The Cork Club: November 2019 Selections – A Lesson in Vintage Variation on the North Fork

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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A duo of concrete-fermented cabernet franc from Macari Vineyards

If you’re even a casual fan and observer of your local wine country – and if you’re in this wine club, my guess is that you are – you’ve no doubt heard grape growers and winemakers talk about vineyard variation and the affect growing season can have on the wines we drink.

Usually, it’s quite an abstract idea. We understand on some level that warmer seasons will result in riper grapes and probably bigger, riper-tasting wines. But often winemaking changes significantly depending on the season, so it can be hard to taste a side-by-side, apples-to-apples comparison of the same grape, grown in the same vineyard, made into wine in the same way.

This month’s club shipment offers just such an opportunity.

“[The] winemaking was almost identical,” said Macari Vineyards winemaker Kelly Koch about her Macari Vineyards 2016 Lifeforce Cabernet Franc and Macari Vineyards 2018 Lifeforce Cabernet Franc. “The fruit came from the same block of the vineyard. Gentle pumpovers 1-2 times daily, moderate fermentation temperature (max 74 degrees) and a relatively short maceration time. Both spent 10 months aging in concrete and have final alcohol of 11.2%.”

Koch has been working with egg-shaped concrete tanks for several years at this point and they are some of my favorite wines she makes.

“These wines in concrete are meant to be a pure expression of the fruit and the vintage, and this is a very clear demonstration of vintage variation,” she told me in a recent email.

You’ll notice that the 2018 bottling, from the cooler year that was certainly less-than-ideal for red wines, looks more like a dark rose than a red. That wasn’t the plan. Koch intended to make a red wine – which is why the winemaking didn’t change much from previous vintages. It’s not even labeled as a rose – but in food-related applications, it is a delicious fall-weight rose that pairs well with more substantial fare.

The 2016 is a more classic Lifeforce Cabernet Franc – unmistakeably cabernet franc in its savory edges with a beautiful silky-fresh mouthfeel.

Both wines will find their way onto my Thanksgiving table later this month. You know that I’m not big on Thanksgiving wine recommendations, but it would not be a mistake if you were to serve them as well.

As always, I’d love to hear what you think about the wines.

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