By Lenn Thompson, Editor-in-Chief
Hudson-Chatham Winery 2007 Empire Reserve ($22) is the brainchild of owners Carlo and Dominique DeVito, and is made with grapes from three vineyards in New York's three biggest wine regions blended in equal proportions — Long Island merlot, Finger Lakes cabernet franc and Hudson Valley Baco Noir.
According to Carlo, "The idea of Empire was to create a wine that was uniquely New York, and attempt to blend vinifera and hybrids in a way that no one had attempted before. We wanted the best signature reds grapes from each region to make a classic wine."
I don't think that anyone has done anything like this before, but it's a pretty interesting idea.
To make it happen, Carlo took some of the baco noir he already made, and brought in unoaked Long Island merlot (from Raphael) and unoaked Finger Lakes cabernet franc (from White Springs) and blended the three together.
Then, the wine was divided into three lots -- one into French oak, one into American oak and one into stainless steel -- where the wine aged for 12 months. After blending the three lots together again, they sat for another two months before being bottled unfiltered. The wine was in bottle for six months before release. 70 cases were made.
A bit closed and tight when first opened, an hour or so in my glass really helped awaken this young wine from its slumber, the nose opening with red cherry, black plum, subtle vanilla-spice, hints of herbs and a dusty earthiness that I often associate with Finger Lakes cabernet franc.
Sweet cherry flavors dominate the palate, accented by a bit more oak and spice than the nose might indicate.
Plum and vanilla flavors bring a little depth and roundness and balance the light earthy-green notes. The ripe tannins are medium-low in intensity but a little bit of acidity (from the baco I'll bet) balances the wine very nicely.
The finish isn't particularly long, but ends on a cherry confection note.
It's no small task to capture an entire state's worth of terroir. Has Carlo done it with this wine? I'm not sure I can answer that question, but it's a tasty wine and an even better idea.
Note: Carlo thinks this wine can age well long term. Unfortunately, the synthetic closure will probably fail before we'll find out. From everything I've read, they are only reliable for 3-5 years.
Producer: Hudson-Chatham Winery
AVA: New York
Rating: (3 out of 5 | Recommended)