Last weekend, as you already know, I had the privilege of traveling to Santa Rosa, CA for the first annual Wine Bloggers Conference, where I was joined by more than 160 other members of the world wide wine industry for three days of tastings, meetings and panel discussion.
I'll get around to writing about some of the CA wines I tasted eventually, but first let's talk about the New York wines that Melissa Dobson and I pulled together for an invite-only tasting after conference's formal sessions ended on Friday.
Many of those who joined us had never tasted anything from New York or if they had they hadn't been impressed. So, armed with 3+ cases of NY wine, we poured... and I know we changed a few minds.
Of course I also know that many appreciated the break from the high-alcohol, high-tannin wines we had been tasting all day.
I haven't talked to each of the 40+ bloggers there, but here are some of the reactions I've been able to compile so far on some of the favorite wines:
Channing Daughters Winery 2007 Tocai Friulano. Craig Camp who blogs at The Wine Camp blog and soon will take over as the general manager of winery in Napa Valley called it "the best Tocai I've ever had from the United States." This is a guy who used to work in Italy too.
Russ Beebe, founder of California Wine Hikes guided tours and author of the Winehiker Witiculture blog was most impressed by The Lenz Winery's 2001 Old Vines Merlot, saying that "After tasting dozens of wines earlier in the day at the Wine Bloggers Conference, my palate was suffering a little fatigue and I didn't wish to taste too many more. Therefore, when I asked Lenn to recommend a New York wine I should try, I was especially delighted that he chose to pour me The Lenz Winery's Old Vines Merlot. I found it to be one of the better Merlots I have ever tried: soft, round, warm and enticing, like the feeling you get when waking on a Sunday morning with a smile, knowing you can sleep in."
Remy Charest of Quebec, Canada and author of Wine Case singled out Wolffer Estate's 2004 Cabernet Franc as his favorite of the evening, saying that "Among the many nice wines I tasted, a 2004 Wölffer Estate Cabernet Franc, from the Hamptons, on Long Island, particularly stood out. Beautiful cabernet franc flavors, with a nice sweet pepper and red fruit on the nose, great structure, and built for aging. World-class, no doubt about it."
My new buddy John Witherspoon, who writes his Anything Wine from Richmond enjoyed the Roanoke Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Franc. In fact, it changed his opinion of New York wines in their entirety. "Having only had one or two unmemorable New York wines (before) I was excited to get the opportunity to taste a good sampling from the state. Being from Virginia where Cabernet Franc does extremely well I was most eager to see how New York compared. I have to say that I was impressed with the unhampered expression of the varietal. (The winemakers) aren't trying to make a cabernet sauvignon from cabernet franc. The one that stuck out in my radar the most was 2006 Roanoke Vineyard from Long Island. Nice bright red fruit aromas on the nose laced with a touch of wet earth followed by raspberry-cherry and the tell tale raw green pepper flavors."
Two white wines — one from Long Island and one from the Finger Lakes — stood out for Hardy Wallace of Dirty South Wines who said that "The overall quality of the NY wines was very impressive. I only sampled the whites, and in general, found lots of crisp fruits, pronounced minerality, and great levels of acidity." Of the dozen or so wines he tried, he singled out the Grapes of Roth 2007 Riesling as one he liked the most because "Too often, people are going totally dry on their riesling, as if that is the only mark of quality. This was slightly off-dry, had a nice dose of petrol and fruit, and had the mouth feel and style of a good Kabinett." The other winner for Wallace was a 2006 Rkatsiteli from Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars on Keuka Lake. He told me that "This is a killer wine. One sip and I was on it for the night — total balance between fruit, acids, minerals, and sugar. Tropical fruit, spices. This clean wine is built for Dirty South living. This would totally rock with my buddy Rowdy's Szechuan-style southern fried chicken."
If you were at the WBC's NY tasting, I'd love to know what you thought. Leave a comment.