It was great to see a full house at hangingditch enjoying the wines of New York on a sunny evening in May. Not a region immediately associated with wine, there have nevertheless been vineyards on Long Island since the 1700s and in Finger Lakes since the 1870s. These are the two areas of New York State most important for the production of wine. Long Island, which surprisingly is on the same latitude as central Spain and Italy, has excellent soil for fruit and vegetables, similar to the soils of Bordeaux: hence its suitability for the Bordeaux grapes, particularly Merlot. The Finger Lakes, an area popular with tourists, are two hours east of New York just south of the Canadian border. It’s a cool climate, with hot days and cold nights, allowing the aromatic flavours of the grapes to develop. This is an area German immigrants in the 1870s knew would be perfect for Riesling, which is still the most important grape.
The evening was presented by Sue Chambers of Wine Equals Friends; she is clearly impassioned about New York wine, so much so that she set up her own company to bring the wine to British drinkers. For that we’re very grateful, for these were all distinctive, individual, and hugely enjoyable wines.
Tierce Dry Riesling 2011 (£35)
This is made by three Finger Lakes producers – Fox Run, Red Newt, and Anthony Road – and was the crowd’s favourite wine of the night. Its high acidity masked its surprisingly high level of sweetness (12g/L residual sugar). Its finish was long, racy, and electric, and its slight spiciness makes it a good match for Asian cuisine.
Red Newt Cellars Dry Riesling 2011 (£22.50)
Despite its name, this Riesling was also slightly sweet (13g/L residual sugar); it’s also low alcohol (10.2%), making this a refreshing, drinkable “lunch wine” as Sue described it. Softer and lighter than the more austere Tierce, with apples and lemon curd flavours.
Fox Run Doyle’s Family Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 (£17.50)
There’s no oak ageing to this wine, although it did rest on its lees for six months, filling out its flavour of baked apples and poached pears, with a spicy finish. I would suggest serving this wine at 10-12 degrees to allow the aromas to open out.
Red Tail Ridge Good Karma 2009 (£20)
A highly unusual blend of Riesling and Chardonnay (82%/18%), the wine was nevertheless marked by distinctive ageing Riesling notes of bruised apples, petrol, and toast. Again, the high acidity hid a surprising level of sweetness (28g/L residual sugar).
Lamoreaux Landing Cabernet Franc 2010 (£31.50)
Lamoreaux having been growing fruit since the 1950s and vines since the 1990s, so they have a real love and knowledge of the land. A full-bodied but very balanced wine, with toast, smoke, and oak and red cherries.
Paumanok Assemblage 2007 (£40)
From a half-Lebanese, half-German family who have been making wine on Long Island since 1983, this is an American Bordeaux blend with a difference: there’s no Cabernet Sauvignon (69% Merlot, 22% Petit Verdot, 9% Cabernet Franc). From an exceptional vintage, the wine has rich black fruits with an earthy smokiness and dried fruits coming through as the wine matures. An intense experience which would be great with a meaty game dish.
Wölffer Estate Diosa Late Harvest 2011 (£40)
Mainly Chardonnay with an unusual hybrid grape Vinnoles, this was a wonderful sweet wine to finish the night off with (212g/L residual sugar): richly sweet, with honey, dried apricots, orange peel, and a spicy finish, its sweetness balanced by a necessarily high acidity.
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