It’s rare that What We Drank — our weekly peek into what our editors and contributors are drinking — doesn’t include at least one New York wine, but it happened this week. looking at the diverse lineup though, it’s hard to argue with what found its way into the team’s glasses this week. Except maybe the box wine. I kid. Sorta.
Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor: Louis Roederer “Brut Premier” Champagne
I could have picked from a wide array of delicious drinks that crossed my lips last week — including Michael’s contribution below, which really was a stunner.
My lovely wife, Nena, celebrated a birthday over the weekend (I’m not going to tell you which one — I’m not stupid) and that means pulling some of the ‘special occasion wines’ from my cellar. This year, that included some older Finger Lakes rieslings I’ve been holding, a couple of our favorite Long Island red blends and a 2006 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Crau that didn’t last long with friends at our favorite local BYO restaurant.
Ultimately, it was two bottles of this Champagne, which kicked off the celebration at our house before we all headed to the restaurant, that stood out. I don’t drink enough Champagne, a problem that is easily rectified by having good friends who not only drink it a lot, but know it well.
I’ve had some amazing experiences with Grower Champagne — or Farmer Fizz if you prefer — but sometimes the consistency and overall deliciousness of bigger houses is appealing too. Rich but with a beam of acidity and minerality, this citrus and pear-driven sparkler was at once easy drinking in a hedonistic way but also appealed to the geek in me with a flinty edge that I dug.
If you don’t have Champagne expert friends, I suggest you find some.
Jim Silver, Wine Business Editor: Carmina Luna White Wine
Getting ready to move one’s whole family to a new address is a disconcerting process most of us are familiar with I’m sure. Especially one where you have to plan for your possessions and your cars to be traveling without you for a good nine or ten days. I sent a small amount of New York wine ahead to California that I’ll eventually share with hopefully lots of interested west-coast winos, and consumed the rest of my wine collection over the last few months.
Somehow my daily white has become this box-wine; a generic Spanish white from Jumilla, and from what I can glean from the Internets, it is Macabeo and chardonnay.
I rarely buy Spanish wines – they’ve never been my thing. The surprising fact is, for fifteen dollars a 3L box, this sub $4 wine embarrasses half the branded cupcake, fruitcake, hamster, badger, wombat, skinny girl, critter wines of the world, and equally humiliates many more wines four times its price.
Really, you say? Well, I’ll tell you. This is stony, minerally, taut and still-charmingly fruity on the nose but the wine is unabashedly dry, dry, dry in the mouth. Its dehydrated peaches, apple peel and oyster shell flavors are bracing and mouthwatering. Its freshness is almost like a fino sherry meets a gruner veltliner (but It’s also just as interesting as any gruner I’ve had under $10 a bottle, and many under $15.) It is slightly better than almost anything from Cavit and is at least as interesting as what passes for house wine at 9 out of 10 restaurants these days.
Now let’s not go bananas – this is still a generic white wine, with anonymous but correct flavors. My point here is that this wine thoroughly over delivers, has real drinkability, is flawlessly made, has a spot on (if subtle) nose and decent length. I love a surprise – I did not see this one coming at all.
Michael Gorton, Long Island Correspondent: Illumination 2010 Sauvignon Blanc
This bottle got lost in my cellar. My cellar needs a lot of attention as most of my wines sit on their sides either in totes, boxes or on a simple, small Ikea wine rack. A few weeks back, I was going through my bottles and I found this bottle that was given to me by a good friend one day. I first tried this wine and was brought to my knees in December of 2011.
My good friend, Yvonne, who brought the wine to a BYO dinner I organized back then was kind and gracious to present me with a bottle. I put it in my cellar hoping to open it soon, with the right meal and people. Who knew I was going to wait until this past Saturday to open it. Almost 2 years in my cellar and this wine, beat out Oregon Pinot Noir, CdP, a 2002 Aussie Shiraz blend, a 2005 Long Island Merlot Blend and a 2006 Grenache/Zinfandel cooperative blend from Mendocino County.
Super ripe, delicious mango, papaya, kiwi and lemon pushed its way out of the glass with floral notes wounding out the back end. The palate brought a hardy richness that was mouth filling like no other white wine. Crisp, clean and refreshing, the aroma’s on the nose carries over on the palate with a hint of stone fruit, minerals and muskiness. Balanced and focused the acidity was still vibrant and new. It was perfectly chilled. If I had put a thermometer in the glass, I bet it would have read 58 degrees. This wine went around the table of 8 quickly and was gone to soon.
So what makes this so special? It’s how the winemaker came about making this wine. It all started in 2002 at Quintessa, a desire to make a white wine and concrete eggs. The wine is a blend of 50% sauvignon blanc, 40% sauvignon blanc musque and 10% Semillon. The percentages change from year to year, but the base stays the same. It’s fermented in concrete egg shaped vessels, stainless steel, acadia barrels and French oak barrels (95% older barrels). It is fermented mainly with native yeasts.
When re-researching this wine and remembering the mouth feel, aromas and palate it makes me ponder of the possibility of sauvignon blanc and white wine in general. It was made with care and attention and smart decisions were made on how those grapes were to be turned into wine. It reminds me of stories of winemakers telling me that you can’t make pinot noir like merlot. You have to be kind and gentle with pinot noir. Well, what if that same care and attention went into making one sold white wine like this. The ability to capture the essence of sauvignon blanc and yet add to it and not take away from it. Here is where the vessels complemented the wine and did not beat it up. And to think that it’s only $40 a bottle!
Kevin Welch, Finger Lakes Correspondent: Long Shadows Sequel 2003 Syrah
Buy plots of land in a growing wine region, plant multiple varieties of vinifera grapes and then find the world’s most renowned winemakers and bring them in year after year to craft wines in the respective styles each excel at to showcase the potential of the region. When I first heard of this idea I was at the same time instantly intrigued and somewhat disappointed that the concept was not borne from New York.
The idea was the brain child of Allen Shoup, regarded as one of Washington State’s founding fathers of wine and former CEO of Chateau Ste. Michelle. Shoup grew Ste. Michelle from a small $5 million a year winery to a giant of over $175 million per year. During his tenure there he partnered with other powerhouses such as Piero Antinori of Tuscany and Ernst Loosen of Germany bringing them both to Washington State and in turn creating the widely known wines Col Solare and Eroica. It was this partnering that after his retirement in 2000 grew into what is now Long Shadows and which brings into Washington State every year wine heavy hitters such as Randy Dunn, John Duval and Michel Rolland.
The 2003 Long Shadows Sequel was the inaugural vintage for the Washington State syrah and was crafted by famed Australian winemaker John Duval, known for his tenure at Penfolds winery. Similar to Penfolds Grange, Sequel is primarily Syrah with about 5% Cabernet Sauvignon added and doesn’t fall short in alcohol at 14.5%. This wine definitely needed time in the decanter to open up as the alcohol was initially overpowering.
Once it had a chance to breathe the blackberry, black cherry and blueberries had a chance to shine through in a rather elegant fashion. This was the first time tasting this wine since I purchased it 6 years ago and it instantly reminded me why I did.
Tracy Weiss, Roving Correspondent: Landmark Vineyards 2011 Heitz Chardonnay
As I finished the last sip of Illumination (and no, I wasn’t with Michael), I precariously held my glass by its stem and hunted through the fridge of my TriBeca based hosts. Dismissing Champagne I deemed too expensive for our fourth bottle, I came across an unassuming label with fine script.
“Bummer,” I thought and replaced it in the rack.
Before I could continue my search, my host wedged herself between the wine and me and placed her hand on the bottle. “I know this isn’t your usual thing…but it’s time for….the CHARDNADO.”
Her husband had just finished the NYC Marathon. If he could run 26.2 miles in 3 hours and 30 something minutes, I could put my bullshit aside and sample something outside my ‘style’ zone.
And she was kinda right.
Landmark Vineyards is famous for relocating its15-year-old Windsor, CA winery in order to outrun strip malls and gas stations. After finding a home in the Sonoma Valley, they began turning out award winning chards, pinot noirs and the occasional syrah.
The 2011 Heitz Chardonnay did have the stereotypical oak undertones with a buttered Popcorn Jelly Belly aroma. But there was a lot more to it. The dark liquid gold hit me like a twister. Citrus! (Lemon meringue pie.) A decent amount of acid to keep honeyed hothouse flowers at bay. Dried apples. And a reminder to be a more open minded alcoholic.
Besides, it beat my other choice: Hanger 1 Lime Vodka.
Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.
Michael Chelus, Niagara/Lake Erie Correspondent: H&M 2012 Hofer Grüner Veltliner Weinland Osterreich
I’ve enjoyed looking for quality white wines from Austria for several years now. It all started with a great bottle of riesling my wife and I found and couldn’t get enough of several summers ago. Since that time, we’ve had much luck in finding high quality white wine from Austria at great prices. From the small sampling I’ve tried over the past few years, it’s not difficult to find white wines from Austria that have great balance, complexity and acidity.
This past week, I enjoyed this variety for the first time. Grüner Veltliner is prevalent in Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. When made properly, it can be reminiscent of a good riesling when not heavily oaked and a robust chardonnay when made with more oak.
The 2012 H&M Hofer Grüner Veltliner had a golden straw color. There were plentiful pear and lemon notes on the nose. On the palate, the pear returned, along with apple and honey. There was an underlying vein of minerality that was nicely balanced by residual sugar content. This particular wine was unoaked and had plentiful acidity that would make it perfect for pairing with seafood, chicken or pasta with a cream sauce.
Todd Trzaskos, North Country Correspondent: Evolúció 2011 Furmint
Big ripe melons, pomme fruit and citrus zest. Seems like more residual sugar than the other Furmints we’ve had, but some of that may simply be ‘perceived sweetness’ because of the big body delivered by this aromatic white.
This was a triple temptation for me because it was an off the beaten path grape I knew, was under $12, and I admit, had pretty cool label. Aperitif class, or spicy entree worthy, an interesting foray into Tokaj.