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A VINO       A New York State of Wine Part Uno

When back in the 70’s one Mr. Francis Sinatra said, “start spreadin’ the news”, he sure wasn’t touting  New York vinos. But now we are spreadin’ the news that New York is making some mighty fine wine. They have always made a lot, being the third largest U.S. producer, but recently the wines were mostly  funky jug versions from hybrid and native grapes.

The primary reason for the shift to quality is people who are committed to finding which grapes thrive in specific regions, and who also have the commitment to brave challenging climatic conditions.

New York features two main wine regions, The Finger Lakes and Long Island.  We will focus on The Lakes here and save The Island for part deux.

This region was glacier-etched thousands of years ago which created not only the Finger Lakes but also an amazing amalgam of mineral and soil components. This is still cold-weather viticulture here. Scott Osborne, proprietor of Finger Lakes Star Winery, Fox Run, says wineries deal with everything from losing entire vineyards to deep winter freezes, to crops sizes varying 50-60% from year to year because of untimely frosts.  That’s pretty tough on the old business model and demonstrates how devoted, or crazy, these folks are to make wine here.

And what wines they are! The calling card here is show-stopping  Rieslings. Vintners are making a world-wide name for themselves with crisp, minerally and complex Rieslings.  These beauties from top producers such as the aforementioned Fox Run, Ravines Wine Cellars, and Sheldrake Point, fare quite well with Germany’s best at a fraction of the cost.

As you might expect the other grapes thriving here are also well suited to cool-climate viticulture. On the white side the Gewurtraminer grape expresses itself here in both the dry, spicy, lychee style and in amazing ice wines that match the great sweet wines of Alsace. Chardonnay from the lakes is more like Chablis than Cali, being taught and precise.                                                                                                                In reds, there are sleek versions of Pinot Noir and the Austrian varietal Blaufrankisch, called Lemberger here. These reds are typically medium-bodied wines with spice, featuring bright red and blue fruits, and a tarry minerality. Excellent food wines!

As a wine educator, an a native of New York, I’ve made a point to do tastings of NY Wines that turned out to be fun and informative as the climate, soils and winemaking give unique and tasty expressions of the respective varietals. If you want to do the same check with your local wine purveyor to see what they can get, or check with the wineriesdirectly as they all ship direct.  IMAGES ARE FOX RUN’S VINEYARDS IN WINTER AND SUMMER

fox-run-in-winter fox-runDry Riesling, Fox Run 2013

A Vino                        A New York Sate of Wine Part Deux

NY Wines Part 1 in our previous issue covered the sometimes frigid Finger Lakes Region where Riesling is Queen. Now we’re heading south and to the coast to visit the Empire State’s other wine Mecca. Long Island has a more temperate, but still cooler than most, climate. It is also in a maritime zone, and both of these factors are similar to Bordeaux so it is no surprise that the Island excels with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Both are prominent early-ripening Bordeaux varietals. LI vintners also makes copious amounts of Rose from those grapes which are perfect for seaside-sipping, or while waiting in line for a “Hamilton” ticket

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The Vineyards are about 90 minutes from downtown Manhattan on the North Fork. This area is a cove facing the mainland and as such is partially sheltered from the Atlantic Storms that often bash southeastern areas.                                        Unlike California, and similar to Bordeaux, there is considerable vintage variation because of chancy weather at harvest time when rain and cool temperatures can challenge ripeness and concentration in the grapes. This is why later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon is a third wheel, whether as a stand-alone wine or in red blends. Fortunately there has been a run of good weather since 2010, and along with ever-improving winemaking North Fork wines are been better than ever. As in Bordeaux, Sauvignon Blanc leads the way on the white side and the typical style is more old-world with some richness and earthiness complementing citrus and melon flavors. When done right, these are interesting complex wines that dance well with food. With miles and miles of beaches, Long Island is morally obligated to make Roses, and these Merlot and Cab Franc based wines are surprisingly light on their feet with floral, spice and strawberry/watermelon notes.

The Island’s most renowned producer is Wolffer Vineyards where they focus on classic structured reds from the signature varietals and also makes Long Island’s most famous blush wines from the same grapes that they like to call “Summer in a Bottle”. Another vintner making wines worth seeking out is Channing Daughters Winery. Like Wolffer they make wonderful reds,  but heir calling card is a multi-varietal white blend named “Meditazione “ that is led by Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. This most unique wine is skin-fermented and barrel-aged in the northern Italian style creating spicy and earthy complexities that complement the vibrant fruit palate.

The takeaway? New York is making some interesting and delicious vino, so check with your local wine shop for availability and other tasting suggestions. If they can’t help you can always order direct from these wineries as I featured them not only for their great juice, but also for their exceptional customer service. BELOW IMAGES: WOLFFER VINEYARDS AND THEIR “SUMMER IN A BOTTLE” AND CHANNING’S “MEDITAZIONE”

wolffer-vineyards summer-in-a-bottle meditazione






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