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: July 2018 Selections
I’m not what you’d call a “natural wine”: guy. I generally don’t care for dogma of any kind (there are always exceptions) and I think there are a lot of thoughtful, conscientious growers and winemakers being needlessly lambasted by the natural wine police.
That said, I’m absolutely a “wine that is delicious” guy. And the wines from Liten Buffel, made by Zack Klug are delicious… and happen to adhere to most of the “rules” of “natural wine.” (Are you sick of me using quotes yet?). And I like Zack personally, including his approach to wine, because he doesn’t see the need to push his own beliefs onto every winemaker or even every wine he drinks. It’s true that he checks all the boxes for natural winemaking — he’s all beard and plaid, ambient yeast fermentation and neutral barrels. But he’s also the rare “natural winemaker” who you can also consider a bit of a pragmatist too.
Since hitting the Niagara wine scene — the New York side, not the Ontario side — in2015, Zack and his wines have consistently stood out for me when tasted within a group of wines comprised of the same variety. So this month, I decided to double up on a couple of my favorites from his 2016 releases. Yes, they are both red, but neither is out of place this time of year. Both have a fresh litheness that I find appealing with a wide array of foods. And besides, we had to include them now before they sell out (which they probably will be fall).
You know how much I love New York cabernet franc, so it’s probably no surprise that the first wine is Liten Buffel 2016 “Faucheaux” Cabernet Franc. It strikes a beautiful balance between fruity notes like bramble berries, cherry Ludens, dried cranberries and red apple skins with earthy ones of pine straw, curry leaf and damp mulch. The fruit steps forward a bit on a juicy, medium-light bodied palate offers more of that raspberry and blackberry fruit with cranberry and cherry skins. There is a distinct herbal-resinous quality under the fruit and an earthiness is almost musky. Long and fresh with acidity and showing just a little skin tannin, the finish is long and makes you want to take sip after sip.
Zack is passionate about pinot noir — in general and as perhaps the most important grape in the Niagara Escarpment AVA. Both of his current pinot releases are worth chasing down, but I decided to include the more elegant — even delicate — Liten Buffel 2016 Perfetto Vineyard Pinot Noir. It shows a similar balance between sweet fruit — mostly strawberries — and more savory notes of sweet roasted beets and black tea. The light-bodied palate shows juicy strawberry with layers of tea, wet soil, beetroot and dried herbs. Don’t let the light color and body fool you though — there is some nice grip here. It finishes with a distinct black cherry skin note that balances its earthy savoriness nicely.
I hope you’re all enjoying your summers. As always, I hope you enjoy the wines. Please let us know what you think!