Evan Dawson: Huber Winery Sweet Marcella (Indiana)
This wine was introduced to me as “the Red Cat of Indiana”. I wasn’t aware that Indiana made much wine, but of course, we know that just about every state is making wine these days. This particular wine is 100% Concord, $9 a bottle, nearly 7% sugar.

A glance at the Huber website indicates that it’s certainly not Red Cat in terms of production; Huber makes just over 7,000 cases, perhaps a tenth or less of what Red Cat checks in at annually. Here’s the key question: Is it any good?

Not really, if you desire fine wine, but it’s not a flawed or bad wine, either. It’s sweet in a way that is unbalanced on most days of the year, but when it’s 90 degrees with the kind of humidity that makes you feel like you just walked into a men’s locker room where most of the members walk around without a towel, well, this wine just might work. More than anything, it represents where modern winemaking has gone: Even the large production, sweet wines are soundly made, easy to drink. When’s the last time you found a wine that is simply a mess, in terms of pure winemaking?

Tracy Weiss: Brys Estate 2011 Dry Riesling
Northern Michigan rocks. The North Fork of the Midwest. Yet despite growing up downstate, I’d been remiss in supporting my homeland’s local wines. Needing to rectify that immediately, I tasted a parade of offerings from Traverse City and the Leelanau Peninsula while visiting last week.

Brys Estate (a former cherry farm located just a few miles from Grand Traverse Bay) grows 100 percent of their grapes used to produces many varieties we are familiar with in New York State.

Their Dry Riesling seems to be a favorite with employees at our go to wine store. The 2011 has delicate peach and apricot flavor with a little bit of Granny Smith apple at the end. The fruit and acid were well balanced and incredibly enjoyable as we sipped it onboard a boat cruising around Lake Charlevoix.

Most things would be enjoyable while cruising around in fresh water under the sunshine, but this crisp, dry (but not too lean) wine was well liked by riesling lovers and nonbelievers alike.

Lenn Thompson: Macari Vineyards 2000 Bergen Road
On a recent visit to Macari Vineyards to taste with winemaker Kelly Urbanik and the Macari family, co-owner Joe Macari was a bit late — he joined us after we had finished tasting most of the current releases. The reason for his tardiness? He had stopped off in the cellar to pull some older vintages for us to try.

Among them was this mature-but-not-fading blend from 2000. It was my first time tasting the wine, but having tasted several other vintages of Bergen Road — a reserve bottling only made in the best years — I can tell you that in its youth, it was probably a full-on, foot-to-the-floor blend with muscular tannins made with aging in mind.

12 years later, it’s still full bodied of course, but the tannins have integrated beautifully. Though only containing 15% cabernet franc, the earthy, spicy nature of that grape is apparent, along with the mature, savory notes that only bottle age can coax from a wine.

I went to Macari in search of inspiration after a bit of a hiatus from vineyard visits. I left dripping with it.

David Flaherty: Farnum Hill, Summer Cider and Farmhouse Cider
In the world of cider, Steve Wood is a stone cold pimp.  Last time I checked in with him, he was growing over a hundred experimental cider apple trees at Farnum Hill’s orchards in New Hampshire.  Looking at some of these varieties boggles the mind; they look nothing like traditional apples we’re used to seeing at the market.  Many are gnarled, oddly colored, and sometimes the size of walnuts.  These are his exotic ladies.

I recently tasted their Summer Cider and Farmhouse Cider.  There is an elegance, a complexity and a focus I can only say are akin to fine white wines — but the apple notes on the nose and the tannins on the palate revealed their true nature.

Both are fermented dry, and naturally carbonated, with the Summer having a bigger shot of bubbles on the palate.  While both are delicious, I was drawn to the Farmhouse with its gripping tannins that left my mouth puckered and thristy for more.

I’m planning our next late night daliance already.  Think I’ll bring these lovely broads to Atlantic City for a stroll on the Boardwalk.

Mark Grimaldi: Domaine Karydas 2005 Xinomavro
When most people think of Greek wine, they think of bad wine.  Mostly I am talking about retail shop owners/buyers, who tried buying a case or two five years ago, and since then that case has sat there collecting dust on the shelf, pissing him off.

That’s because for so long this country has been dominated by lackluster brands that have sufficed for the Greeks that immigrated here over the last century, whose standards of wine were lower, because they were used to drinking the “homebrew” from their local town back home. In addition, a lot of producers were ripping out their indigenous varieties to plant international ones (chardonnay, cabernet, merlot etc.) to keep up with what the market was demanding — and mostly these varieties did not do as well as they did in the rest of the world.

Quality of winemaking and cleanliness overall was far behind the rest of the world, even though Greece is home to some of the richest and longest viticultural history in all of Europe.  It wasn’t until the past few decades that there has been a serious stride in select producers elevating their standards of viticulture and winemaking.

One of them is Domaine Karydas, a tiny (really tiny!) mom and pop operation that makes about a thousand cases of a single wine (how’s that for staying focused on mastering a grape?!), Xinomavro (pronounced zee-no-ma-vro), from their own six-acre plot of vineyards that are surrounded by peach orchards  in the appellation of Naoussa in northern Macedonia.  Xinomavro, like any other variety, can be made in different styles, from rustic to modern.  It is a thick-skinned, tannic grape that can produce some beastly wines.
Xinomavro has been said to be the Nebbiolo of Greece, and with one sniff of Domaine Karydas you know exactly what they’re talking about.  The nose is aromatic and powerful, with pretty, floral notes, licorice, leather, dark, dried fruits, earth, and a touch of that sweet cedar that is displayed in so many Barolo and Barbaresco wines.  The palate is powerful, balanced, savory and rustic, with that young, gritty, tannic-but-ripe backbone.  It exhibits a powerful femininity that Nebbiolo and sometimes Sangiovese have.  It’s a wine that is in it for the long haul, and could age for decades, but it pleasurable young, and cheap enough ($25 retail) where you dont feel guilty opening it young, because you can just buy another one without breaking the bank like you have to with so many higher end italian wines.
Although Xinomavro has been compared to Nebbiolo, it does not mean that it’s exactly like it. Many of the wines of Greece brought me to Italy, but all of them displayed their own character and unmistakable greek imprint.  I guess it’s just a way for us to bring these wines that are so new and foreign, into perspective.