It's been a while, but for the first time in I don't know how long, we've all chosen wine for What We Drank. And each really is special for one reason or another.

Here's what we're drinking here at the NYCR:

PhotoEvan Dawson: Hosmer Vineyards 2003 Vintner's Reserve Riesling, Finger

to eight years. There's your current window for how long you ought to
lay down your favorite Finger Lakes Riesling.

you don't occasionally lay a bottle down, you're missing out on a
fascinating array of flavors and developments. This outstanding bottle
from Hosmer is just another piece of evidence of that.

a blind industry tasting and dinner, I was first moved to believe this
must have been from the Mosel.

That's because it delivered a kind of
richness and mouthfeel without seeming tired. There was a nervy, tense
finish to the wine. I'm glad that I added a caveat that it might be a
Finger Lakes riesling, albeit a slightly older

This wine has more time to go. My
recommendation of five to eight years is based on sampling numerous
older Finger Lakes rieslings, and I can say that the best of those
bottles can go well into double digits. But considering that most
consumers don't give wine more than a few months before it's popped and
gone, I think the five-to-eight window is a good start.

Paumanok_01GVmerlot Lenn Thompson: Paumanok Vineyards 2001 Grand Vintage Merlot

Much like my esteemed Finger Lakes colleague, I've opened and tasted a few older Long Island wines of late.

A week ago, I opened a 2001 chardonnay that was nearly fruitless and clearly over the hill, though still showing good acidity to balance a subtly creamy mouthfeel. Mediocre experience at best.

Then this past Saturday Nena and I attended a Grand Vintage Merlot dinner at Paumanok Vineyards. We tasted merlots from 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2007. Now we're talking.

Some have said that the mark of a 'great region' (whatever that means) is age-worthy wines. If that's the measuring stick, check out this nine-year old 2001.

Mature earthy and dried herb flavors mingle with dried cherry and an Old World-esque minerally graphite note that I loved. Smooth and really "together" it might be peaking, but there seems to be a bit more life in it. In fact, I'm banking on it — I bought some on the spot.

I wasn't the only one who was impressed. Paumanok winemaker Kareem Massoud was sitting to my right and said that it was "Better than I ever remember it tasting." He didn't say that about any of the other wines. I think that says something.

I plan to pull a few 2001 reds from my cellar this week and taste them soon. Should be fun.

P3240001Julia Burke: M'Hudi 2005 Pinotage (South Africa)

chose this wine in honor of Human Rights Day. It's a wine from one
of South Africa's first black-owned wine farms, founded by the Rangaka family in
partnership with well-known producer Villiera.

On this 50th anniversary
of the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa, during which 69 civilians were
killed at a peaceful protest shortly before the government banned all
black political organizations, it seemed fitting to support one of the
growing number of wine farms promoting black empowerment and a more
equalized economy.

Pinotage has to constantly defend itself to American
wine geeks, it seems; often I feel as if every bottle of pinotage has
to apologize for the cultivar as a whole. I don't take this attitude —
unless it shows too much banana or burnt rubber, I dig pinotage in all
its earthy, bretty glory, and I'm not looking for it to taste like
something else in order to enjoy it.

Living in South Africa means I have
access to the tasty everyday quaffers — in other words, the middle
ground between the cheap schlop and the relatively expensive high-end
stuff. This M'Hudi, at about $5USD, is a fine example.

On the nose it's
all pinotage: plummy, spicy, gamey, with a nice perfumey quality to
round out the brett action. What makes this wine special, to me, is the
mouthfeel — rich, fleshy fruit, firm acidity and tannins that produce a
nice complete finish. If you're not a pinotage fan this isn't the wine
to win you over, but with bitter aniseed chocolate and figs for dinner I
found it a great way to enjoy my day off.

ReneLequin_Corton_2000 Bryan Calandrelli: Corton Grand Cru "Les Languettes" Domaine René Lequin-Colin

After tasting several New World pinot noirs and discussing what indeed
makes them Burgundian, my coworker and lover of all things pretentious set out
to answer the mystery by opening a 2000 Grand Cru from his private stash.

Specifically we were interested in how much tannic grip you could expect from a top-of-the-line pinot noir. Since the new world stuff we were drinking was from recent vintages, this 2000 wasn't the best wine to
compare but it was still appealing.

Ripe black cherry, hazelnut and intense barnyard on the nose but as it opened the barnyard fell back a bit. Supple mouth feel with fine but yet still firm tannins. On the finish the fruit lead the way, both full
clean and lasting.

This was a very Old World-style example of Burgundy.

It was an overall impressive wine and stylistically in a class by

The earth and barnyard flavors just wouldn't fly in a New World wine in
my opinion, but in Burgundy it is what it is. In my limited experience, I
found the firm tannins to be a surprise considering the age. Definitely a fun
wine and a treat to taste.

Stacked Stone Image Ron DiGennaro: Stacked Stone Cellars Zin Stone Reserve Zinfandel 2006, Paso Robles, CA

Extraction and focus like I've never experienced in a zinfandel. So tightly knit, so beautifully balanced. Layers upon layers of flavors and nuance, from dark chocolate to black cherry to bell pepper to melted raisins to hints of white pepper and mocha. Smoky and seductive. Beautiful mouthfeel. Lush and luscious, with the kind of concentration most winemakers pray to achieve.

Alas, I have no idea what food I would pair this monster Zin with but I don't care–who needs food when you have an elixir like this in your glass?

But if I must, maybe leg of lamb roasted over pinion wood on a spit. Or a big ole slab of Bistecca Fiorentina, charred rare over hot coals.

Kudos to owner and winemaker Donald Thiessen, who dry farms his Paso Robles fruit and vines and practices sustainable grape growing. 80% Zinfandel, 20% Syrah. About $40.