happy-holidays

It’s been a busy 2014 here at NYCR headquarters — as well as our satellite offices throughout New York. At times the site just hasn’t been a priority and we’re sorry about that. Fear not New York wine fans — we’ll be back with a vengeance in 2015, with some new programs, a new look and possibly some pretty big news. In the meantime, the team and I are going to shut things down for the year and enjoy the time with our friends and family over the holidays. Happy holidays!

lakewood-2012-riesling

Lakewood Vineyards can always be counted on for good value rieslings — affordable wines that typically over-deliver for the price. Lakewood Vineyards 2012 Riesling ($13) goes even further — offering quality well above its $13 price-tag. Fruity and forward, the nose offers pear, peach and dried apricot notes right out of the refrigerator that turn a bit more musk melon-y as the wine warms. Driven by stone fruit — peaches and apricots — the slightly sweet palate shows a drip of honey and crisp, citrusy edges. Finishing nearly dry with apple and lime notes, this is the kind of Finger Lakes riesling that you can pour for most anyone. Those still new to wine will appreciate the fruity qualities and subtle sweetness, but more seasoned riesling drinkers will dig the acidity and length — though perhaps long for  little complexity and minerality. Producer: Lakewood Vineyards AVA: Finger Lakes ABV: 11.7% Production: 683 cases Price: $13 (sample) (3.5 out of…

heron-hill-2011-reserve-blaufrankisch

Bright berry notes — crushed raspberry and sour cherry — dominate the nose on Heron Hill Winery 2011 Reserve Blaufrankisch ($40) with a sprinkling of pepper and baking spice and vanilla sugar. That peppery spicy edge is present on the medium-light bodied palate, but there is much more oak — raw and bitter — as well. The bramble/raspberry and sour cherry fruit is juicy and fresh, just hidden beneath wood tannins. \ Producer: Heron Hill Winery AVA: Finger Lakes ABV: 12.5% Production: 350 cases Price: $40 (sample) (2.5 out of 5, Average-to-Very Good)

swenson

Elmer Swenson is a respected and nearly mythical figure in the cold climate wine growing community, but do we ever wonder what force was behind his success? He had his own motivations for breeding grapes which developed at an early age, and then later in life he greatly expanded the vine breeding work of prior generations. His ‘amateur’ vine propagation began in 1943 and continued when he was a dairy farmer and had full responsibility for the family operation. Upon retirement from dairy, Elmer went to work for the University of Minnesota as a fruit nurseryman and eventually, grape breeder. When he retired again, he continued on with his own hybridization work until it was no longer physically possible. How did he manage to be active and productive for so long?  My guess is that a steadfast and supportive spouse probably had a lot to do with it. The Louise Swenson grape was named for Elmer’s…

saperavi-sign

The titles on Marti Macinski’s business card read “Co-owner” and “Winemaker.” But it would be easy to understand if they included “Historian” and “Educator” as well. Ms. Macinski, who along with her husband Tom has owned and operated Standing Stone Vineyards in Hector , NY for more than twenty years, is well-versed in the modern history of winemaking in the Finger Lakes region. It is a subject that she has not only studiously researched, but has also helped to shape since the early nineteen-nineties. The Macinski’s are self-described “wine geeks” who have applied a scientific approach to their viticultural and winemaking practices. Tom, who is a chemist by education and Marti, a former attorney, decided to hold back at least five cases of each wine from each vintage, beginning with Standing Stone’s very first releases. Their idea was that over time, the growing library of wines would allow them to…

macari-2014-early-wine

The release of very few Long Island wines can match the buzz generated when Macari Vineyards releases their “Early Wine” Chardonnay each fall, right after harvest winds down. It’s always the first wine from the new vintage to hit store shelves, serving as a harbiger for Thanksgiving as well as the winter holidays. You can think of it as Long Island’s Beaujolais Nouveau — except it’s delicious. Originally inspired by the jungwein (young wine) of Macari’s consulting winemaker Helmut Gangl’s homeland, Austria — where they are often served in heuriger shortly after harvest — the grapes for this wine wine were picked on September 8. The wine was bottled on Halloween. And it was released on November 8. Kelly Urbanik Koch has taken Gangl’s inspiration and made it her own since becoming Macari’s winemaker. “He showed me the ropes for Early my first year here but I guess you could say it’s my own interpretation…

stever-hill

How do you change a longstanding reputation? Don Tones is trying to answer that question. The name Stever Hill Vineyards may be unfamiliar to readers of this site. Located on the western side of Keuka Lake, the winery has a reputation for sweet, lower-quality wines. In 2012, though, the Tones family bought Stever Hill Vineyards with an eye toward turning things around. The Tones family has been growing grapes in the region for generations, and multiple generations of the family are currently involved in winery operations — owners Don, Harold, and Jim, Don’s daughter Liz Sprague and son Mike, and nephew John. They’ve added three new wines to their list: a Dry Riesling, a Dry Traminette, and their Old Barn Red. They’ve also opened a brand-new tasting room with a covered patio where there was live music through the summer. Stever Hill has approximately 500 acres of vines and produces around 1,000…

oktoberfest

I received this beer as a gift, unaware that Southampton Publick House even produced an Oktoberfest (Marzen) beer. Beers made in this style, and not just seasonally, are some of my favorite beers to drink.  The mild hopping, big maltiness, and slight sweetness of Oktoberfest beers work well in basically any situation that involves drinking beer. Southampton Publick House’s rendition this year is excellent and proper to the style. Although there may have been some spice/adjunct additions, the ale is a nice dull copper with hefty foam. The nose diffuses caramel malt, nutmeg, and an earthy quality of dry hay.  The texture of the beer is full and luscious. The milky texture carries a serious malt flavor reminiscent of unfermented beer wort. This makes sense as many brewers purposefully leave some residual sugars(derived from malt) in an Oktoberfest to balance out the big body and flavor of the beer. More roasty,…

esc-club

As I sit down to write this month’s newsletter, it is with mixed emotions. Empire State Cellars will be closing at the end December, which makes this the final club shipment. One one hand, it’s obviously saddening to think that the largest New York-only retail shop is closing and that a club that I’ve curated for so many years (with three different shops handling logistics) is coming to an end. (Selfishly, I’m bummed about the store because it’s going to be that much harder for me to find Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley and Niagara wines locally.) On the other hand, this is a proud moment too. This club has introduced a lot of great wine to a lot of new fans. It’s the only New York wine club that I know of that was hand-picked without profits or margins in mind. We’ve never been a way for wineries to unload the last…

IMG_2908.JPG

I don’t like a lot of domestic chardonnay, but I like this one a lot — and, at $12 a bottle, Fox Run Vineyards 2013 “Doyle Family Vineyard” Chardonnay ($12) could be the state’s best bang-for-the-buck rendition. I’d certainly reach for it over many bottles that cost up to twice as much from other parts of the state. It really over-delivers and is made in a style that suits the Finger Lakes well. Pink grapefruit, tangerine and sweet floral notes dominate a nose that is fruity, but still somewhat lean and minerally. Medium-light bodied, the palate shows similar flavors, with the addition of a peach skin quality and a hint of green melon. A delightful bit of mid-palate weight and creaminess is balanced and framed deftly by well-incorporated acidity that plays a strong supporting role without ever taking over. At nearly room temperature — which is when the wine showed best — there is…