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. 

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The Cork Club: February 2018 Selections

Winter — especially in upstate New York — can be a difficult time to source wines and then send them out. So, please accept my apology on the delay in getting these wines to you. I think you’ll find them very much worth the wait. Both wines come from projects created by Manhattan sommelier Thomas Pastuszak to “showcase an incredible winemaking region that we New Yorkers have right in our own backyard: The Finger Lakes.”

Now, if you’re in this club, that’s not groundbreaking news. We all know that there are great wines coming out of the Finger Lakes. But, Thomas — with is reputation and connections — is getting the word out in New York City as much, if not more than, anyone else. He’s also chosen to work with one of the most thoughtful winemakers in the region, Red Newt’s Kelby Russell.

I can’t always put my finger on why, but I don’t love a lot of the Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc that I taste. Sometimes it’s too light in body. Other times it has this dustiness that tastes more stale than earthy. Other itmes, it’s just weedy. When it’s good though, it’s really good. And this Terrassen Wine Cellars 2016 Cabernet Franc is that. It bursts with red raspberries but it has all of the earthy savoriness that lovers of Cabernet Franc crave. There’s a minerally meatiness here that makes it so great with food. I know that I pick a fair amount of Cab Franc for the club, but when I came across this wine I had to include it. It’s the perfect wine as winter wraps up and spring vegetables start to appear on menus and in our own kitchens.

Dry riesling is another category in the Finger Lakes that can be spotty. I rarely taste one that is outright bad anymore, but a lot of them just don’t have a lot of character. Some citrus, some acidity and that’s about it. Alcoholic lemon water. But again, the Pastuszak/Russell partnership results in a wine that avoids all the potential pitfalls. Empire Estate 2016 Dry Riesling bursts with peach and green apple fruitiness with that classic Finger Lakes river rock/slate minerality at the edges. Juicy, citrusy acidity provides plenty of verve and begs another sip — and another and another.

As always, I hope you enjoy the wines. Please let us know what you think!

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About Author

Lenn Thompson, a proud Pittsburgh, PA native, moved to Long Island more than a decade ago and quickly fell in love with the region’s dynamic and emerging wine community. A digital and content marketing and community professional by day, he founded NewYorkCorkReport.com in early 2004 to share his passion for the wines, beers and spirits of New York State. After running that site -- which became the premier source for independent New York wine commentary, reviews and news -- for 12 years, he launched TheCorkReport.us in late 2016 to add the wines of Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Vermont and beyond to his beat. Lenn currently serves as the wine columnist for The Suffolk Times weekly newspaper and is the former editor of the Long Island Wine Gazette. He contributes or has contributed to publications like Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Beverage Media, Edible Brooklyn, Edible East End and Edible Hudson Valley. Lenn served on the board of directors for Drink Local Wine, and is the creator and founder of TasteCamp, an annual regional wine immersion conference for writers and trade. An admitted riesling and cabernet franc fanatic, he’s intensely passionate about eating local and the many local wine regions of America. Lenn lives in Miller Place, NY with his wife Nena, son Jackson, daughter Anna and their dog, Casey Lemieux Thompson.

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