A Few Thoughts from the Skurnik Tasting

Just a few photos and thoughts from the gigantic and always impressive Skurnik Portfolio tasting in New York

An incredible tasting of Skurnik Wines portfolio today. Always great to see New York well represented by Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard. And the Reserve Dry Riesling is one of my favorites. The 2016 shows a richer side of FLX Riesling, placing this bottle closer to a halb-trocken in style. Rich yellow peach nose, sweet hint of orchard fruit in the mid and a ripe citrus finish. Hints of spice and ginger developing - but I am certain there will be more with time. The 2016 HJW Riesling was surely showing young but the ripe notes of orange and apricot on the nose, were followed by a power and minerality of the mid. This will need a few years to blossom - but the long tart finish and the beautiful fruit will make this wine hard to put away. I really enjoy the chance to chat with the team as well. I was glad to meet with Jenny and Theresa as well as to see Oskar Bynke. Cannot wait to catch up in the FLX this July, perhaps with a glass or…three? 

Another standout from the portfolio - the Mullineux Family Wines from Swartland, South Africa impressed with the mineral character of both the whites and the reds. My personal favorite was the “Schist” Syrah, which showed both the cooler climate nature, with lovely red fruit and savory herbs, as well as the power and the mineral quality. It was a pleasure to meet Nicola Tipping and discuss the region and its history with her. Oh… and then there was the incredible dessert wine - from chenin died on straw mats… that was simply stunning. 

I was really glad to meet Louisa D. Spencer of Farnum Hill Cider. I am starting to drink and appreciate cider more, and these were outstanding. Talking to Louisa about the cider and it emergence in the market was quite enlightening. While the sparkling and the semi-dry ciders were delicious - the Extra Dry showed the complexity I was looking for - refreshing and bright, it showed excellent sour/sweet notes and the earthy, complex aromatics that added to the experience. With a long tart finish - this cider could stand up to any meal. My favorite was the Kingston Black extra dry cider. Yeasty, with a hint of smoke and cantaloupe. Wine-like middle of bright acid and tropical fruit. Really excellent. I hope to get the chance to visit NH and Poverty Lane Orchards in the near future. 

It was a true pleasure to taste with Melissa Madden of Good Life Farm-Kite & String Cider The lineup showed the passion of the team as well an interest in innovative approaches. I really enjoyed the Cazenovia for its pure, bright citrus notes and a tropical, ripe core of fruit in the mid. If refreshing sparkler is what you seek - this one is it. The “Rose” was a unique one indeed - a cider with 18% fresh Riesling juice and 10% Marechal Foch. Notes of peaches and strawberries mixed together with citrus and a lovely rich but light mid. plush, happy summer sipper. The Northern Spy was delicious, with the floral and tropical touches over a riper, richer mid. Lightly sweet, with lemon curd and roses, it finishes with a prickle of citrus and a softer finish. The Ice cider was stunning - deep apricot and rich honey tones with a bright mid showing sweet and sour fruit. Excellent indeed.

How can anyone not fall in love with traditional Rioja? the 2013 Vina Real Reserva surely needs time but what a beauty! Juicy sweet cherry, with tart red berries, showing some oak at this point but a few years in the cellar would help it integrate nicely. The 2010 Gran Reserva Imperial is a powerhouse built for decades. muscular, tannic and filled with cool ripe fruit. Will be stunning - if one has the patience.

I was delighted to get the chance to meet and speak to Rafael Momene about these beautiful wines. While most people recognize the “890” and the “904” - we spoke about the over-performing underdog - the Reserva Vina Ardanza. Its amazing power to age and ridiculously affordable price. Both, the 2000 and the 2008 Vina Ardanza did not disappoint. The 2000 showed secondary notes, clearly more ready to drink, soft, plush wine with great fruit and power. The 2008 was lighter, more cherry-forward and more elegant but with a good sweet core of fruit. 2004 was an excellent vintage in Rioja, and this Gran Reserva “890” is a great example of the vintage. Rich, plush tannins, bright acidity acting as a foil to the powerful fruit and oak. this is a classic in the making.

I have been enjoying the wines of Paolo Scavino for years now, especially thanks to Eric Guido’s influence and generosity. It was great to meet Elisa Scavino and speak about the wines and the vintage. The Langhe Nebiolo from the 2016 vintage was an immediate standout - more serious that one would expect, with rich chewy fruit and a great balance… hmm I think i need a few of these while the big boys are aging. If I had to choose just one of the three 2014 Baroli…I would take all three. the floral rustic Monvigliero, the riper, richer Ambrogio…or the powerhouse of the Carobric… how does one choose? The 2011’s are coming into their own and the Scavino was a good example - savory herbs, classic cherry fruit and bright core. delicious.

I was excited to try the new vintage of the Azienda Agricola Sottimano wines. I am a big fan of these wines - from the Dolcetto and to the big boy Barbaresco. It was a pleasure to meet Elena in person, and talk about these wines. Today, I was surprised by the Barbera ‘Pairolero’ - with its bright fruit, sexy savory mid and long finish. The Cotta and the Pajore were the unsurprising stars. The elegant and floral Pajore, with the earthy, savory and powerful Cotta… hard to choose just one…and why would I?

Another first for me - meeting Silvia in person and discussing the power of the amazing Altare wines. Big, bright fruit, with a balance and acidity to support it was a common note. The 2014 Barolos showed class and structure that will reward patience. The ripe power of the Arborina was balanced by the acidity and structure. The 2012 Cerretta showed elegance and lovely bright fruit.

My “how have I not tried this yet?” Moment at the tasting came courtesy of Onabay Vineyards, and especially their Cabernet Franc wines. Both Cabernet Franc wines were absolute stars, showing power and concentration rare in the cool climate wines of Long Island, but without any loss of character. Though rounder and plusher, the wines showed excellent acidity and structure. The 2013 Night Heron was a real standout - more classically built, with tobacco leaf over the red fruit. Young for its age, it showed great aging potential. Merlot can really shine in LI, and the 2013 Great Blue Heron is another excellent example of that. Mid of sour cherry, serious wine with a good grip to it. well structured without any under-ripe notes. The wine should age well short term and be an excellent companion for a hearty steak. It was a pleasure to speak to both John Leo and Brad Anderson about the vines and the challenges of LI wine-making. Very excited to try more!

Massanois Imports 2018 Portfolio Tasting

A few thoughts from the Massanois Imports Portfolio Tasting

I knew I had to be at this tasting, if only to meet with Constantine Richter again. When we visited the Weingut Max Ferd Richter in late September of 2017 - we had the chance to taste through some of these wines. I must say that the extra few month have helped them already, but they will really shine with a few years of age. This “little” beauty - the Elisenberg Kabinett - was really showing its stripes. Delicious cranberry and cherry tones amid the bright notes of citrus and mineral. hints of ginger and herb on the back and finish. Excellent indeed! Constantine also poured the 2007 Muelheimer Sonnenlay Spatlese Feinherb - now this is where 10 years of aging really shows the power of Riesling. with a hint of the orange flower note on the nose (some botrytis) the wine was peach, mirabelle and mint. Still young but reaching into maturity. light and bright - a perfect afternoon in a bottle.

Who needs a whole label? These bottles speak for themselves! Especially the 2009 Karthäuserhof Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Riesling Großes Gewächs. Rich, creamy mid of white peach and sweet herb, minerality and acidity giving it the right boost and power, this is ready to jump off the shelf! Excellent example of Ruwer riesling. Hanging out with the Karthäuserhof team can be a lot of fun indeed - it really was a pleasure to finally meet in person! (And the Mascot is adorable as well!) Oh, and let’s not forget the 2016 Karthäuserhof Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Riesling Spätlese. Herbs, yellow peaches, even apricot in the mid, showing the riper side of the vintage, but then - the elegance and the minerality kick in - covering the cream and the tropical notes. Give this one some time though - a classic in the making.

What can I say - when white burgundy is made right…it is just irresistible. And six generations is clearly enough time to get it right! Domaine Michelot wines were simply stunning in their elegance. The Michelot Meursault 2015 was full of white flowers, with the lithe, mineral-driven body and a zest to the finish. A beauty. 2015 Domaine Michelot Meursault 1er Cru Les Genevrières - a ballerina, elegant but with the structure and power to to dance circles around any stage. hint of smoked salt over mineral and floral notes… long finish. simply stunning

Here was an intriguing wine indeed! 2015 Chateau la Naude - typical Bordeaux, with bright red fruit, great acidity and tannins, lovely notes of tobacco leaf. with a few years this would be a lovely dinner companion!

It was a pleasure to meet Daniele Dellanoce, representing Giovanni Rosso . A truly classic collection of Baroli, especially the chewy, mineral driven 2013 Giovanni Rosso Barolo Cerretta. Pretty flowers (roses dominating) and loads of red fruit in this bright young wine. simply delicious, though does want some time. The Giovanni Rosso Ester Canale Vigna Rionda Lange 2015 is elegant, but serious, powerful but light… full of fruit, yet crunchy and bright… If it sounds like a contradiction - try it. Or - find it first?

Have you had a day where you wanted something Unique (capital U), off-the-wall, delicious in ways you never expected wine to be? Welcome to Sardinia, via Tenute Dettori. The whole lineup is worth a visit, but my favorite was the 2012 Dettori, made from 100% Cannonau. 100 year-old vines, cement tanks. think of Rhone, but brighter, fresher, with more red fruit and a grip that lasts into the spicy long finish. This is a wine to contemplate. And to love.

Can it Age? A Paumanok Vineyards Assemblage Story

Can it Age? A Paumanok Assemblage Story

Originally Published by The Cork Report

“Can the wine age?” It is a common question in the wine geek world and one that often inspires heated debate. Truthfully, most wine is consumed young (too young perhaps?) even by those who consider themselves connoisseurs. So why does aging matter? There are two sides to that question. Allow me to dispense with one immediately — there are those who prefer the mature, secondary and tertiary flavors that the wines develop with age to the fruit-forward exuberance of young wine. That is personal preference and thus, not worth debating.

However, there is another reason – one that speaks to the heart of many wine collectors around the world. It is the simple fact that wine is a memory, a postcard from the past. Opening a wine that has been aging in the cellar for years can remind one of the day that wine arrived – after a long search perhaps, or anticipation of the new vintage. Wine can remind one of the summer that fed those grapes, the vacations taken, connections made. Each bottle in my cellar carries a story with it, sometimes that story is simple – a recommendation by a friend, while other times, it is connected to deeply personal memories. When I open these bottles with friends or family, I allow them into the story, into my past and present. And, just like any good story, the bottle only gets better with age.

Well – at least some do. Case in point: Paumanok Vineyards Assemblage. A dear friend from Toronto came to stay with us, and I decided to take him to the North Fork the next morning to see Charles and Kareem Massoud at Paumanok Vineyards. But there was still tonight – what should I open? A Paumanok Assemblage, of course, and a 2005 at that.

What a beauty! Fully resolved, though not showing any sign of slowing down, it showed beautiful notes of dried cherry and tobacco, with a core of red fruit and savory herb. Not only was this bottle showing the aging potential of Long Island red wines, it was a snapshot of the past decade. I was still quite new to wine when I first visited the winery and tasted the 2005 vintage in barrel. The components were impressive already, showing clear ripe red and black fruit as well as savory, herbal touches. I waited until it was released – and bought a few bottles in October of 2007. What a year that had been, especially with my son born in May! I didn’t do much drinking that year, nor much buying, but I knew I wanted these bottles and I was going to put them away in storage… which is where they spent most of the past decade.

I opened one in February of 2015, with another good friend, on my visit to his Connecticut house. We had many excellent wines that day, but the Paumanok had a story, as did the 1979 Domaine de Chevalier he opened for me (my birth year). Those are the two wines I remember, and I still keep the empty bottle of the ’79 in my house as a keepsake.

Fast forward to the morning drive, into the sunshine of the late summer in New York. We sat outside, on the deck of Paumanok Vineyards, and the time seemed to fly by. Were we there seconds? Minutes? Actually, more like five hours… but who is counting?

The 2014 Assemblage made it to our table as well. Blacker fruit than the 2005, riper at this point, but still with the classic Paumanok note of bright plum and savory herb. The tannins asserting themselves at this point, but it was easy to see that this too will age well…. Another decade perhaps before we meet, old friend?

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