The Cork Club: May 2020 Selections – Benchmark Rieslings from a Benchmark Finger Lakes Winery

Welcome to The Cork Club. I’ve partnered with a great wine and cider shop in Ithaca, NY – The Cellar d’Or – to bring the best and most interesting wine from the East Coast and Midwest straight to your door. It’s pretty simple. I pick two wines each month that are shipped directly to you. These aren’t bin ends or mass-produced, factory wine garbage. 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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I hope this finds you and your family healthy, staying at home as much as you can, and making the best of a time in our collective history that none of us will ever forget.

It’d be easy to talk about the quarantine and about how badly local wineries need our support to survive closed tasting rooms and dried up restaurant accounts, but instead I’m going to tell you about these two terrific wines I picked this month – and a bit about my own failings as a chooser of wines.

Failings? Okay, maybe that’s a bit rough. I tend to be harder on myself that I need to be, but as much as I love every wine that I’ve picked for this club, I know that sometimes in my pursuit of the obscure and hard-to-find, sometimes I ignore the great wine from way more obvious East Coast wineries.

I’m sure I’ll find some new-to-you grapes or wineries to highlight next month and beyond, but this month you get to enjoy two rieslings that I’m really excited about from a benchmark winery in the Finger Lakes.

Forge Cellars hasn’t been around all that long. Its first wines were from the 2011 vintage. But, in less than a decade, Forge has established itself as one of the premier riesling producers in North America. The pinot noirs aren’t bad either, by the way.

Forge source almost all of its fruit (they have a new estate vineyard, but most of the fruit they work with is grown nearby) from the eastern side of Seneca Lake. If you ever have the opportunity to visit and taste through the entire lineup of single-vineyard wines, you should. Tasting wines from the same vintage, treated the same way in the cellar, from individual vineyards – some very close together geographically – is a fascinating opportunity to explore Finger Lakes terroir in a way that I don’t think you can do anywhere else.

I can’t put a half dozen wines or more in the club, however, so I picked two of Forge Cellars terrific rieslings for this shipment.

First, we have Forge Cellars 2018 Classique Riesling. This is the “village” wine that is made from all of the vineyards Forge works with. I would include it anyway, but as a bonus, the winery is donating 5% of all sales of this wine to the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation. On top of that, this is just a killer wine that shows what Finger Lakes dry riesling can and should be. Complex and focused and textural, you’d honestly never know that it’s from what many producers considered a lesser vintage.

That’s the blend of all of their vineyards. For the second wine, I really wanted to get the Forge Cellars 2018 Breakneck Creek Vineyard Riesling – and we were able to before it sold out. I’d have to go back through all of my tasting notebooks, but this might be the highest-scoring wine I’ve ever rated. It smells of Honeycrisp apples, sea salt, jasmine tea, quince, and lavender.

On the palate, fresh-cut apple and quince flavors are accented by more saline and floral notes, but it’s the juicy, concentrated, and textured mouthfeel that makes this wine a standout. The finish lingers with beautiful saline and apple cider notes. I have no idea if this vineyard is special year in and year out, but in 2018, it certainly was.

That’s it for this month. I hope everyone is staying home, staying safe and making the best of this tough situation. Open the good stuff. Cheers.

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