The Cork Club: October 2017 Selections Freedom Run Winery 2015 Estate Reserve Cabernet Franc | Keuka Spring Vineyards 2016 Lemberger

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 New York and beyond 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 garbage. These are the wines that I’m drinking myself and most excited about — from producers you’re never going to get anywhere else. Sign up today!

Despite this streak of warmer weather up and down the East Coast, fall is upon us. The grape harvest continues, we’re being bombarded with pumpkin spice everything and I’m thinking more about red wines than white again — which is why this month’s box has two reds, both from New York, in it.

I’ve been tasting a lot of cabernet franc of late for a planned 2017 East Coast Cabernet Franc Report — and I have to be honest, I’ve been a little underwhelmed by what I’m tasting. I’m finding a lot of wines that are pleasant wines — wines that I’d be happy to drink with a meal — but I’m not finding the consistent quality that I expected. Some wines are simply overoaked. Some are too ripe, resulting in too-high alcohol and little varietal character. What once was planned to be a self-published mini-book about the red wine common to most East Coast regions may become a short series of blog posts. Why tell you about how mediocre many of the wines have been? Because the Freedom Run Winery 2015 Estate Reserve Cabernet Franc from up on the Niagara Escarpment, just might be the best cabernet franc I’ve tasted this calendar year. Ripe but not too ripe, it shows concentrated blackberry and black cherry intensity with subtle but distinct herbal notes that signal “cabernet franc” without being too green. Take that and add nice freshness and well-incorporated tannins and this is what cabernet franc can and should be. I’m really really excited to share this wine with you.

For this month’s second wine, I went in a completely different direction. I know that many of you like fresh, fruity unoaked reds as much as I do — as long as there is something else going on with them. Straight-up strawberry or cherry juice just isn’t that interesting. Enter Keuka Spring Vineyards 2016 Lemberger (the grapes is also known as Blaufrankisch). This is a grape that doesn’t get enough love in the Finger Lakes. There are a handful of wineries doing some really great wines with it — and we can include Keuka Spring on that list. Winemaker August Deimel doesn’t use oak in his red wine program, so you won’t find vanilla or bacon or campfire flavors. Instead, you get an unencumbered view into what this grape tastes like coming off of that site.  Red cherries and blackberries are sprinkled with exotic spices and dried herbs, striking a fine balance between the fruity and the savory. With modest alcohol and juicy acidity, this is a wine that you just might find on my Thanksgiving table.

As always, I’d love to hear what you think about these wines. Drink well!

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