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.
You could say that this month’s wine club shipment has been years in the making. You could say that because it’s absolutely true.
It was in the summer of 2016 that I got my first taste of Left Foot Charley blaufrankisch. It was the 2013 vintage and my friend and colleague Gina Shay brought the bottle to a gathering of wine writers and trade folks that I had organized. There was a lot of wine opened and enjoyed that evening, but that wine was one of the highlights for me.
Since then, I’ve added Michigan to the wine-producing regions I write about and I’ve been lucky enough to taste several more of Left Foot Charley winemaker Bryan Ulbrich’s wines.
And then – not that long ago – I learned that they had a relationship with a New York-based distributor, which meant that I’d be able to get the wines into the state for this wine club. From there, it was just a matter of picking which wines I wanted. The portfolio is that impressive. Narrowing it to two was a challenge.
I knew that I wanted to include the current vintage of the blaufrankisch that started it all. The Left Foot Charley 2017 Blaufrankisch has a nose driven by ripe, fresh blueberry and black cherry fruit, and the edges are savory with sweet herbs and a sprinkling of black pepper. Balance is the name of the game on the medium-bodied palate, where ripe sweet blueberry and cherry fruit flavors mingle with more spice and just a little bit of summer herb. With a low oak footprint and acidity providing the framework rather tannins, this is a wine that seems meant for young drinking that should also age and develop nicely for at least a few years.
I knew that I wanted to include a white wine too, but which ones? Ulbrich’s rieslings are delicious, but we include riesling fairly regularly. He’s also making some of the best pinot blanc in the country – yes, pinot blanc. Yes, in the country. But ultimately, I wanted to include something a bit off-beat, so the Left Foot Charley 2018 Kerner was the pick. Kerner is an aromatic white variety that counts riesling as one of its parents. You don’t see much of it in North America at all – but maybe there should be more.
I don’t typically use whimsical descriptors, but it smells like a sunny summer day. It’s floral and peachy and even has a hint of fresh spearmint on the nose. The palate shows similar flavors, all with a gritty, citrusy acidity that perfectly frames the peach, citrus and even faintly tropical flavors. There is a certain power in its juiciness that really lengthens the finish that ends on a distinct note of grapefruit zest.
Next month’s shipment is going to have a pair-with-Thanksgiving dinner focus, but both of these wines would be more than at home there as well.
As always, I’d love to hear what you think about the wines.