A beautiful day at Buzzard's Crest Vineyard! Photo by Nathan Kendall

I (heart) NY!

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The Finger Lakes will always have a special place in my heart as a wine-making region. Perhaps because I have lived my whole life in New York (and I'm sure you know, New Yorkers have a lot of pride), and perhaps because my first venture into wine and fine dining was at The NoMad with Thomas Pastuszak where his passion for the region led to the most incredible selection of Finger Lakes wines in the city, probably the country. As Old World wines were my first love, I was fascinated by this cool weather climate of the New World, and the more I tasted the more I wanted to explore. 

The history of wine-making in the Finger Lakes dates back to the 1850's. Though the climate is cold and harsh, the combination of lakes carved out by glacial movement, burying vines in the winter, and utilizing heartier rootstocks, help moderate the effects. Initially only American labrusca varieties and hybrids were viable options, but climate change has allowed for more and more success with the "noble" vitis vinifera. We can thank Dr. Konstantin Frank, a viticulturist from the Ukraine, for recognizing the great potential of this northern region by supporting earlier ripening grapes like Riesling and Chardonnay back in 1957. His work inspired many others to put down roots here and today there is ~11,000 acres of vineyards in the Finger Lakes AVA. Hermann J. Wiemer was among the first, opening their winery in 1979 and continues to be a benchmark for the region. Today they are committed to responsible farming, increasing biodiversity, and eliminating synthetic treatments. 

Eminence Road's Landot Noir vines photo from Andrew Scott

Getting grapes to fully ripen in this climate is hard enough, keeping them free of disease is an even greater challenge. The Finger Lakes sees over 30 inches of precipitation every year so fungus and mold is a difficult beast to battle. Viticulturists must work tirelessly to relieve disease-pressure, and most rely on some kind of treatment spray. Winemaker Andrew Scott of Eminence Road tells me that "no one likes to spray. It is expensive (and boring). The materials, fuel, time, equipment wear, it all adds up and farmers by nature do not like to spend money. So all the growers are looking for ways to work smarter and more efficiently. Things like air drainage, canopy management and cover crops all come into play when trying to control mildew. When it comes to making the wine, his work in the cellar is all natural. All of the Eminence Road wines are spontaneously fermented, most are foot-stomped, and the only additive he ever uses is a small amount of sulfur depending on the wine. 

Debra and Kim Engle of Bloomer Creek have a similar mindset. Their philosophy has been centered around working in tandem with nature; embracing the cold and variations of the vintages. They began in 1999 with just 10 acres and in 2012 expanded by taking on an abandoned vineyard that they have since nursed back to life. While caring for these vineyards and creating what they describe as "Old World-style" wines, they use no herbicides, no irrigation, harvest everything by hand, and employ only native yeasts for fermentations. This year's 'Half-Moon' rosé demonstrates their ability to let the land speak for itself.   

There is a new generation of winemakers is emerging in the Finger Lakes and Nathan Kendall of Nathan K. wines is definitely one not to miss. He is making some very clean, compelling bottles of wine and encouraging the growers he works with to really think about the long-term health of their vineyards and the planet. Although he says the shift will take time, "In 20 years or so, due to climate change and the younger generations getting involved, we will likely be in a much better place for farming more responsibly."

Nathan Kendall tending to vines.

One of his most exciting projects is a collaboration with renowned Master Sommelier, and dear friend and contributor of Chambers Street Wines, Pascaline Lepeltier. Together they launched Chëpìka, an ode to the American grape varieties Catawba and Delaware, both "accidental hybrids" that were once immensely popular for their weather-hardiness and use for jams and jellies, as well as wine. The name Chëpìka comes from the Lenape (native language of the Delaware tribe of Indigenous Americans) word for "root" and is an apt reference to their quest to go back to the roots of American wine-making, creating wines that are 100% natural by anyone's definition. The grapes are sourced from the only certified organic vineyard in the Finger Lakes, the Buzzard's Crest Vineyard. Nathan tells me they are able to achieve this feat because these hybrid varieties are significantly more disease-resistant so they require less treatments. The wines are then made with absolutely nothing added or taken away; indigenous yeast fermentations, no fining or filtering, and no sulfur added. Here's hoping this inspires a comeback for these hearty hybrid grapes, as they could be the key to a more organic future for the Finger Lakes! (This year we received just 36 bottles each of their unique Catawba Pet-Nat and Rosé, so there will be a 2 bottle limit for each in order to spread the love.)

I hate to "pull at your heartstrings", but with New York at the epicenter of this unprecedented pandemic and lockdown, these winemakers have to work harder than ever. They have less hands to work their vineyards and bottle wines, tastings rooms have had to shut down, and their audience has drastically diminished with so many local restaurants closed, and an absence of tourists. On top of that, these wines are all bright, distinct, and most importantly delicious so we are thrilled to offer them for you today! Michelle DeWyngaert 

Nathan K. 2018 Finger Lakes Riesling

The wines from the Finger Lakes in upstate New York have a special place in my heart, and the Nathan K Dry Riesling is perfect example of why. This vintage comes from two sites on the West side of Lake Seneca. The grapes from the 40 year-old plot are aged in neutral barrels, while the fruit from the younger vines are kept in stainless steel. Both are aged for 10 months on the lees before being bottled unfined and gently filtered. In the glass this wine is the color of daffodils and all the aromas of springtime: soft white almond blossoms, ripe apricot, a bit of sweet herbs, wet stone, Meyer lemon zest, all with a slight drizzle of honey. The palate is vibrant and juicy bringing plenty of energy but balanced with enough weight so it does not feel the least bit sharp or thin. Enjoy this wine now, as I did, with a spicy red pepper flake, anchovy and parsley pasta, or put it in the cellar for several years and wait for those honeyed and golden notes to really come through! Michelle DeWyngaert

  • white
  • 3 in stock
  • $23.99

  • Organic

Wiemer, Hermann 2018 Finger Lakes Riesling Dry

Hermann J. Wiemer saw the great potential of the Finger Lakes to create high-quality cool-climate Riesling as they do in his native Mosel, Germany. The winery was founded in the 1979, one of the first in the region, and continues to be a benchmark for excellent Finger Lakes Riesling. Despite the incredibly challenging weather conditions which can lead to disease-pressure, they are committed to sustainable farming by not using herbicides or insecticides, and reducing their need for fungicides by managing the canopies to increase airflow. The 2018 Dry Riesling comes from a blend of three vineyard sites; 65% HJW Vineyard, 23% Josef Vineyard, and 12% Magdalena Vineyard to create a balance of ripeness and vibrant minerality. Grapes are harvested at Spätlese level of ripeness and then fermented dry with just .9%r/s. On the nose luscious peach and  a bit of fresh pineapple with notes of almond blossoms and rainwater. The palate has a nice salinity with a bit of fresh herbs and wet stone as it opens up.  This wine is crystalline and super refreshing! Michelle DeWyngaert

  • white
  • 20 in stock
  • $19.99

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Chëpika 2019 Finger Lakes Catawba Pet Nat (limit 2 per)

Forget what you know about hybrid grapes! This pétillant-naturel from the Finger Lakes is going to change your mind about Catawba; once the most widely planted variety in the country in the early 19th century. Dream-team Nathan Kendall and Pascaline Lepeltier came together in 2016 to create vibrant sparkling wines that celebrate the history of the Finger Lakes using only organically grown grapes, fermenting with indigenous yeasts, and with zero additives. Though the beginning of the season was quite warm in the region, a cooler August allowed the grapes to maintain a high acidity during their extended hang-time. This vintage of the Catawba Pet-Nat is a beautiful dusty rose color due to four hours maceration on the skins. The juice was racked into stainless steel and fermented for a few weeks before being bottled and aged for six months. The wine was disgorged and capped with no dosage and no SO2. We can't wait to try it this year, but if the previous vintages are any indication, this will be alive with acidity, funky and aromatic on the nose, and perfectly refreshing! Michelle DeWyngaert 

**2 bottle max per person **

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $29.99

  • Organic
  • No Sulfur

Chëpika 2019 Finger Lakes Catawba Rose (limit 2 per)

We have been anxiously awaiting the newest release of Chepika rosé! This is a collaboration between Master Sommelier, Pascaline Lepeltier, and winemaker Nathan Kendall that began in 2016 with the aim of bringing new life to  American hybrid grape varieties that have largely fallen out of favor. Often the wines made with Catawba had an off-putting "foxy" aroma, but grown on the organically-certified Buzzard's Crest Vineyard, and vinified by this incredible team, it can create fun, refreshing wines, perfect for warm, sunny days! 

**2 bottle max per person **

  • Out of Stock
  • rosé
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $19.99

  • Organic
  • No Sulfur

Eminence Road 2017 Finger Lakes Elizabeth's Vineyard Cabernet Franc

This is a juicy, incredibly drinkable expression of Cabernet Franc from the Finger Lakes! Sourced from Elizabeth's Vineyard on plots of thin loam over shale which gives the wine a lush, silky texture. The grapes are foot-stomped and then fermented whole cluster before being pressed and moved to old French oak barrels. The wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered after one year in old oak, and 10 months in steel, with just a small amount of SO2 added. On the nose are ripe blackberries, plum, and a bit of balsamic, and on the palate are fresh and stewed raspberry, fresh rosemary, and soft soil. This wine will be excellent with burgers or wood-fired pizza slathered with tomato sauce! Michelle DeWyngaert

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $21.99

  • Low Sulfur

Eminence Road 2017 Seneca Lake Lamb's Quarter Vineyard - Char

I love the brightness and acidity that you get from shale and limestone bedrock of the Lamb's Vineyard in the Finger Lakes! The juice is fermented and aged in stainless steel to highlight these qualities and bottled with just a minimal amount of sulfur for preservation. The nose is a lovely mix of white flowers, green apple and lemon zest, and the palate is super fresh, a bit salty, and full of minerality. At just under 12% alcohol this Chardonnay is more reminiscent of Chablis than Sonoma, and would be just as great a pairing to shellfish and lighter fare. Michelle DeWyngaert

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $21.99

  • Low Sulfur

Bloomer Creek 2019 Finger Lakes Half Moon Rosé

This is a rosé of terroir; aromatic and earthy. Bloomer Creek Vineyard is lovingly cared for by Kim and Debra Engle using organic methods, no herbicides, and no irrigation. The blend for 'Half Moon' is 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Cabernet Franc for that touch of herbal savoriness. The Pinot Noir spends six hours on the skins and is then blended with the Cabernet Franc. The juice is fermented in stainless steel and then bottled unfined, unfiltered, and with just a dash of SO2. The color is a deep, orange-y red, more of a pale red than a rosé. On the nose you get dried rose and bing cherry, and as it opens up notes of dried and fresh herbs, red currant, and a bit of forest floor begin to unfurl. The palate is clean and vibrant with just a touch of tannin; it conjures big bags of fresh summer cherries and red currants. Michelle DeWyngaert

  • Out of Stock
  • rosé
  • 0 in stock
  • $24.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur