© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com..
© Clay Williams / claywilliamsphoto.com..

The fact I was bundled in down from head to toe while I cruised the block sto Astor Center reminded me (as if I could forget) that it’s still winter.

For the third year in a row, NY DRINKS NY presented its Grand Tasting featuring nearly 32 wineries from across New York State. Manhattan in mid-March sits on the precipice of spring meaning new wine releases and desperate hopes for balmy weather, even though the mercury says, “Bitches, we’re still in winter.”

Well, I don’t care. My taste buds are firmly planted in backyard grilling, delicate sunshine, snap peas and throwing my threadbare mittens in the garbage. I approached the tasting not just to see the new things coming out of the Niagara, Long Island, Finger Lakes, Hudson or the rest, but to say farewell to my winter cabs and bourbon-laced cocktails. The calendar says it’s almost spring and I’m stocking up on the some of the best things I tasted at the event:

(From lightest to heaviest….)

Macari Vineyards Rosé 2013, North Fork of Long Island: There’s something special about a wine you know was bottled last week. You’re getting in on the ground floor. And with this updated offering from Macari, you should get in at whatever level you can — 750ml or the newer 1.5L \ 3L large formats. Lighter than the last vintage (which was mostly merlot), this new blend is 60% cab franc, 38% merlot, 2% pinot noir and it shows. Medium bodied, berry fruit, and enough bite to remind you this is cab franc country. As the kids used to say, it’s fresh and so clean clean.  I look forward to serving from April through September.

Channing Daughters 2013 Syrah Rosé,  North Fork of Long Island: I generally get amped up about ANOTHER South Fork rosé, but Christopher Tracy’s classy refresher makes it easier to bridge the Fork gap with syrah grapes grown on the North side.  While the salmon color brings to mind frothy cocktail dresses, the breezy-bodied wine is no lightweight. Syrah brings some heft that encourages you to think beyond the pink. Dry. Minerals. Candied Violets. Heavy on the tongue. A long finish. A welcome wine with spring veggies or on its own.

Lamoreaux Landing 2011 Unoaked Chardonnay, Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes: It’s all the things that make me want to live in a stainless tank of Chablis. Crisp and citrusy but not thin or astringent in anyway. There’s a lot of stony minerality and a pink lemonade finish. It’s also incredibly reasonable at $14.99. In a region known for its riesling, be bold and go for the chard. (I cannot believe I’m saying that).

Paumanok Vineyards 2013 Chenin Blanc ,North Fork of  Long Island: Duh. If you’ve ever talked to me, you know I am obsessed with this medium bodied bringer of juicy, flint stone goodness. There’s nothing else for me to say other than by it by the case.

Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards Cabernet Franc, Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes: Fooled you. We need gateway reds on our way to full-on summer, friends. And this glorious ruby red cabernet franc is up to the task. None of the hard core funk we sometimes seek out from the variety. Picked from the warmest part of Seneca Lake, the extra bit of sun shows. The wine is a little hot, but balanced with acid, cherries and a roundness that comes from a small percentage of French Oak barrels. Such an easy finish, it sort of dribbles out of the mouth. Drink up, though, you’re safe for spills. There’s no wearing white ‘til Memorial Day.