Friday, June 29, 2018

Three Wines From Chateau Niagara - A Lovely Surprise (NY)

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In June of 2006 Jim and Kathy Baker bought 31 acres of farmland on the banks of 18 Mile creek in Newfane. They began planting grapes, including Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and  Bleaufrankish as well as a few more exotic grapes as Saperavi and Turan. There is a movement toward quality wine in the Niagara Lake Plain region, and more and more better classic styled wines are emerging from that region. Chateau Niagara has been a part of that movement for some time.

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Recently I had several email exchanges with Jim, and I agreed to taste some of his wines. I was pleasantly surprised. He sent me three dry reds, and I couldn't have been more pleased.

The first wine I'll write about was the Chateau Niagara Bulls Blood 2016. For many years this has been one of the flagship wines of the winery. And they make a very good version of this wine. According to my friend Lenn Thompson, "Bull’s Blood, or Egri Bikavér most commonly in Hungarian, is the most famous red wine in Hungary. This blend is controlled by the government and must contain at least three of thirteen grape varietals.  This list contains the three used by Chateau Niagara: cabernet franc, Blaufränkisch, and Turan."

As promised in their tasting notes, cherry and smoke definitely come through. There are hints of violets, as well as tomato and vanilla. Lovely fruit up front, some nice acidity, and good long lasting flavor. Very nice.         

The Chateau Niagara Cabernet Franc 2016 was a big step up. I am not usually a cabernet franc fanatic. Like the French, I'd rather see a Loire-ish version or use it as a blender. But Jim and his group have done an excellent job of turning in a big cabernet franc with lots of cherry, bright and dark cherry, with notes of cut grass and plenty of graphite and vanilla. Plum and cassis also come across. Nice acidity and solid tannins give the wine good structure. This was a nicely layered wine, with nice complexity. A very, very good wine. Impressive.

My absolute favorite was the Chateau Niagara Saperavi 2016. What is Saperavi? You're not alone. Most people have never heard of it. According to wikipedia, Saperavi is "teinturier-type grape variety native to Georgia (country), where it is used to make many of the region's most well-known wines." The grape is grown in the Niagara and Finger Lakes regions of New York State...It is known to have been in production since 1886. Saperavi grapes produce very deep red wines that are suitable for extended aging." It is a winter hardy variety, and makes a dark, impressive wine.

This Saperavi was among the best I have ever had. It was big, dark, and inky like a Zinfandel. It had dark red stewed fruits, plums, cherries, dark raspberries, bramble berry, and cassis. A big up front wave of fruit. There was a nice mid-taste pause. And then there was a very nice finish with acidity, oak, vanilla, and mocha and a nice dry finish. There were layers in every sip. There was again a very nice structure and balance and complexity that one looks for in any red wine, no matter the region or country. This was an excellent wine, worthy of a big steak or a good chop, or complex French or Italian dishes. Fantastic!!!!!!!

Jim and Kathy are making some wonderful wines at Chateau Niagara! A lovely surprise!

p.s. thanks Lenn Thompson for shot of winery above.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Stoutridge Rye - One of the Best on the East Coast! (NY)

There is no doubt that Stephen Osborn has finally found his true calling. Already a very good winemaker, Stephen has recently produced a string of very impressive clear spirits. But every indication was that his brown spirits would soar. The first of those promises have been produced!

Stephen does everything meticulously. He soaks and malts his own grains on one of the few malting floors owned and operated by a distillery (anywhere in the US), and using local grain, he is salting away barrel after barrel of rye, bourbon, and single malt whiskey. He has four stills, and can run a capacity which instantly makes him competitive. His newest baby is a copper pot still from renowned whiskey icon Chip Tate of Tate & Co. in Texas.

I recently saw Kim Wagner, Stephen's wife and partner at the Bounty of the Hudson Wine and Food Festival. She gave me a taste of their two new brown whiskey releases - Auld Auster, a lovely, smooth, triple distilled Irish Whiskey. it was a very good version of that spirit. And very tasty. 

But I cannot lie, all I could see was the rye on the table. I am a rye fan, and had been longing to taste this dram since I first tasted his experimental efforts late last year.

This first offering of Stoutridge Rye is astonishing. It is a rye with a lot of flavor, but light as a feather, somewhat very akin to Willett. There's no other way to describe it. It comes on with a mellow attack that builds. It almost tastes like a wheated whiskey at first, and then the spice and the pepper begin to take hold in the mouth, and the next thing you know the whole thing ends up like a peppery gingersnap cookie. Incredible! You must try this whiskey....phenomenal.

Congrats to Stephen and Kim! Amazing!

Whitecliff Vineyard Rose' of Pinot Noir Olana Vineyard 2017 Outstanding! (NY)

Michael Migliore and Yancey Stanforth-Migliore own Whitecliff Vineyard, a wonderful winery down in Gardner, NY. They have won numerous prestigious awards, and were recently voted best winery in the Hudson Valley. But they have a new project - the Olana Vineyard at Cherry  Lane Farm, just by the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, south of Hudson, NY. Michael and winemaker Brad Martz have taken care as they planted and nurtured their new vineyard these last three years.

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This is an historically good grape growing region. The numerous farms in the southern part of Columbia county have grown table and wine grapes for more than 50 years. Brotherhood's main vineyard was the next farm, and is now the home of Tousey, who have garnered scores of 90 or more consistently. So we know the region has tremendous potential. The Whitecliff Vineyard can be seen from the river, and indeed the bridge itself, where I took this photo.

The Hudson Valley was not known for rose' wine, but has been catching up to the industry in recent years. No better example of it is there than Whitecliff's Rose of Pinot Noir Olana Vineyard 2017. This wine starts off with gorgeous, mouth watering aromas of cherries, strawberries, line and tropical fruits. On the palate the strawberries are fresh, vibrant and tart, with a lovely second wave of bright cherries, also slightly tart with minerals, lime, and tropical notes, and a lovely, creamy smooth finish.

This is evry bit as good as any rose in the state, and an incredible first wine from what will soon be a source of some of the best fruit in the valley. The potential is outstanding!

A famtastic wine from Michael, Yancey, and Bard! Congrats!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Robibero Haro - A Wine As Big as the Man (NY)

Harry Robibero is a terrific guy. Friendly. out going, successful. He's a out-sized personality. Harry is the patriarch of the wine clan who owns and operates Robibero Winery. Most recently, I ran into his beautiful and talented daughter Tiffany Robibero at the Bounty of the Hudson Wine Festival in New Paltz. 

When I asked her what new wines they were offering she told me about Haro. Haro was named in honor of her father (who's construction and snow plowing businesses are also named Haro). He wanted a great big red for their line of excellent wines, and this current bottling was the result of a non-vintage blend of New York state 37% Petit Verdot, 35% Merlot, and 28% Cabernet Franc. This is a big, thick red with dark stewed cherries, dark raspberries, and black berry and cassis. A big smooth wine worthy of a big, fascinating individual. A very nice blend. 

A big red wine as unique and bold as the man it's named after. Congrats to the Robibero family.

Two Fantastic Wines From Glorie Winery (NY)

Doug Glorie is a long time farmer and wine maker. He and MaryEllen Glorie run the Glorie Farm and the Glorie Farm Winery. Doug has been supplying grapes to the valley winemakers for years. But of late Doug and his talented group have been turning out some excellent wines, especially with the help of the talented wine maker Kristop Brown.

I recently ran into Doug at the Bounty of the Hudson Wine Festival just this last month. He was pitching a number of his wines, but my eyes were attracted to two new wines...a new rose' and a Marquette. I was anxious to taste them!

The first thing I tried recently was the Glorie Rose of Cabernet Franc 2017. This is a fine fresh rose made from 100% estate Cab Franc, and its filled with strawberries, and bright Bing cherries, rhubarb, lime, and cream. This is a delicious, high quality rose that is a standout just in the valley, but could easily compete on Long Island or the Finger Lakes as well. Truly great stuff. And BTW, I love, love the new label!

Glorie Farm Winery Marquette is a big dark deep wine with bramble berry and dark cherries, cedar and hints of dried blueberry.  Also hints of toast and vanilla. A pretty, and lovely, medium-bodied red with big flavor and soft tannins. Very, very drinkable.