The New York Cork Report Editors at work during Saturday's 2009 'Wines of the Year' tasting.

By Lenn Thompson, Editor-in-Chief
Photos by Morgan Dawson Photography

5 tasters. 8 hours. 19 flights. 54 wines.

PouringWhite That was my Saturday as I joined most of the New York Cork Report team for a tasting that would determine our 2009 Wines of the Year. It was an incredibly fun, exciting day, but it also an extremely challenging one.

But above all, it was an incredibly satisfying day — the culmination of months of planning and coordination.

A tasting like this one — a tasting that brings together hand-picked finalists from New York's major wine regions — has been a dream of mine for years. With the right team of editors finally in place, we were able to make it happen and it went off without a hitch.

That is, unless "too many good wines" can be considered a hitch.

We'll publish the winners a little later today, but I wanted to mention a few general impressions:

The Niagara Region is a Must-Watch One. Before Saturday, I had only tasted a handful of Niagara wines, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I think it's fair to say that all of the tasters (save Bryan of course) were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Niagara finalists. There were some great, very well-made wines that already display a developing style for the region.

Finger Lakes Riesling Shows Amazing Diversity within a Signature Profile. One taster noted that the rieslings in the Finger Lakes white flight were "clearly all from the same region" but that they also showed interesting nuances and differences between them. Terroir doesn't mean sameness.

New York Sparkling Wine is Under-Appreciated. You don't hear much about New York bubbly, but the wines we tasted — from the Finger Lakes and Long Island in particular — were impressive. One taster thought that at least one or two would satisfy lovers of vintage Champagne.

Quality is Up Across the State. I can think of at least three flights where any of the wines could have been good choices — they were all that good. Obviously the regional editors hand picked the wines, so I knew they'd be good, but I honestly didn't think they'd be as good as they were as a group. For two of the flights, we almost didn't even know where to start eliminating wines from contention.

The NYCR Really Does Have the Right Editors in Place. I have a great deal of respect for the people writing for this site, but after Saturday, I feel even more confident and excited for the future of the NYCR. The editors did a great job picking the wines and showed thoughtful, well-honed palates that made for an interesting, informative tasting. We all have a similar cool climate sensibility, but that we were almost never unanimous in our voting was great to see.

This is only a small samplings of the stories that will come out of the tasting, but some others need to wait until after we announce the winners. Expect to see more from me and all of the other contributors about this tasting, and a special treat that kicked off the day.

I think we all learned a lot and are looking forward to honing the process for next year. I certainly had more than a few proud moments.

I'd like to thank Tom and Susan Higgins of Heart & Hands Wine Company one more time for not only letting us dirty every single stem they have in their tasting room, but for decanting and pouring the wines blindly for us all day. Their desire to see the entire state shine is inspiring and their hyper-sensitivity to keeping the tasting blind and facilitating the tasting in the fairest possible way is greatly appreciated.