The Cork Club: May 2019 Selections – Finger Lakes Rose Outside the Norm

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 never exceed $60 total before shipping and they 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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The Cork Club: May 2019

A duo of roses from Keuka Spring Vineyards and Nathan K.

You’d never know it, but I love rose. I drink it year around and I drink them from all over the place. Rose is my go-to for the beach — but it’s also my go-to for Thanksgiving.

Honestly, it needn’t even be great rose. Even decent rose is still versatile and satisfying. Sometimes that’s all you need.

And yet, I don’t put rose in the club very often. Not nearly as often as I could, anyway. Partly that’s because I think a lot of the rose I taste from the East Coast does fall into that “decent” rose category. I’m more than happy to drink it myself, but I try to make sure that the wines I put in this club are at least a step above that. Usually a few steps.

How do we get up those steps, then?

When I set out to pull together a two-pack of roses for the May club shipment, I decided to go a bit outside the norm. These two wines aren’t white wine stand-ins. These wines offer some weight and some texture that most roses don’t.

First we have Keuka Spring Vineyards 2018 Rose, a blend of blaufrankisch, cabernet franc, merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Winemaker August Diemel is unique in that he doesn’t use oak barrels in his red wine program. Where he does use them is in his gewurztraminers and yes, this rose. 30% of the blend was fermented in older, neutral barrels. The result is a wine that shows fresh fruit up front — think red cherry and strawberry — but with a bit more body (even at 11.6% abv) and weight on the mid-palate. Don’t worry — it’s still plenty fresh and summer-suited. It just has a bit more going on.

This month’s second wine is Nathan K. Wines 2017 Pinot Noir Rose, and it’s probably even more of an outlier. Nathan Kendall also makes the wine for his family’s winery, Hickory Hollow, but with Nathan K. Wines, he does things a little outside of the norms. Finding most Finger Lakes rose “Boring, too lean and just kinda straight up and down” he set out to make his rose different. It was fermented entirely in oak barrels with full malolactic fermentation and aged on the lees until the following summer, by which point 99% of Finger Lakes rose had already been bottled. Some was even sold out by then, probably.

The result is a rose that is more savory than fruity. I first tasted this at a great little wine bar in New York City and at first, I thought it was completely without fruit qualities. But with some air (Nathan even suggests decanting it for a few hours) the slightly funky, reductive notes revealed a complex, textural wine that I couldn’t get enough of. He didn’t make much and he doesn’t have plans to make rose under his eponymous label again, so it’s exciting that we were able to get some. This probably isn’t a beach wine. This is more of a grilled pork chops with sauteed mushrooms and greens sorta wine.

As always, I hope you enjoy the wines. Let me know what you think!

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Comments (1):

  1. Carrie

    May 21, 2019 at 5:16 pm

    Hey Lenn! I just found The Cork Report, and I am beyond thrilled! We are from the Pittsburgh area heading up to the Finger Lakes for a long weekend in June – your posts are perfect for helping me plan our trip, who to visit, and what to buy. You know how sad things are in PA as far as buying wine, so we will be doing a lot of shopping to bring home our favorites and to share with friends. Just wanted to say thanks for what you are writing, and I can’t wait to listen to the podcast!


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