Empire Oenophile

cartoon wineLocal Grapes + Local Oak = Local Terroir?

There is local wine and then there is Lakewood Vineyards 2005 Chardonnay. Chris Stamp, winemaker at Lakewood Vineyards in Watkins Glen in the Finger Lakes wine region of New York, is taking the idea of “local wine” to a whole new level by aging some of his chardonnay in local oak.

“I felt that using New York oak would add an element of regional character to our Chardonnay, which is sourced entirely from Seneca Lake,” he says of the idea to take “drink local” to the extreme.

Most “American oak” barrels don’t carry specific regional designations, though some do contain oak grown in New York State, so Stamp worked with Pennsylvania-based Keystone Cooperage to introduce New York-only oak barrels into his winery and so far he’s pleased with the program’s results. “If early results are any indication, it will be a huge success.”

His 2005 Chardonnay, 20 percent of which was aged in those local barrels, recently won Best Chardonnay at the Florida International Wine Competition against wines from other regions that are better known for top-flight chardonnay. Stamp says the New York oak brings “beautiful vanilla aroma, smoky notes and a pleasant sweetness
on the palate.” That sweet vanilla character is most apparent on an apple-y nose. Nicely balanced, the wine also features just enough food-friendly acidity and subtle creaminess.

Thirty-five percent of Stamp’s 2006 chardonnay is now aging in New York oak and he plans to incorporate it into his cabernet franc program as well.

Round Two of Riesling to the Third Power

In 2004, three of the Finger Lakes’ most respected winemakers—Johannes Reinhardt of Anthony Road Wine Company, Peter Bell from Fox Run Vineyards and David Whiting of Red Newt Wine Cellars—joined forces to create the first riesling under the cooperative Tierce label.

That initial effort, made with fruit from each of the participants’ vineyards, is clean and focused from the moment it’s cracked open (it’s closed with a screw cap). A burst of freshsqueezed lime with hints of lemon zest and distinctive wet-stone aromas greet the nose. And fresh, lively acidity masks and balances the .2 percent residual sugar, while lime and mineral flavors burst in the mouth and remain on a long, citrusy, slightly snappy finish.

Sadly, fewer than 100 cases were made, but the 2005 edition will be released at a special dinner on May 12 at Red Newt Cellars in Hector, NY (tiercewine.com).

Don’t Cry For Me……Aquebogue

You’ve had Long Island merlot, but what about the Malbec? This large, fairly easy-toripen black grape is now best known as Argentina’s premier variety, but it has been grown, and used, on Long Island for quite some time—usually ending up as a minor component in Bordeaux-style red blends.

Now, as Long Island vintners continue to experiment with grapes and techniques, varietal Malbec bottlings are becoming available.

North Fork producer Raphael‘s 2004 Malbec ($25), which was available only to their wine club, is a medium-bodied red with concentrated currant, plum, tea and cedar flavors. Slightly chewy tannins provide structure.

Just released, Macari Vineyards‘s 2005 Malbec ($22) is similarly bold, but the ripeness of the 2005 vintage is apparent with intense black pepper aroma and meaty character. Both wines are bold and excellent diversions from the usual local reds—and ideal foils for your first charcoal-grilled steaks of 2007.

Lenn Thompson writes about New York wines at lenndeavours.com.