esc-clubAs I sit down to write this month’s newsletter, it is with mixed emotions. Empire State Cellars will be closing at the end December, which makes this the final club shipment. One one hand, it’s obviously saddening to think that the largest New York-only retail shop is closing and that a club that I’ve curated for so many years (with three different shops handling logistics) is coming to an end.

(Selfishly, I’m bummed about the store because it’s going to be that much harder for me to find Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley and Niagara wines locally.)

On the other hand, this is a proud moment too. This club has introduced a lot of great wine to a lot of new fans. It’s the only New York wine club that I know of that was hand-picked without profits or margins in mind. We’ve never been a way for wineries to unload the last few cases of past vintages. Instead, we’ve been able to get wines that aren’t available outside of tasting rooms. Wineries have dipped into their libraries for us — selling us wines from the early 2000s that were singing, or even selling us wine that they planned to keep for themselves. We’ve included just about every variety and style made in the state. Our picks were the wines that I wanted for my own cellar — and I’m also a member.

For this, our last shipment, I wanted to include some classic favorites but also include wines from some of the wineries and winemakers that I respect most. We were able to do that, but obviously I couldn’t include everyone. I’d like to thank all of the producers that we’ve included over the years. You are the reason this club has been successful and I have no doubt could continue to be.

And I’d like to thank each and every one of our members. Many of you either were already or became friends over the course of your time in the club. I hope that you’ve enjoyed the wines as much as I have and I hope that we continue these friendships for years to come.

“Hello New York” Wines

Anthony Nappa Wines 2013 Frizzante: A sparkling blend of 78% pinot noir, 10% riesling and 12% gewürztraminer, this is a fun, fruity and floral wine that is as refreshing as it is fun. It’s closed under a crown cap — like a beer or cider — and I recommend serving it well chilled with most any appetizer or by itself while you’re cooking. That’s how I’ve enjoyed it most this year. Then again, I could see it playing nicely with the varied foods on a Thanksgiving dinner table too.

Palmer Vineyards 2013 Syrah:  Another wine that is best with food — aren’t all the best wines, after all? — this is a leaner, fresher style of syrah, but still has plenty of spicy varietal character. Pizza or pasta with red sauce on a Tuesday night? This is your wine.

“Getting to Know New York” Wines

Ravines Wine Cellars 2011 Argetsinger Vineyard Riesling: If you’ve been in the club long, you know this wine and this vineyard — just not this vintage. Argetsinger Vineyard is one of the top sites in the Finger Lakes and even in sub-optimal years like 2011, it produces great fruit that winemaker Morten Hallgren crafts terrific wines from. Again, Thanksgiving seems a good time to enjoy this one.

Lenz Winery 2010 Estate Selection Merlot: This is a classic Long Island label that we’ve included in the club a few times over the years, starting with the 2001 vintage. 2010 was a hot year on Long Island, and winemaker Eric Fry captured that ripeness without going overboard into jammy fruit or bludgeoning it with oak. You can cellar this wine for several years and it will improve and develop secondary and tertiary flavors. 

“New York Wine Trail” Wines

The Grapes of Roth 2013 Virgin Berry Riesling: Another wine that we’ve included before — again, just not this vintage — this riesling from German-born winemaker Roman Roth, is consistently one of the most juicy and delicious rieslings made on Long Island. I’ve learned a lot about wine and winemaking from Roman over the years, so I’m proud to include one last wine of his in the club.

Macari Vineyards 2010 Cabernet Franc: If you know me at all — and many of you do — you knew that there was no way I’d send out a club shipment without some cabernet franc included. I’m a franc fanatic after all. Macari Vineyards doesn’t get enough attention for their rendition which is a consistently good value. This wine was named the top red in the state at last summers New York Wine & Food Classic and while “best” is always dubious with me, this is a terrific wine and I’m thrilled we could get some for you to enjoy.

“Excelsior” Wines

Bedell Cellars 2013 Gallery: Winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich was the first mentor of sorts that I ever had in the local wine community. I learned more from him than anyone else and to honor that, I wanted to include Bedell’s premier white blend — which also happens to be just plan delicious. A blend of 70% chardonnay, 24% viognier and 6% sauvignon blanc, Rich only left it in oak for six months to round things out and add some texture. Full bodied and exotically fruited and floral, this is a wine you could age, but it sure would look good on a Thanksgiving table.

Hermann J. Wiemer 2012 Magdalena Vineyard Cabernet Franc: I’d have to look back at the list of wines that I’ve chosen for the club over the years, but there is a good chance that no other winery made the cut more consistently or often than Hermann J. Wiemer. Often itt’s the rieslings that have found their way into the club — whether the entry-level dry riesling, the spatelese-style Late Harvest or the Magdalena or HJW Vineyard riesling. Here, I wanted to showcase a wine that might be a new benchmark for cabernet franc in the Finger Lakes. The new black label is pretty sexy to boot.

Thank you again for being a part of this club. It really has been a labor of love over the years. With ESC closing, I could look for another store that would take care of ordering, selling and shipping the wines — ESC is the third shop I’ve worked with already. In the end, I’ve decided that I’d rather go out on top and scale back on the side projects like this. Having the added time to refocus on the NYCR site and some other plans that I can’t share yet can only make those projects better. Cheers!