By Lenn Thompson, Editor-in-Chief
On Saturday, I spent the day visiting four of the Hudson River Region AVA's best wineries. My goal? To pair that tasting trip with my experience judging the Hudson Valley Wine Competition last spring to identify finalists for the New York Cork Report 2009 Wines of the Year tasting, which takes place this coming Saturday.
In addition to the 4 winery visits, several other wineries were represented as we opened wines during dinner.
Expect several posts in coming weeks about my time in the Hudson Valley, but for now, I'm happy to announce the finalists -- 3 reds, 3 whites and 2 sparklers. I hadn't planned to include the sparkling wines, but they deserve the recognition as well.
Whitecliff Vineyard and Winery 2008 Awosting White
A blend of the region's signature white variety, seyval blanc, and one of my favorite hybrids, vignoles. It won gold at the Hudson Valley Wine Competition and when I tasted it again at Uncork New York in December, I thought it showed nice balance and fresh peach flavors with a little residual sweetness.
Benmarl 2008 Slate Hill White
This is another blend that includes chardonnay, riesling and traminette. Fruity up front, there is nice, citrusy acidity and just a subtle floral note from the traminette. It finishes dry and clean.
Millbrook Vineyards 2008 Tocai Friulano
One of only a handful of Friulanos grown and made in New York, this wine is melony and grapefruity with nice balance and a longer-than-expected finish. This is a perennial favorite from the region and a wine that several readers have pointed out to me as a great wine from the Hudson Valley.
Hudson-Chatham Winery 2007 Empire
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. A great concept for a wine and each component contributes to the wines character.
Hudson-Chatham Winery 2008 Baco Noir
Black and sour cherry lead the way with hints of vanilla, cranberry and spice beneath. It's fruity, like you'd expect, but there is a depth and a richness here that made it stand out. The finish is longer than with many bacos as well.
Millbrook Vineyards 2007 Block Five East Pinot Noir
Yes, we all know that pinot is difficult to grow and it's probably even more so in the Hudson Valley, but Millbrook usually pulls it off and this wine is a fine exampe of that. The winner of best red at the Hudson Valley Wine Competition surprised the judges (including me) and may surprise on Saturday as well.
Clinton Vineyards NV Jubilee
The last of four traditionally made sparkling wines (all based on seyval blanc) we tasted on Saturday, it left quite an impression. Made without dosage, it's bright, crisp and finishes dry. Really classy and elegant. And I'm no fan of seyval.
Brotherhood Winery NV Blanc de Blancs
Made with 100% Hudson Valley-grown chardonnay, it's a little less dry (1% RS) but for $11, I don't think you can find a better BdB in New York.