panel had scattered and our preliminary feast proved impossible.
So what did we do? Exactly what any family does when forces beyond its control interfere with its plans. We improvised. That is, I took home all the wines, which had been awaiting our meal, and sampled them myself.
I didn’t taste them blind, and the opinions are solely my own. I missed not having the group, but on the bright side, the usual taunts, tart observations, philosophical disputes, downright insults and other familial byplay were kept to a minimum.
The goal was simple: select two wines, one red and one white, rosé or sparkling. The cost? No more than $25 a bottle.
Now, if your Thanksgiving consists of four people eating a jewel of a meal, you should drink whatever you want and can afford. If you were to decide on the finest Champagnes, Burgundies and the like, well, I would ask only that you save me a glass.
My Thanksgivings are not like that. Typically, they are big, ramshackle affairs with guests streaming in and out and an unpredictable riot of dishes on the buffet table.
Such joyous chaos makes precise pairings of wine and food difficult, if not impossible. So the wine panel’s strategy has always been to seek out versatile, moderately priced wines that, above all, will refresh and invigorate regardless of the individual components of the endurance contest ... I mean, the meal.
One red, one white and plenty of both is our mantra. This year we also permitted rosés and sparkling wines because, well, why not? Most rosés are made for summer drinking, but those with firmer character can be ideal for the Thanksgiving panoply. And sparkling wines? Good ones qualify on all counts: refreshing, flexible and invigorating.
As for plenty, err on the side of extra. One bottle per drinking guest is sensible. Would you ever dream of running out of food on Thanksgiving? Of course not! Don’t do it with the wine. In the worst case, you’ll have leftovers, which, as everybody knows, are the best part of Thanksgiving anyway.
The panel this year came up with brilliant selections. Some were obscure: Pete and Julia both chose unusual sparkling wines that nonetheless were superb. If you’ve never considered sparkling wines, it’s understandable. Most people think of them as solely for receptions and parties. Yet, they are among the easiest wines to pair with disparate dishes. The only possible drawback might be the effervescence, which can fill precious space in the stomach.
Pete was concerned about bubbles, “but this wine charmed me into not worrying about that,” he said of his selection, a Cerdon du Bugey from Renardat-Fâche in the Savoie region of eastern France. Charming is right. This lightly sparkling rosé is also a little sweet, but so perfectly balanced that it’s never cloying. And at just 7.5 percent alcohol, you can drink a lot. The biggest problem is its obscurity. But other mildly sweet wines operate on similar principles of balance. You could try kabinett rieslings from Germany, or demi-sec Vouvrays.
Pete’s other selection turned out to be a perennial favorite of mine, the 2010 Bone-Jolly from Edmunds St. John, a rare American gamay, the grape of Beaujolais, from El Dorado County in California gold country. It’s light-bodied but intensely flavored, agile and earthy, with each sip thirst-quenching yet intriguing enough to inspire another. It’s an American take on Beaujolais, not a facsimile, perfect for an American holiday. If it’s unavailable, any number of good Beaujolais will do, particularly moderately priced selections from producers like Jean-Paul Brun, Pierre-Marie Chermette and Michel Tête.


Monday, November 05, 2012

LONG ISLAND IS MAKING KICK ASS WINE: Shhh...Pass It On! 14 LI Reds You Must Try!

Did you know that Long Island wine country made TripAdvisor’s Top 5 wine destinations in America this fall? “Long Island Wine Country came in at number five on TripAdvisor’s Top 10 Wine Destinations in the United States. Trailing Sonoma County and Napa Valley in California, Oregon’s Willamette Valley and the Finger Lakes in New York, Long Island bested other competition from California, Oregon and Colorado, with The Old Field Vineyard, Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard and Sparkling Pointe in particular being highlighted,”reported the Hampton Eats Team on Dan’s

Did you know that in the November 15, 2012 Wine Spectator McCall Ranch Ben’s Blend 2007 received a score of 91 Points!!!! In fact 9 wines achieved scores of 87 to 91!

Did you know that Long Island producers won the top prizes in six of 30 classes of wine in the New York Wine and Food Classic this month? The 2011 Festival Chardonnay from Paumanok Vineyards ($16.99) won twice, as the state’s best overall and best unoaked chardonnay. Martha Clara Vineyards’ 2010 Estate Reserve ($21.99) was voted best oaked chardonnay. Bedell Cellars’ 2008 merlot ($25) led its category, as did Bedell’s 2010 malbec ($50). Osprey’s Dominion Vineyards’ 2009 pinot noir ($40) was also a winner.

Did you know that Howard G. Goldberg has recommended more than 30 wines in the last three months alone in the New York Times?

And…did you know that the Wine Spectator Harvest East End 2012 just happened….a wine event and auction sponsored by the industry’s most famous magazine?

Did you know that Long Island vintners just established one of the most important and verifiable sustainable farming standards in the entire wine industry?

I am confused.

Recently I read two completely different statements from renowned wine expert Oz Clarke. His fun loving, rakish ways belie a man of substance that few wine experts can rival – truly. Last year (or was it the year before) he toured the North Fork, and spent considerable time with Richard Olsen-Harbich. He declared the wines fantastic (I am paraphrasing of course…but the reviews were glowing,) and then conversely, he wrote in his new 2013 wine guide that the buzz surrounding Long Island wines was gone, and that the island had fizzled or faded…in essence it had squandered its original glitter (again, I am paraphrasing).

He was right on both counts. Whatever happened to Long Island wine marketing? It’s like they are trying to keep their wines a secret. Here was the region that had it all. By the late 1990s and early 2000’s Long Island had accomplished a huge amount. Like a sports team, or a blockbuster movie, on paper they had it all:

1. It had, by sheer force of will, started producing great quality wine, way ahead of older and more established regions within the state like the Finger Lakes and the Hudson Valley.

2. It had established a reputation for very good Chardonnays and solid Merlot. And each year, it seemed, received better and better reviews.

3. They received good to great reviews from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast.

4. They had Wine Camp, which meant that the Bed& amp; Breakfast/lodging community had embraced the wineries as a local tourism attraction. They had buses and limousines.

5. They had millionaire owners with large war chests, ready to buy the right equipment, spend the right amount of money on their vineyards, and their staffs.

6. They had the backing (and still do) of the New York Times, as Howard G. Goldberg, and even Frank Prial, wrote glowing reviews about them.

7. And they had one of the best local wine blogs in the US in, who had a loyal and wine drinking following. He could deliver a throng to almost any important gathering on the Island.

Wow! And I can assure you, that if the Finger Lakes had these kinds of news bites (and they do), you’d hear about it all day long (and you do…happily). I think Long Island needs to steal a page or two from the Finger Lakes marketing playbook.

Let’s be honest. The Finger Lakes produces some very lovely Rieslings and Gewurztraminers…and some very nice reds. I could argue that the Hudson Valley and Niagara are producing some terrific wines as well, but that’s not the conversation here. Long Island produces some of the state’s best red wines. Not inexpensive, mind you, but some of the best. The Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Verdot are simply the best in the state on average. And the Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs are wonderful too! And the rose’s? Fantastic! They seemed to corner the market at one point.

In the last two years I had wondered if LI had fallen off its game maybe. I did extensive tastings. Recent tastings I’ve done from Bedell, Paumanoak, Sherwood House, the Winemaker’s Studio, Shinn, Lenz, Wollfer, Macari, Pellegrini, Osprey’s Dominion, Grapes of Roth, Roanoak, Raphael, Medolla, Marabella, One Woman, and a slew of others have all been most impressive. The wines themselves are better than ever!

And I will also say, that to me, some of the best winemakers on the east coast reside on Long Island…Richard Olsen-Harbich, Roman Roth, Eric Fry, Giles Martin, Russell Hearn, the list goes on and on. The wines are incredible. The wines get high 80s and lows 90s scores. And arguably, the best local wine blog, now called the New York Cork Report, still resides on the Island as well (though it now serves the entire state with correspondents in Niagara, the Finger Lakes, and other regions, as well as having cheese and food writers as well).


So how is it that no one is talking about Long Island wine? What is going on?

It seems to this long time watcher that there is a bit of island mentality on the Island. LI wine is largely a wine region unto itself. They do not pour at wine festivals in the Hudson Valley or the Finger Lakes. They do not seem to court almost anyone these days. Few of the wineries court bloggers or wine writers for that matter. There’s little on facebook or twitter. They shun buses and limos. The great scores and good press they receive individually go largely unpublicized. Many of the wineries have not embraced social media in a meaningful way (save two or three), and few seem to solicit real or serious editorial coverage. When’s the last time Long Island had a series of reviews of their wines in Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast in a meaningful way? None of these things in and of themselves are damning, but it seems a quiet calm has settled over the LI industry.

I do not pretend to know why Long Island’s wine marketing seems to have lost their Mojo…but it does seem to me that the wineries in Long Island need to put their heads together and push the region forward in a more loud mouth, obvious way.

To be sure there are some solid promoters on the Island like James Silver of Peconic Bay and Alexandra Macari of Macari Vineyards. David and Barbara of Shinn Estate. Kareem Massoud of Paumanock. But from far away, there seems to be a desire to fly under the radar by most. Years ago, there were a band of wineries driving the bus, getting the message out. Is consensus is the problem? Who knows, but to build a better new world of wine, especially given Governor Cuomo’s golden opportunity to promote New York wine, we need a vibrant Long Island. It’s not enough that each winery should promote themselves individually…they need to shout about it together, jointly through all channels, to be heard.

Long Island produces some stellar wines. Many of the best, highest priced, collectible reds come from this region. Here are some of the best reds from the region. They are must haves. Long Island is making kick ass wine…but I think we’re not supposed to talk about it…so, Shhhh, pass it on!

Bedell Cab Franc – Yes, Bedell’s Musee’ wine is possibly one of the best reds on the Island, but Bedell’s newest Cab Franc is to die for. Cherry and pencil shavings and vanilla. Fantastic!

Lenz – Eric Fry must be French – at least in spirit. His Chardonnay’s taste like he smuggled them in from Burgundy. His sparkling wines taste like they were shipped directly in from Champagne. His Merlots taste more like Bordeaux imported to Long Island. Long aging times, in French oak, and superior winemaking, give Lenz its leg up. Any one of Fry’s reds can live in your cellar a good 5 to 10 years easily. Magnificent.

McCall Pinot Noir – A deep, beautiful Pinot Noir. This is as pretty a Pinot as is made in the state, and ranks up there with Heart and Hands and Oak Summit and Millbrook at the top of the list.
Roanoake – Pick almost any Roanoake red and you can’t go wrong. Their Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and their red blends are all knockout wines.

Wolffer Estate – Roman Roth continues to excel as one of the best wine makers in all of the east coast. And recent vintages confirm his mastery. From Chardonnays and Rose’ to Cabernet Franc to Merlot….one noteworthy wine after another. Christian's Reserve is a standout, as is the Late Harvest Chardonnay.

Grapes of Roth – This is Roth’s own personal label. Whites and reds, but the star is undoubtedly the Merlot. Big, soft, round. Wonderful!

Peconic Bay Winery – The Lowerre Family Estate is an estate blend that is hard to match. It places Long Island squarely between California and Bordeaux. The wine has big, almost California styled fruit up front, but is aged and noteworthy enough, to smell and linger like a fine Bordeaux. Austere. Well balanced. Amazing.
Paumanoak Vineyards Merlot – Paumanoak makes stunning Chenin Blanc and Riesling, but their Merlot is stunning. Big, deep, rich…amazing. Kareem Moussad, the winemaker, is up-and-coming.. Even if he’s not at the level that Roth and Fry are, he’s getting there.

Coffee Pot – Their Merlot and their Meritage are wonderful!
Raphael – Les Howard continues the tradition of making nice wines at Raphael. There are some changes afoot at Raphael, but still, the winery produces some stellar wines.

Macari – Dos Aguas is one of my favorite red wines from Long Island. And Alexandra Macari continues to be a force.

Shinn Estate – They make a string of absolutely astounding wines, but the Shinn Estate Nine Barrels is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

Pellegrini – Their Petite Verdot, their Merlot, and their Meritage blend are all solid, solid wines. I’ve held their reds for as many as 14 years, with amazing success.

Sherwood House – Gilles Martin shows why the French matter! The chardonnays are lovely and the reds are outstanding. Very nice!