Photo credit: Clay Williams |
Photo credit: Clay Williams

Like panel moderator Linda Lawry, I also believe that Champagne or any of its descendants are labors of love best in enjoyed simply because it’s Tuesday. For that reason (and also because I’m a bit of a lush), I was thrilled to attend a Sparkling Wines of New York seminar at the NY Drinks NY event at Astor Center on Monday. As the Director of the International Wine Center, an organization dedicated to wine education for neophytes and oenophiles both, Lawry was a good fit lead the discussion. She introduced representatives from wineries to present their creations with the panache and comfortably of a talk show host.

Clinton Vineyards NV Seyval Naturel
From the east side of the Hudson River comes a method champenoise made solely of the French hybrid grape, seyval blanc. Crispy, with brighter acidity than expected. Smooth, lemony with a beeswax finish. Thus far my favorite way to experience Hudson Valley seyval. Owner Phyllis Feder confirmed the synergy of the vineyards name and proximity to the former president’s estate made a bottle of their Seyval a perfect wedding favor for Chelsea’s wedding. If it’s good enough for the former first family, it’s good enough for me!

Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars 2007 Blanc de Blanc
A very light bodied and delicate wine was the first of the Finger Lakes bunch. Not incredibly fragrant on the nose. Classic 100% Chardonnay with Bartlett pear and a buttery tart crust. The freshness and the tickle of acid made this a success. Home grown, small production and riddled by hand. I don’t put a lot of stalk in wine awards, per se, but the news of Lamoreaux landing on the 2012 Wine and Spirits top 100 wineries of the world simply gave me another reason to justify a visit to Seneca Lake.

Chateau Frank 2006 Blanc De Noirs
I’d tasted it before at the New York Cork Report Wine of the Year Tasting in 2011 and it was just as good as I remember…if not better. (It won its division.) This hits my 3 G’s: Great Beading, Green Apples, and Grand Minerals. A longer finish, deep richness, good body with a happy acidity. I attribute these, well attributes, to the 4% of Pinot Meunier in the mix.

*I wish we could have tasted a Sparkling Riesling to really round out the examples from the Finger Lakes

Wölffer Estate Vineyards 2009 Noblesse Oblige
This South Fork sparkler is more than just a wine. It’s a life style. I can just imagine myself, glass in hand, strolling around the winery situated on a gazillion-acre horse farm. This color in the glass was more of a peach color than a ‘blushy’ pink. Biscuit and lemon zest on the nose with slightly unripe berries on the tongue. One of the most fragrant of the bunch. Medium weight. A nice silky finish and stayed with me long after my daydreams of a Hamptons summer did.

Bedell Cellars 2011 Sparkling Rosé
Full rush of Strawberry short cake on the nose and mouth that faded to a cotton candy flavor. 50% cabernet sauvignon, 40% cabernet franc and 10% merlot brought a depth and some fruit to this fuller wine. I wanted to like it more than I did, but next to the serious acidity of it’s Finger Lakes brethren, I fear it got a little lost in the shuffle. In the Bedell Rosé department, I prefer their still.

Leonard Oakes NV Steampunk Cider
Like last year, I am very big fan of this cider. In terms of this panel, Steampunk was a welcome and interesting addition to the discussion. Sparkling wine is associated with celebration and glamour; this noble cider (hammered home by its working class name) is an every man’s aperitif. Not to say it s shouldn’t be broken out at a party. Hailing from 15 different varietals of apples from the family’s Niagara orchard, the natural sweetness from ‘dessert apples’ (Fuji and Braeburn) really work and add to a complex and round mix. It calls to mind the crisp English ciders I love without some of the off-putting funk. And fabulous bubbles that keep Steampunk firmly routed in this category. It was the only tasting portion I finished.

NY Drinks NY was a fantastic opportunity to sample unknown wines and chat with the people behind them for trade, buyers and the general public alike. However, a seminar like the Sparkling Wines of New York was even more valuable. Seeing bottles from all over the state next to one another with a chance to taste differences in style, geography and discuss types of grapes that work in each area is invaluable. Sparkling wine has the ability to be successful anywhere in the Empire State. While riesling from the Finger Lakes and Long Island merlot tend to get a lot of attention, there’s a lot to get excited about on the sparkling scene.