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: October 2018 Selections

I’ve been curating this club for a number of years now and I think my approach has evolved over time. I used to simply pick two delicious wines because they were delicious and I thought you’d like them. I still do that, but I’ve been trying to do even more. Sometimes one wine or pair of wines wins out because of the story behind the wine — the people who make them, the places they grow or the passion behind them. I like to be at least somewhat seasonal, though I’m not all that seasonal in my drinking.

This month’s picks are first and foremost delicious — that will always be the case — but they also represent a common thread that can be traced back a few decades in New York wine.

Rich Olsen-Harbich, winemaker at Long Island’s Bedell Cellars and maker of Bedell Cellars 2017 TASTE Rosé is one of the first New York winemakers I remember talking about ambient yeast fermentations — meaning he ferments his wines without using commercially isolated and reproduced yeasts. The yeasts that are on the grapes in the vineyard and in the cellar already do the work. The idea is that by not adding something from a laboratory or factory, you let the grapes express themselves more fully. I don’t always buy into the “natural wine” movement, but wines like this one sure are compelling. This cherry-and-herb tinged rosé is a blend of merlot, cabernet franc, syrah and cabernet sauvignon is the kind of low-alcohol (11%) wine I like to have on my Thanksgiving table. It’s fresh and versatile and is sure to please a wide range of drinkers.

Chëpika Wines, a wine and brand created by Finger Lakes winemaker Nathan Kendall and New York sommelier Pascaline Lepeltier also eschews commercial yeasts, wanting to express the place where the grapes they use are grown. They also make wine from two historically important wine grapes that have fallen out of favor in New York’s modern industry — Delaware and Catawba. These are native varieties that, as I already said, were once vital to the state’s wine industry but have since been pushed aside in favor of classic European varieties. Chëpika probably isn’t going to change that perception much, but the wines — both sparkling wines made in the ancestral style — show what is possible with these grapes when they are farmed sustainably and made by a talented young winemaker. Chëpika’s 2017 Catawba Pet-Nat is super-fresh and fruity with a bit burst of crackling acidity that makes it so so mouth-watering. This is another good pick for Thanksgiving — especially if you have history minded or wine geeky friends.

As always, I hope you enjoy the wines. We already have next month’s wines picked and procured — and I think you’re going to love those too!

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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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