Most don't think of New York City as one of New York's up-and-coming wine regions, but with a handful of urban wineries are making a wide variety of wines within the city limits.
And while not all of these outposts source fruit locally, many do, including Red Hook Winery.
Long before Red Hook's first bottles hit store shelves, wine lovers in the tri-state area were keenly aware of the project. Led by Mark Snyder founder of Angels' Share Wines, a boutique wine distributor, Red Hook is already well known for it's star West Coast winemakers -- Abe Schoener of Scholium Project fame and Bob Foley of Napa's Robert Foley Vineyards. Christopher Nicolson formerly of Sonoma's biodynamic winery Littorai, is on-site winemaker in Brooklyn.
Snyder and his winemakers have been and will continue to source fruit from some of the top growers on the North Fork, including Macari Vineyards and Jamesport Vineyards.
2008 was their first commercial vintage and I got my first taste of a Schoener-made cabernet franc back in March. Since then, I have been able to get my hands on three of the more than two dozen wines in 2008 portfolio, including Red Hook Winery 2008 "The Electric" Jamesport Vineyards ($42).
Made with 97% chardonnay and 3% riesling -- riesling that Schoener had "misidentified in the field as really excellent botrytized chardonnay." The fruit was harvested together, sorted carefully to eliminate any black rot on the riesling and the juice was placed into neutral oak barrels without yeast or SO2.
After a long, slow fermentation to dryness, the wine went through full malolactic fermentation (without inoculation) and according to Schoener there was "lot of exposure to oxygen during maturation." There also wasn't any SO2 added until summer and the wine wasn't racked until bottling.
The resulting wine is distinctive and ponderous, clearly pushing the envelope of cool-climate wines -- maybe even a bit too far.
The nose is honeyed and slightly oxidized in a Sherry-meets-late harvest white sort of way with aromas ranging from mixed nuts to orange peel to dried apricot and fig, to beeswax, to apple cider and honey.
Full-bodied but with balancing -- dare I say electric -- acidity, the palate is expansive, filling the mouth with more of those layered honey-apple-orange peel-nutty flavors. Long and complex, the finish reminded me a bit of a Snickers bar without the chocolate. Weird, I know.
So why do I say Schoener may have pushed things too far here? Well, as singular and unique as this wine is, and as much as I enjoyed it on an intellectual level, I think many will struggle to enjoy this from a hedonistic perspective. I'm also honestly not sure what I'd pair this wine with.
On the other hand, I drank the rest of the bottle over the course of three days, enjoying every sip. One thing is for sure -- it will challenge the way you think about local wines. It also makes me anxious to taste more of Schoener's wines, local or not.
Producer: The Red Hook Winery
AVA: North Fork of Long Island