drinking local: wines of new york state

After an inspired trip to Inniskillin for some truly delightful ice wines just over the Canadian border in Fort Erie, I thought we should maybe give the local New York State region it's due. How could we have overlooked local for so long?

There are some tasty wines to be had in New York State, though unfortunately, they are not necessarily priced for value as many other imports from other regions in the world may be. It can be frustrating to get a perfectly lovely table red from South Africa at $8/bottle, yet a similar bottle, with grapes grown a few hours drive north in the Finger Lakes, is more than double (if not triple) the price.

We decided to buy a bunch of bottles (focusing on the Finger Lakes and North Fork, Long Island, though there are a few gems to be found in the Hudson Valley as well) and see what we could find in terms of both taste and value.

I'll also include some notes about a few of the ice wines that inspired this focused look to the local vines around us.

All wines for this tasting were purchased at Red, White, and Bubbly.

* TOP 3

Mattabella Famiglia, Chardonnay 2008 (North Fork, LI), $14.50
-> MY NOTES:  Nose of peach, taste has oak-y finish, overall impression was meh.

Hermann J. Weimer, Dry Reisling 2008 (Finger Lakes - Seneca, NY), $17.00
-> MY NOTES: Nose was typical reisling strawberry yogurt, champagne color, taste was nice, crisp, tart, clean, grapefruit.
* TOP 3

Ravines, Dry Reisling, 2007 (Finger Lakes - Keuka, NY), $14.50
*ALSO, there's a great review of this wine by Der Kellmeister.
-> MY NOTES: Clean, intense, fresh, strange and intense, metal aluminum finish.
* TOP 3

Channing Daughters, Mosaico (White Table Wine) 2007 (North Fork, LI), $30.00
-> MY NOTES: They used 7 different grapes, nose of sucrets (!), taste of fruit, cherry, grapefruit, band-aids for sure, good and complicated as a wine, I really liked this one.

Shinn Estate Vineyards, Red Table Wine (North Fork, LI), $13.50
-> MY NOTES: Nose of iron, blood, and cherry, medium bodies, sweet plums, weird and intense, we felt it could hold up to a big hearty meal, tho someone said it was like "a soup with too much of every spice"
* TOP 3

Borghese, Cabernet Franc Reserve 2005 (North Fork, LI), $27.00
-> MY NOTES: Nose of leather, cherry, wood, old man smell or a woman's leather glove - "it smells of other people's money"

Wölffer Estate, Cabernet Franc 2007 (North Fork, LI), $18.00
-> MY NOTES: Nose felt a bit off, like astringent and something unplace-able (one taster thought vomit!), agressive but thin wine, metal, leaves a film in my mouth, tastes very everyday, probably a nice mid-range, but after the Borghese, this was hard to taste.

And the ice wines, which I purchased as a tiny tiny three tasting pack (for $33.00):
Inniskillin, Vidal Ice Wine 2007 (Niagara), $50.00
-> MY NOTES: Rich yellow and healthy legs, nose of apricot, gooseberry, melon, has a tart, tangy unripe apricot taste, not as sweet as it smells, and tastes like the syrup in canned fruit cocktail (not in an unpleasant way: canned peaches rather than fresh), good with cheese.

Inniskillin, Reisling Ice Wine 2007 (Niagara), $70.00
-> MY NOTES: Similar color and legs to the Vidal, nose is typical reisling w/ not only strawberry yogurt, but hints of that gasoline you don't often get. Taste of pineapple, tar, a bit more complex, not as fragrant and sweet, the sweet and tart are a bit more balanced, this is the city mouse to the Vidal country mouse.
* The Winner of the Ice Wines

Inniskillin, Cabernet Franc Ice Wine 2007 (Niagara), $100.00
-> MY NOTES: Nice garnet color w/ similar legs, nose of wine (yup) and berry from a candy (like blowpops), tastes of black currant (jarred or syrup, not off the bush), light quick finish, reminds one gentleman of white port: messes with your expectations, nice sipping wine over dessert w/ rich chocolate


box wines: the quest for excellence

I've been totally remiss in posting the results of our box wine tasting, that actually happened last winter. The news is, box wines are back, but they're re-branding themselves as "eco-friendly" - and honestly, these newer box wines taste nothing like their older, better known predecessor Franzia.

The packaging is frequently larger than the usual 750ml bottle, from 1L, which gives you about an extra glass of wine, all the way up to 3L, which is about 3-1/2 bottles of wine. TetraPaks are much like adult drink boxes in appearance, and are lightweight, and easy to recycle. Other methods favor wine that is shipped in bags, and boxed at the final stages, with boxes that use recycled cardboard, and even wood (like Wineberry). But how do they taste? We take one for the team, and embark upon the quest for excellence....

Yellow and Blue, Argentinian Malbec (1L Tetrapak), $11.99
-> MY NOTES: Nose of bark and strawberry, taste was sweet, jammy, leather, perfect dinner party wine for a friend's house warming party.

From the Tank Estezargues (3L Bag in a Box), $29.99
-> MY NOTES: Nose of nail polish remover, medium tannins, sweet, we all liked the story behind the wine, but didn't love the wine, great wine for a hipster party in Williamsburg

Moulin Roquille Bourdeaux (3L Bag in a Box), $38.99
-> MY NOTES: Nose of raspberry, perfume-y cheese, clove, eucalyptus (was the best smelling wine of the bunch), taste of eucalyptus, dry in the mouth, tannic, lavendar finish. Bring this to a work party full of designers
* TOP 3

French Rabbit Pinot Noir (1L TetraPak), $8.99
-> MY NOTES: Nose of cultured yogurt, taste of black cherry, delicate, simple, coats the mouth, doesn't taste like a pinot, but was a great wine for a picnic
* TOP 3

Giacomo Sangiovese Toscana (3L Bag in a Box), $25.99
-> MY NOTES: Nose of nail polish remover, taste of green pepper, bitter, "meh", we decided you'd take this wine to a company party, if you didn't really like your co-workers, and knew you'd be leaving quickly

Franzia, Cabernet Sauvignon (5L Bag in a Box), $14.99
-> MY NOTES: Nose of sangria, smarties, wine cooler, slightly tannic and jammy, no finish, and actually, not as offensive as we had feared. Also, Diana had never ever tried it, this, "The World's Most Popular Wine," so we decided it was time. Brings us back to our college days: get this for your niece for her graduation party, her and her friends won't taste the difference anyways, and it's not _that_ bad.

a few tastes in napa and hudson valleys

A few Napa Valley tastes:

Silver Creek Cellars
Busy, large tasting area, and I wanna say there was a whopping $20 tasting fee (free glasses, but who needs em? We would have gladly done without them for a reduced fee).

They had 2 memorable cabs, the 2006 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, my favorite of the two.

They age the wine in all American oak barrels, and they are very specific to point out that the barrels are usually only used for one 2-year cycle, at the most, two 2-year cycles.

I was actually hooked up by my awesome sister with a seat at the Sequoia Grove Winemaker Dinner at Oak Knoll Ranch, which is on one of their vineyards they work with, Lamoreaux Vineyards. It was gorgeous, the grounds were lovely, and yes, it was incredibly hard to stay sober with great wine flowing and yummy food pairings.

While I did like their cabs (most notably, the 2006 Lamoreaux Cabernet Sauvignon), my favorites were actually their 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, which was a lovely start to the evening, sweet without being cloying, and refreshing on a warm night (we all agreed it was much more delicious than the rosé).

The closer 2004 "Sequoia" Red Dessert Wine, was also a winner, and was a deliciously amped up port, and as it turns out, an experiment that they only made one barrel of. Also, Molly Hill, winemaker extraordinaire, was a lovely dinner companion :)

A few Hudson Valley tastes:

The grounds are lovely and surprisingly large, and tastings are $6 for 6 wines, but they give you a list of 11 wines to choose from. The large list made me wary, but there were some interesting surprises:
'09 Slate Hill White: Actually, not a bad table white, but for $14.99/bottle, I felt the folks at Astor Wines could direct you to something similar at half the price.
'09 Reisling: Soft nose of pear, taste of green apple, light, not cutting, not too sweet, this was my winner of the group
'08 HRR Cabernet Franc: Nose of cedar, raspberry, graphite, slight talcum, easy drinking, light, thin, quick finish of black pepper
'09 Syrah: This is 15.7% alcohol, nose is a whiff of blue cheese, deep red-purple color, tastes of coffee, wood chips, eucalyptus, harsh start, quick finish
'09 Proprietor's Reserve: This one is aged for 10 months in Hungarian oak (I've never heard of such a thing), and is 51% malbec, 39% zinfindal, and 10% merlot, tastes of clove and is very sweet (amaretto?)
We must have had a 6th one, but it was not memorable enough to warrant notes.

Tasting fee was $5 to try all of their wines
2009 Seyval: Nose and taste are both of cow's milk cheese.
2009 Solitary Oak (white): Nose is perfume-y, taste is glue, oak.
2009 Cayuga White: Nose is pear and nectarine, taste is nectarine, one note, not balanced, strong.
2009 Rosalais: They say the nose has delicate overtones of strawberry jam. It actually clobbers you over the head with the smell of strawberry jam, nothing delicate in the least. It is light, the nose is MUCH heavier than the taste, and it's not as sweet as it smells, but it's sweet and tart, and could be great on a hot summer night, after dinner.
2009 Blackberry Kir (is Cayuga White mixed with 5% Blackberry wine): Hmmm, this smells of cheese and tastes like grape drink. No thank you.
2009 Apricot (dessert wine made from 100% apricots): Yup, exactly what you think. If I was creative enough, I could come up with a use for this, but it's just straight up sweet, no complexity, just sugar.


argentinian wines: where malbec is king, and tango is your soundtrack

a quick primer on argentinian wines can be found here, that talks about about why we haven't seen much of argentina until the past 20 years:
wikipedia on argentinian wines

the big grapes we dealt with were malbec and bonarda, and mainly the mendoza region.

*all wine for this tasting purchased at astor wines and spirits

PORTENO, 2007 - Red Wine (Bonarda, Malbec, Merlot blend)/MENDOZA - $4.99
->MY NOTES: nose: rubbing alcohol, hint of cherry, taste: meh, tussin aftertaste

PLATA TORRONTÉS, 2008 - White Wine (Torrontes Blend)/LA RIOJA - $7.99 (normally $9.99)
->MY NOTES: nose - strawberries, yogurt (surprisingly reisling-y!), taste - grapefruit, white peppercorn *nice
* this was one of the top 3 liked wines for the tasting!

CRIOS BALBO, 2008 - Rose (Malbec)/MENDOZA - $13.99
->MY NOTES: nose - nothing really, thin looking, watery, taste - green pepper, butter, this wine was all over the place, very unfocused & confused, was voted the wine cooler of the group

NAVARROS CORREAS, 2007 - (Malbec)/MENDOZA - $10.99
->MY NOTES: nose - cherry, dark fruit, taste - cherry coke, medicinal

FAMILIA MAYOL, 2007 - (Bonarda)/MENDOZA - $12.99 (normally $14.99)
->MY NOTES: nose - black raspberry, taste - tussin, pepper, mint (!), envelope *nice
* this was one of the top 3 liked wines for the tasting!

BEN MARCO, 2007 - (90% Malbec, 10% Bonarda)/MENDOZA - $19.99
->MY NOTES: nose - sweet tarts, vanilla bean, taste - good body, many tastes but balanced, leather on the finish *nice

URBAN UCO, 2007 - (Malbec)/MENDOZA - $11.99
->MY NOTES: funky. most people did not like this one and found it quite harsh, but i felt that after the initial crazy first taste, it calmed down and mellowed - could be an smooth, easy drinking red, has personality, not my favorite, but not bad

CATENA, 2006 - (Malbec)/MENDOZA - $24.99
->MY NOTES: dark fruit, spicy, cherry, leather - this wine is essential the picture perfect malbec, exactly what it should be, decent, dependable, well balanced with body
* this was one of the top 3 liked wines for the tasting!


grenache tasting

brian requested a wine tasting that would go well with pie, and actually, i think grenache was a perfect solution! it was not too overpowering for desserts, had a bit of kick, but very easy drinking...thanks so much to diana and brian for opening their homes, and scroll to the bottom for the amazing pumpkin cookie recipe diana found (and baked), and thanks brian for an amazingly savory pumpkin pie!

what is grenache indeed...
wiki says

Grenache (pronounced gren-ash) (in Spanish, Garnacha, in Catalan, Garnatxa) is probably the most widely planted variety of red wine grape in the world.[1] It ripens late, so needs hot, dry conditions such as those found in Spain and in the south of France.[2] It is generally spicy, berry-flavoured and soft on the palate with a relatively high alcohol content, but it needs careful control of yields for best results. It tends to lack acid, tannin and colour, and is usually blended with other varieties such as Syrah, Carignan and Cinsaut. Grenache is the dominant variety in most Southern Rhône wines, especially in Châteauneuf-du-Pape where it is typically over 80% of the blend. In Australia it is typically blended in "GSM" blends with Syrah and Mourvèdre.

Like the Pinot family, Grenache comes in 'black', 'grey' and 'white' versions, plus a mutant with an altered epidermis. The standard "black Grenache" is known as "Garnatxa Fina" in Catalan, and is the most common version. The "hairy Grenache" is also known by names such as Lladoner Pelud (see below). The leaves look similar to Macabeo, but with fine little hairs. Recent research in Spain into this bizarre clone indicates that it produces smaller berries with a thicker skin, which suggests a greater potential than the original for making fine wine. This is an active area of investigation.

Grenache Noir was crossed with Petit Bouschet to give Alicante Bouschet, sometimes called Garnacha Tintorera. It was an important grape during Prohibition, as its thick skins survived being transported from Californian vineyards to consumers, who were allowed to make small amounts of wine at home.

answers.com says

It's widely planted in navarra and in many of Spain's hotter areas including cariñena, la mancha, penedès, rioja and utiel-requena. In southern France not far from the Spanish border, Grenache is widely cultivated in the areas around languedoc-roussillon, provence and the southern rhône. It's also extensively grown in Algeria, Australia, Corsica, Israel, Morocco, Sardinia (where it's called Cannonau), and California's central valley. Guarnaccia is a Grenache strain native to southern Italy's Ischia island, at the entrance to the Bay of Naples.

Grenache is known by many different names including Alicante, Cannonao (or Cannonau), Carignan Rosso, Granaccia, Granacha, and Roussillon.

*all wine for this tasting purchased at red, white, and bubbly

CASITA MAMI, 2004 - Spanish Red Wine, 60% grenache, 40% graciano (Spain) - $16.00
->MY NOTES: nose - cloves, easy drinking, slight tannins

LELIA, 2006 - Garnacha, 100% (Spain) - $10.00
->MY NOTES: nose - black cherry, not very strong smell, taste - black cherry, chalky afterwards, fruit forward and quick finish

CAVE DE RASTEAU, 2006 - Cotes du Rhone, 70% grenache (France) - $15.00
->MY NOTES: nose - spicy, eric says "tastes like church" (frankincense), peppery, medium finish
* this was one of the top 3 liked wines for the tasting!

TREVOR JONES BOOTS, 2006 - Grenache, 100% (Australia) - $16.00
->MY NOTES: nose - welch's grape juice that's been left out in the sun, funky smell, dried roses, taste - smoky, salty, has some complexity and personality, tannins, and a longer finish than the rest
* this was one of the top 3 liked wines for the tasting - and was the standout winner!

LA COUME DU ROY, 2004 - Grenache Dessert Wine, 100% (France) - $32.00
->MY NOTES: nose - figs, taste - figs, not too complicated, sweet and dessert wine-y, very straightforward
* this was one of the top 3 liked wines for the tasting!

these pumpkin cookies were absurdly good!! posted by 617 blog, originally from allrecipes.com
thank you sixonesevenblog!

Iced Pumpkin Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Small dash of cinnamon (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat.

2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt; set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly.

4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until cookie springs back when lightly pressed. Cool completely on wire racks.

5. Make glaze by mixing confectioners' sugar, milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, cinnamon and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add milk as needed to achieve drizzling consistency. Drizzle over cookies with a fork, allow icing to set before serving or storing. Note: it's helpful to leave the cookies on the wire rack while icing to allow the excess to drip off, with some old newspaper or another plate set underneath the racks for easy cleanup.


beer tasting: hefeweissen and flanders red

yup, we decided to mix it up with another beer tasting, this time hefeweissen and flanders red beers. this was an excellent excuse to try out some summer-ish beers before the hot weather hits, to figure out what will work best on the beach/rooftop/fire escape on those lazy weekend afternoons and sultry evenings.

says wikipedia about hefe weizen and wheat beers

says wikipedia about flanders red ales

here are some cool sites i found in the process of research:
beer tutor
brew wiki

let's get to the beer-ing!! all beer purchased at bierkraft

hofbraü hefe weizen, $2.00/bottle
-> thin, even, average tasting
*this was voted one of our top four of the tasting!

st. bernard's wit, $3.49/bottle
->belgian white beer, tastes of black pepper
*this was voted one of our top four of the tasting!

harpoon's UFO, $2.00/bottle
->made in boston, sharper taste, creamier

schneider wisen edel weissen, $4.49
->more carbonated, has much more personality than anything thus far, this is what i really want when i ask the bartender for a hefeweissen!
*one of my personal favorites!

blanche de namur - belgian wit, $8.95/bottle
->french belgian, smells like pez, tastes of violets/flowers

excelsior - white gold, $12.95/bottle
->this is 8% alcohol! has an alcohol-y taste, hoppy aftertaste, sharp, not carbonated, decent tasting beer

1809 berliner weiss, $7.25/bottle
-> i didn't realize it, but this is also put out by weihenstephaner! sour, raspberry + strawberry taste, refreshing and light, a hot weather/by the pool beer
*this was voted one of our top four of the tasting!

weihestephaner (weizenbock), (forgot to write down cost, sigrid says it's like $1/bottle in germany, so must be like $4-$5 here?), this is the oldest brewery still in existence ANYWHERE!
->maltier, sweeter, tastes like it already has lemon in it! banana flavor
weizenbock means is is a darker, stronger seasonal beer for spring
*one of my personal favorites!

duchesse de bourgogne, $12/bottle - this is a flanders red
->tastes of balsamic vinegar, sweet, very peculiar, interesting as a taste, but couldn't drink a whole glass of this - squid describes as salad beer (nice as a dressing)

rodenbach - grand cru, $11.99/bottle - this is another flanders red!
-> tastes of sweet tarts! fruity, berry, strawberry, vinegar, tart, tastes like a wine spritzer or sparkling wine, has a red colored malt
*this was voted one of our top four of the tasting!

aecht schlenferla rauchbier, $5.95/bottle
->rauchbier style is a smoked style, smoked wheat beer, bacon-y, tastes like a wood burning stove

middle ages - swallow wit, $9.95/growler

thanks to lars for leading the discussion and letting us swarm your home, and to everyone for coming out to share in the drinking! for those curious about the alcohol infused cheeses, here they are:
-all cheeses purchased at the coop-

port salut (france)

drunken goat (spain)

cahill porter (ireland)

red dragon - cheddar cheese with wholegrain mustard and ale (wales/UK)

bergumer swiss (switzerland) - no alcohol but still tasty!


rioja and ribera del duero

rioja and ribera del duera both use the same grapes, mostly or all tempranillo with some occasional grenache, and a few other grapes thrown in the mix. using the same grapes, with such different results, has made this a very interesting tasting indeed!

some helpful resources on spanish wines:


ribera del duero

the wine doctor's guide to spanish wines

Traditional versus Modern Rioja: Question Posed to Riojan Winemakers, from catavino

wines from spain

simple guide to spanish wine, from top tour of spain

blame it on rioja blog

tinto y blanco - adventures in spanish wine blog

tempranillo - blog about the spanish wine industry

*also - william wilson has an unbelievably detailed 17 minute podcast devoted to spanish wines, check it out (itunes or otherwise):
william wilson – wine for newbies 29 – spanish wines

anyone want an excuse to go to rioja and talk with a bunch of other wine nerds? look no further than this, for august 2008:
european wine blogger conference

*all wine for this tasting purchased at astor wines

from rioja

viña gravonia (white rioja wine), 1996, $23.00
-viura (macabeo grape)
->MY NOTES: nose: fungus/blue cheese, apple, taste: metally, aftertaste, envelope-y, sour
*this wine was not impressive to the group during the tasting, but afterwards, when we started to eat some cheese and drink a little more casually, it became a real standout - drink with food!

viña bosconia, 1999, $32.00
-mostly tempranillo, some grenache
->MY NOTES: nose: fresh fruit

marqués de riscal reserva, 2003, $14.00
-simply says "red rioja wine"
->MY NOTES: color: garnet, nose: butterscotch, taste: leather, smooth, non-tannic, cherry, i really liked this one
* this was one of the top 3 liked wines for the tasting!

from ribera del duera

rívola, 2004, $14.00
-simply says "red wine"
->MY NOTES: nose: cheese, olive, taste: cinnamon, cloves, bark, we felt this was a great sipping wine
* this was one of the top 3 liked wines for the tasting!

atalayas, 2005, $21.00
-simply says "ribera del duera red wine"
->MY NOTES: nose: citrus, nail polish remover (!), taste: thin

protos, 2005, $12.00
-simply says "red wine"
->MY NOTES: nose: meaty, taste: woody, black cherry
* this was one of the top 3 liked wines for the tasting!


oak vs. steel tasting


OK, so this time we did another process oriented one - oak vs steel - it wasn't quite as "one-to-one" as we anticipated, but thanks to the folks at crossroads for the suggestions.

A few helpful links:

Oak and Oak Barrels - Why do winemakers get so excited? from thrifty fifty

Description of the types of oak barrels

Rethinking American vs. French oak - oak barrels used in aging of wine

White fermentations: to barrel or not? from the zinquisition

Wineries replace oak barrels with stainless-steel

Can oak alternatives replicate the function of barrels?

Huge crush a windfall for tank, barrel makers - Manufacturers of storage, fermentation containers struggle to meet demand

2006 Barrel and Oak Report from wine business

on to the wines!!

Chateau de la Presle Touraine, 2004, $13.00
-> MY NOTES: 1/2 oak 1/2 steel - oak is somewhat restrained - not much of an impression

Bellevue Touraine, 2005, $25.00
-> MY NOTES: steel - woody, cabbage, horseradish, sticky gummy taste, varietal character shows through

Bourgogne Chardonnay (White Burgundy), $24.00
-> MY NOTES: from Cote de Ore, toast, thinner, acidic, pineapple

J.Lohr Chardonnay, 2005, $12.00
-> MY NOTES: butterscotch, grapefruit
* this was one of the top 3 liked wines for the tasting!

Woop Woop Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005, $13.00
-> MY NOTES: uses American and French oak, cigar smoke, tar, leather, personally, I found to be a bit overbearing (I think Sigrid described as "all elbows and knees")

La Gatte Bordeaux, 2003, $15.00
-> MY NOTES: leather, black pepper, eucalyptus

Domaine Georges Vernay Syrah, 2005, $20.00
-> MY NOTES: nose: baked goods, sour cream, black pepper, taste: like little grenades!!
* this was one of the top 3 liked wines for the tasting!

Mitolo The Jester Shiraz, 2006, $20.00
Syrah/Shiraz from McLaren Vale, Australia
-> MY NOTES: smooth, non-controversial
* this was one of the top 3 liked wines for the tasting!