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 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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I’ve always been someone who likes to zig when everyone else is zagging. Most of the time, that’s a good thing. I’d probably not be well into my second decade writing about East Coast wine if not for that tendency. I’d also probably not have this wine club. I’d certainly not spend as much time as I do tasting and trying to find delicious wine from every corner of North American wine country either.

But, sometimes I’m so driven to find the “new” and the “weird” from regions you may not know or may not expect, that I don’t include enough of the wines I already love and have been excited for years. There are so many wines in my own backyard, here on Long Island, that I enjoy that I could fill this club exclusively with them, but for that reason, I try to push myself beyond them.

As a result, I’m realizing that I probably don’t include them enough.

So this month, I’ve chosen a duo of wines from Lenz Winery on the North Fork of Long Island that actually lets me do both – share a wine that I enjoy vintage in and vintage out while also celebrating a new find from the same winery.

First is a Long Island classic – Lenz Winery 2015 Estate Selection Merlot. There is a lot of very good merlot being made on Long Island, but there are very few “wow” examples. This is always one of those “wow” wines. It shows what makes merlot so good on the North Fork in its ripe cherry and plum flavors with layers of earth, restrained oak and subtle savory edges. I recently had a bottle of the 2001 and it was still very much alive. You can drink this one now, or age it for a decade-plus if you so choose.

This month’s second pick is Lenz Winery 2019 Firefly Rose. New Lenz winemaker Thomas Spotteck – who joined the winemaking team in 2016 and who has now taken over after long-time winemaker Eric Fry’s retirement – is doing something pretty interesting with this bright, fresh rose. It’s mostly cabernet sauvignon from a single section of their cabernet block, but also includes malbec, merlot and gewurztraminer. Long Island malbec can have this distinct tropical fruit character, which you’ll find here. And that gewurzt? Spotteck actually fermented it on its skins, which brings additional complexity and texture to the finished blend. This is a uniquely delicious rose that I’m excited for you all to try.

That’s it for this month. As always, I hope you enjoy these wines as much as I do. Cheers!

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About Author

Lenn Thompson, a proud Pittsburgh, PA native, moved to Long Island more than a decade ago and quickly fell in love with the region’s dynamic and emerging wine community. A digital and content marketing and community professional by day, he founded NewYorkCorkReport.com in early 2004 to share his passion for the wines, beers and spirits of New York State. After running that site -- which became the premier source for independent New York wine commentary, reviews and news -- for 12 years, he launched TheCorkReport.us in late 2016 to add the wines of Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Vermont and beyond to his beat. Lenn currently serves as the wine columnist for The Suffolk Times weekly newspaper and is the former editor of the Long Island Wine Gazette. He contributes or has contributed to publications like Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Beverage Media, Edible Brooklyn, Edible East End and Edible Hudson Valley. Lenn served on the board of directors for Drink Local Wine, and is the creator and founder of TasteCamp, an annual regional wine immersion conference for writers and trade. An admitted riesling and cabernet franc fanatic, he’s intensely passionate about eating local and the many local wine regions of America. Lenn lives in Miller Place, NY with his wife Nena, son Jackson, daughter Anna and their dog, Casey Lemieux Thompson.

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