Did you know that I have my own wine club? I do! I’ve partnered with my friends at The Cellar d’Or in Ithaca, NY to bring the best and most interesting wine from the East Coast and Midwest straight to your door. We call it “The Cork Club” and I pick two wines each month that never exceed $60 total before shipping. These aren’t bin ends or mass-produced, factory wine garbage. These are real wines. These are the wines that I’m drinking myself and most excited about — from producers you’re never going to get anywhere else.
The Cork Club: January 2018 Selections
Happy New Year, everyone — or are we too far into January to still say that? I’m not sure, but either way — I hope you had a great holiday season and have started 2018 out on the right foot. And, I hope this month’s wines help make 2018 a delicious one for you.
First up is Hudson-Chatham Winery 2015 North Creek Vineyard Chelois. What’s Chelois? It’s a little-known hybrid variety that Hudson-Chatham winemaker Steve Casscles likes growing and working with — and this is a guy I trust with hybrids. He literally wrote the book on them. This ruby red is dominated aromas of just-pitted cherries with fainter notes of savory, woodsy spices and dried autumn leaves. Juicy and fresh, it’s lighter bodied but bursts with pure cherry and cranberry fruit flavors and more layers of earthy, spicy nuances. Without any overt barrel footprint, this is a wine that really lets Chelois show off in all of its Pinot Noir-meets-Cabernet Franc-meets-Blaufrankisch glory. People look down upon hybrids sometimes — I’ve been guilty of it myself in the past — but if this wine were made in an unexplored corner of Italy from a grape not many people know about, it’d be all the rage with New York City somms. It’s that funky and fresh.
My mixed feelings about most domestic Chardonnay are well documented in my writing. Too expensive. Flabby. Beaten with oak. Just plain boring. 7 or 8 years ago, most of the East Coast Chardonnay that I was tasting fell into one or more of those categories. Honestly, I stopped tasting and reviewing most Chardonnay. For years. But recently I’ve stumbled upon enough delicious local Chardonnay that I’m rethinking my approach. I think it’s time to reconsider the category and this wine is a proof positive. Osmote Wines 2014 Chardonnay is part of a new wave of Finger Lakes Chardonnay — one that we should all pay attention to. Winemaker Ben Riccardi is a Finger Lakes native who has made wine all over the world, including France, New Zealand, Australia, Chile and various American regions. At Osmote, he’s come home and this Chardonnay is a real standout. It was fermented in new oak, but larger formats — 400- and 500-liter barrels — and then aged in oak for 10 additional months. Despite all that time in new oak, the oak footprint is small in terms of flavor. It’s ripe, creamy and weighty with fruit flavors of citrus, peac, and pineapple that are accented by floral and leesy/nutty notes with great acidity and length. It is one of the wines that thas forced me to rethink what barrel fermented New York Chardonnay can be.
I hope you enjoy the wines — as always, any and all feedback is encouraged!