Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Some New York Wines

In August my wife and I took a short trip to the North Fork of Long Island to explore and to taste some wine. We stayed at this cute hotel that is a re-modeled '50s motor inn, we took nice walks around Greenport, had an amazing lunch at Jedediah Hawkin's Inn, and we had some very good wine. In fact, we were genuinely surprised by how much we liked some of the wine. They really are trying to do their own thing out there, not making big fruit bomb wines, but instead making wine in a more elegant style. I read somewhere that the LI wine industry is going more for an old world European style of wine.

We especially liked the wines at Castello di Borghese, a Cutchogue winery owned by an Italian Prince and Princess (although they apparently put the winery up for sale). Their unoaked 2005 Estate Sauvignon Blanc was fresh and lively. We emerged from our tasting there with a few bottles of their 2002 Cabernet Franc Reserve and a 375 ml of a 2004 zippy desert wine made from late harvest chardonnay called Allegra.

We also enjoyed a visit to The Lenz. The 2004 Gewurtztraminer had wonderful aromas of litchi and other tropical fruits, but didn't have the palate to go with the scents. The 2004 Old Vine Chardonmnay was quite good, but it was the reds that really impressed me. The 2000 Estate Selection Merlot is an excellent Bordeaux-styled wine, with plummy and earthy aromas, a light texture, and lots of dark fruit on the palate. There's a persistant irony minerality there too. It could probably age a few more years and at 23 bucks a bottle, its a good value. Careful of the sediment though - each bottle we've opened has had a lot of it.

So now I know that Long Island makes serious wine...what about the rest of New York? I keep hearing about the finger lakes and their riesling. I don't know much about riesling. I've tasted maybe 10 in my life. But I am curious, so yesterday, wandering around with an hour to kill, I went into Vintage. Vintage is a wine store that sells only New York wines, and also some fancy foods. At their Soho location you can saddle up to the bar in back, and for merely 10 clams you can taste any 5 wines you like, regardless of the bottle price.

I treated myself to a little Finger Lakes tasting, beginning with 3 dry rieslings:

2005 Chateau Lafayette Reneau $16 - very light yellow with green smells of melons and flowers. Effervescent in texture with melons, citrus, and stones on the palate and a light citrusy finish. This is a fun wine, good for summer on the deck, but not memorable.

2005 Lamoreaux Landing $18 - light golden hue, very reserved nose. peaches and flowers with pronounced citrus through the long finish. Pleasant, but somehwat simple, and I wouldn't seek out this wine or choose it at a restaurant.

2005 Hermann J. Wiemer $25 - full yellow, floral nose with some lemon balm and rainwater. rich and pure flavors of lemons and apples with an intense floral finish - jasmin? violets? So I guess this is what all the fuss is about. It dances around in your mouth and makes me feel like when I was a kid at the Bloomingdales perfume counter - great smells and something adult happening all around me. I actually had a glass of this wine recently during dinner at the Tasting Room with the in-laws, and I really enjoyed it with my fried blowfish tails. I don't know if this is a good value because I don't have a riesling context yet, but I sure loved the wine, and I grabbed 2 bottles of it for the cellar.

Then, 2 off-dry rieslings also from the Finger Lakes:

2004 Chateau Lafayette Reneau Johannisberg Riesling $16 - almost white in color with rainwater, flowers, and lemon rind on the nose. Effervescent but thick mouthfeel - I could see the bubbles in the glass this time - with melon and stone fruit flavors and a lingering floral finish. Again, I like it, but it is not inspiring me to go out and go crazy on the riesling.

2005 Dr. Konstantin Frank $17 - I might be prejudiced against this producer. He sort of occupies a "McDonalds of the Finger Lakes" spot in my wine psyche. Why? I have no idea, other than his wines are popular. Unfair - yes, but what are you gonna do about it? White fruits on the restrained nose with citrus, green apple and grapefuity acidity. The finish is awkward with some pronounced sweetness but no clear fruit or honeyed flavors. Whatever, you're going to have to put in some serious time and bottles to get me to open up to Dr. McKonstantin.

All in all - New York wine = YES! I will continue to explore, and you should try some too.


Lenn Thompson | said...

Hey...let me know when you're coming out to the North Fork next...would love to show you around and find some more wines you'll love.


Brooklynguy said...

I would be honored to go wining with you, are you kidding? I'm gonna take you up on that offer someday. How did you happen upon this blog?

Deetrane said...

HEY, Lenn! What about me?? :)

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...


Brooklyn Guy. Don't you ever get off that Island? Hop on a Greyhound on the Hudson River line and come say hello up here.

Jonathan Hull
Owner and Winemaker

Anonymous said...

Okay - Glad you started to check out the Finger Lakes - if you want to check out more let me know - I've been researching them all for a book - and still have some I haven't visited! (I started a blog on ones for Keuka Lake) You're rigth about Dr Frank's being the "McDonalds of Wine" in the region - they go way back! Did you know April is NY Wine Month - so drink up and tell your friends to try NY wines (fingerlakes or other regions!)

Unknown said...

Yes, do visit the Finger Lakes! My husband and I have gone annually since 2003. Sauvingon blanc is my new favorite- hoping to find some good ones when we go next month. Besides the wineries, there are great towns, bed and breakfasts, state parks, restaurants. We love it.