The New York Cork Club, a wine club that I’ve curated for several years, across three different wine shops, is changing — much the way this site has. Welcome to The Cork Club.
I’ve expanded my focus beyond New York’s borders — so it only makes sense that I’d do the same thing with my wine club.
Starting with these December picks, members can look forward to wines not only from New York, but also from places like Virginia, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Maryland… which is a great lead into the first wine in the December shipment: Old Westminster Winery 2015 South Mountain Malbec
Malbec? From Maryland? Yes — believe it. You may not know Old Westminster Winery, but you should and you will. Three siblings run this producer mid-way between Baltimore and Frederick. Big brother Drew Baker manages the vineyard, middle sister Lisa Hinton makes the wines and their younger sister Ashli Johnson manages the tasting room and retail side of things.
I first met the dynamic trio in the spring of 2013 — the year they bottled their first wines — at a Maryland wine tasting at Oriole Park at Camden Yards that was part of the Drink Local Wine 2013 Conference. That first wine was a chardonnay and I was floored by how good it was. It was the best white wine in that room. I actually walked aroun the room lobbying people to vote for it. It didn’t win, but since then, I’ve been following the winery’s progress from afar and tasting Lisa’s wines any chance that I get. There is a focus on terroir but also experimental slant here. Old Westminster produces several pet nats, makes an orange wine from pinot gris and is making the case that multi-vintage reds can be serious fine wines. With so many interesting, delicious wines to choose from, you might think that it would be hard for me to pick a wine to include in the club. It was. But it also wasn’t.
When I tasted this malbec on its second day open, I emailed Drew immediately and asked him how I could get some for the club. It’s that good — and yes I said second day. It was good the first day, but this wine is such a baby that it needed air to really reveal its true character.
Grown in the rocky foothills of Maryland’s South Mountain, it offers plenty of varietal character — dark, rich fruits with violets and a wonderful earthy-umami character. It actually wasn’t tasting its best until the third day, by which point I only had half a glass left. You’re going to love this one. Trust me.
Only 88 cases were produced and it hasn’t been released yet — so this is a bit of a The Cork Club exclusive.
While you might want to be patient with that first pick, but the second, Shinn Estate Vineyard 2015 “Mojo” Cabernet Franc, is a wine you can open the day it arrives and enjoy it.
As Long Island winemakers continue to move beyond the days of treating cabernet franc like cabernet sauvignon — and beating it with new oak — this is North Fork cabernet franc at its pure, transparent best. Fresh and vibrant, it’s made without a splinter of oak.
To make a cabernet franc like this, you need clean, well-grown, flavorful fruit. Co-owner/vineyard manager Barabara Shinn delivers that year in and year out. She’s one of the best in the east and is a leader in sustainable viticulture on Long Island.
The wine that results from her (and her team’s) work shows beautiful blackberry and cranberry/pomegranate fruit qualities with spicy, woodsy-earthy notes and just a bit of the herbal nuance that the best Long Island cabernet franc always has. You can’t beat that “green” out of Long Island cabernet franc if you want to make an expressive, true-to-place wine. No vanilla or two-by-four flavors here.
My partner in this venture, The Cellar d’Or in Ithaca, NY, will be shipping these wines out in a couple weeks.