By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor

ESCWineClubLogo2012It's been a few months coming, but today I'm ready to announce the first shipment of the new Empire State Cellars Wine Club. If you're not familiar with the club, read more about it here.

We've added a fourth club type — Excelsior — which can be purchased as a standalone club or added to another club. Those wines will be up to $60 each and the focus for me will be picking wines worthy of your cellar.

Here are the wines for this first shipment. Each is more than welcome in my glass and I hope you'll enjoy them as well.

"Hello New York" Wines

Red Newt Cellars 2009 Davis Farms Vineyard Riesling: Winemaker David Whiting makes a wonderful range of riesling styles, including a handful of single-vineyard wines from various growers. This riesling stood out when I tasted it for it's lime and slate flavors with pretty citrus blossom notes sprinkled in, and for a beautiful crackle of acidity that lengthens the finish.

Anthony Nappa Wines 2010 "Bordo" Cabernet Franc: If you've been a member of this club for very long, you know how much I enjoy the cabernet franc grape. Well, here is a unique expression that shows a ton of personality for the price. Made using ambient yeast and without a splinter of new oak, it shows complexity and freshness… with a bit of rustic character. Look for snappy red fruit, sweet herbs, sundried tomato and wild fennel aromas and flavors.

"Getting to Know New York" Wines

Ravines Wine Cellars 2009 Argetsinger Vineyard Riesling: If there were such a thing as a grand cru vineyard in the Finger Lakes, Sam Argetsinger's vineyard on the eastern slope of Seneca Lake would surely be one. Take Sam's vineyard and add winemaker Morten Hallgren's skills in expressing its beauty, and you get this wine — one of the Finger Lakes' top rieslings year in and year out.

McCall Wines 2009 Pinot Noir: Pinot noir from Long Island? It's chased by several, but I'm not sure anyone does it better than Russ McCall on his vineyard in Cutchogue. 2009 was a challenging year on the North Fork and one that enabled the best-tended vineyards to shine. Bright red fruits are accented here by subtle oak and and almost floral spicy quality. I always want my pinot noir to be food friendly, and this one fits that bill nicely.

"New York Wine Trail" Wines

Bedell Cellars 2010 Viognier: If you don't see much pinot noir on Long Island, you see even less viognier, but this was one of my favorite wines of last summer. Replete with sweet melon and stone fruit flavors, there are distinct but understated floral and plum flesh — not the skin — notes as well. Fresh and focused, the acidity carries peach and melon flavors with it as the finish lingers.

Osprey's Dominion Vineyards 2007 Reserve Merlot: Winemaker Adam Suprenant doesn't make reserve merlot very often, but when he does it really means something. It's no secret that 2007 was a hot, dry year on the North Fork, so combine that with Adam's cellar skills and you get a complete, balanced merlot that is approachable now but will also improve with time in your cellar.

"Excelsior" Wines

Hermann J. Wiemer 2010 Magdalena Vineyard Riesling: One doesn't often think about "warm" anything in the Finger Lakes, but Magdalena Vineyard is one of the warmest vineyard sites in the Finger Lakes — it's all relative remember. Its mesoclimate, along with varied soils, consistently deliver ripe, balanced fruit to the cellar where winemaker Fred Merwarth works his magic, bottled here as a single-vineyard wine.

Paumanok Vineyards 2007 Tuthills Lane Vineyard Merlot: The NYCR's 2010 Red Wine of the Year from Long Island, this is a benchmark wine for me — a wine that I compare many merlots to when I'm tasting them. Yes, the flavors are ripe and layered, but what really makes this wine a standout is its structure. The tannins are substantial and chewy, but also incredibly ripe, providing some serious grip without being hard or harsh. Drink it now if you must (make sure you decant it for an hour or two) but tuck it away in your cellar for several years and you'll be rewarded.

If you haven't signed up for the club yet, fear not. You can still get in on this first shipment. Email Katherine Jaeger, Manager of Wine Clubs, at and she will take good care of you. And remember, you can customize your club to include just red or whites wines too if you'd like.