This was my first time attending the NY Drinks NY Grand Tasting, and I was quite excited, with my Nikon and a 50mm lens ready. I knew I would get to see familiar faces, and try excellent new vintages, but I was also on the lookout for things I have yet to try, new people, new vineyards, and even new appellations.

Where did I start…? I confess – I love seeing friendly faces. Thus, I made a beeline to the Macari table to see Kelly Koch. There were several intriguing wines to try – but I was really looking forward to the “Lifeforce” lineup, fermented in concrete “egg-shaped” tanks. The “Lifeforce Sauvignon Blanc 2016” showed rich, tropical notes on the nose, quite unusual for the cooler climate of Long Island, but the middle brought us back, with its cool, bright citrus and lightness. The wines was quite intriguing on the palate already and the hint of soft creamy touches in the mid would, in my mind, pair well with richer fish and poultry dishes.

Another wine that must be mentioned – is the Macari Rose. Yes – a rose note from me, unusual already. But this was a unique wine – a blend of Malbec, Petite Verdot and Pinot Noir. The wine showed quite impressive floral notes already- with spring flowers and bright herbal touches, the mid was full of cranberry notes with bright acidity, and refreshing red berry finish. This wine screams summer – even on a cold winter day.

I really enjoyed the “Dos Aquas” 2013, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Named for the two “waters” of Long Island, and hailing from the excellent 2013 vintage, the wine showed excellent black fruit, iron and tobacco leaf on the nose, with a solid, bright mid-palate, hints of ripe sweet tannin and savory herb. While ready to drink, I could see aging this for a few years as well.

I have written already about my love for the work Kareem is putting in at Paumanok. The lineup is a solid endorsement of both the winemaker and the region – from the sparkling wine and to the single vineyard reds. It is hard to choose a favorite – though the “Minimalist” wines have been most intriguing to me as of late. But then again – what is summer on North Fork without Paumanok Chenin? And we all know how well the Assemblage can age… just take them all.

Talking about great lineups, have you tried the wines of Hermann J. Wiemer yet? No? Start at the top… by shaking hands with Oskar Bynke of course! And if that smile doesn’t convince you, I just heard they disgorged a 2015 Riesling Brut Sekt.

Often the “House White” gets overlooked, but don’t miss this beauty. The “Field White” is 45% Gruner Veltliner, 30% Riesling and 25% Chardonnay and the sweet, bright tropical fruit offer immediate pleasure. Honeyed and rich in the mid, with a hint of sweetness toward the back… the South may have sweet tea…but I will have a glass of this instead please…

On a more serious note, buy the 2016 Riesling Reserve Dry and put it away for a few years. While it is already pretty, with white peach, and bright, crisp mid, a bit of time will allow the hint of apricot on the back to come out, and the minerality will be fused with the autumnal fruit.

I remember having Standing Stone “Ice-wines” years ago, in fact, the 2001 was a favorite of mine. But that was another time. Now, with Jessica Johnson as the winemaker, Standing Stone is making a comeback. The 2017 Rose, made from 100% Saperavi is not a shy wine. Mineral, acid driven and bright are the words that come to mind, with cranberry and sorrel in the mid, it is a refreshing take on a Rose.

I really enjoyed the 2017 Standing Stone Gewurztraminer, and not only because it takes bravery to grow this finicky, thin-skinned grape. The wines showed all the typical aromas of the grape, with lychee and rose-water leading the way, but what impressed me more was the bright mineral mid, full of peaches and mirabelle plums. While totally dry, it showed a slight hint of sweetness toward the finish, to round it off.

I was glad to see Lisa Hallgren of Ravines Wine Cellars as well – we had a wonderful tasting with her and her husband last summer and I was excited to try the wines again since the ones I bought are resting in storage. The 2015 White Springs Riesling is easily my favorite, showing drier today than it did six months ago, but with that same sexy ripe peach and mineral. But the 2014 Maximilien impressed as well, with a nose of ripe red and black fruit, hint of beets, and a serious mid of savory herb and power.

I was surprised while tasting the 2014 Ravines Pinot Noir, to see how earthy and dark the fruit was. Delicious now, it is a cooler, tart cherry and forest floor kind of wine. Quite delicious.

One of the people on my “must meet list” was Miguel Martin of Palmer Vineyards. I obviously wanted to try the Albarino (see below) but I have heard good things about the wines overall. The freshness of the Rose and the tropical power of the Sauvignon Blanc made me think that a visit to the winery is absolutely in order.

The 2017 Albariño was delicious, no questions about it, sweet tropical fruit on the nose, bright green apple and mineral in the mid, wait … how is the glass empty already?

If I was to ask about an age-worthy Long Island Merlot, what answer would I expect? Lenz. And the Merlot is good, in this case it was the 2014 Estate Selection, which is a 92% Merlot blend with hints of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Serious, savory and age-worthy. But the 2013 Gewurztraminer surprised me more, made in an almost Alsace style, weightier, drier and, while less aromatic, more powerful and richer in the mid. This is a serious white wine!

Forgive my ignorance, but I have not had any serious wine from the Hudson River Region; or rather not until this tasting. A few sips and swirls with Matthew Spaccarelli of Fjord Vineyards and I was interested in hearing more (and seeing more – once the new tasting room opens this summer). The 2017 Rose, while a bit subdued on the nose, was bright and happy in the mid and the Cabernet Franc showed pretty red fruit, ripe with a streak of minerality, though on the cooler side. I cannot wait to taste more.

One of the biggest surprises from the tasting was this beauty – 2017 Fjord Vineyards Albariño. Recently bottled, it was still shy on the nose but with a bit of agitation started to show the sweet tropical fruit. The mid was wonderful already – light and bright citrus fruit, great depth with mineral and spicy notes coming in toward the back and a nice dry finish. Delicious!

About Author

Mikhail was born in Ukraine, during the Soviet Union and moved to the United States with his family as a teenager. He grew up in Queens, where he still resides with his wife and son. He’s an adjunct professor of comparative literature at Queens College and John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He became interested in wine in the early 2000s and quickly joined the online community as well as the busy New York City crowd. His personal wine journey began with the love for German Rieslings, but it has evolved into an appreciation for various styles of wine – from the cooler climates like the northeast to the sherries of Southern Spain. While he enjoys writing and tasting wines, his true passion is photography. He is never without his trusty Nikon, trying to capture the emotion of the moment. He is passionate about the local culture and especially the farms, wineries and breweries of the northeast.

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