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 wines. These are real wines, made by real people. 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: September 2018 Selections

If you follow New York wine even in passing, you’ve probably heard about the New York Classic, which is often dubbed the “Oscars of New York wine.” There are a lot of wine competitions in the world, but this one, held every summer in the Finger Lakes and organized by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, focuses solely on New York wine and cider.

This year, I had the distinct pleasure of judging the competition. All told, I tasted nearly 200 wines over the course of a day and a half of judging. To some of you, that might sound like fun. To others, that might sound painful. To be honest, it’s a little of both. I was definitely ready for a beer at the end of it. I’ll say that.

But without tasting through all of those entries, this month’s club picks would be completely different — because, prior to the Classic, I had never tasted a single wine from Weis Vineyards or a cider from Kite & Strong.

I was assigned three flights of riesling of varying sweetness designations — and then all 21 of the judges tasted each of the category winners the next day to pick the top riesling. The Weis Vineyards 2017 Dry Riesling didn’t win the dry category, but for me, it was the best riesling I put in my mouth all weekend. It’s not bone dry, but the classic Finger Lakes core of citrus and peach is accented by a distinctly minty-herbal note with wonderful texture and a combination of weight and focus. The sheets we had on hand for our own notes only had a small box for each wine — but I drew three stars and wrote “wow” next to this one.

The month’s second bottle didn’t actually cross my table in any official capacity. I wasn’t a judge for the ciders and frankly, given who they got to judge them, I shouldn’t have been. But, one of those judges was The Cellar d’Or co-owner Mark Grimaldi and he brought me a few tastes of interesting (good and bad) ciders throughout the first day of judging. Then at the end, once his judge panel had chosen the best overall cider, Mark had me taste Kite & String 2017 “Pioneer Pippin” Traditional Method Cider and wow is it delicious. Pioneer Crab and Newtown Pippin apples make up 70% of the blend with Golden Russet and Manchuria Crab making up the remainder. Dry, bright and tannic, this may not appeal if you’re into the mass-produced, decided sweet beer-bottle ciders — but if you’re curious about real cider made from apples you’d not want to eat right off the tree, this one will no doubt impress. I don’t have notes per se, but I remember it being citrusy, tart and a little earthy — and mouth-filling. We’ve only included a cider one time before in the club — but this one demanded the slot, frankly. It’s that good.

As always, I hope you enjoy the wine and cider. 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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