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Fall is finally here! And just in time for my favorite season are a handful of new arrivals (and the return of some all-time favorites) made from apples: exciting new releases from the Aaron Burr Cidery in Wurtsboro, NY, a new gin (distilled from apples!) from our friends at Neversink Spirits in Port Chester, NY, and even two fantastic new meads from Raphael Lyon at Enlightenment Wines in Brooklyn. These products run the gamut in terms of style, with some offering deep, earthy, complex drinking experiences, evoking autumnal sentiments, and others an easygoing, quaffable alternative to some wines and even beer. Because of this it's no secret that these beverages complement many types of food (or are a perfect coda to an epic meal). With the holidays only a month and a half away it's time to stock up! Tim Gagnon
Disclaimer: this is not made from apples (but it is fantastic). Raphael Lyon, the man behind Enlightenment Wines, had been crafting some serious mead in Clintondale, NY for some time before he moved his operation to a small space in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. Made from wildflower honey and fermented to dryness, it sounds like something you may have had before, but Lyon’s process is anything but the norm. The wildflower honey is allowed to spontaneously ferment in used red wine barrels sourced from local wineries, with no SO2 added at any time, and is aged in barrel for one year before bottling. Though Raphael doesn’t advertise it, Nought is a single barrel release and will have subtle differences depending on what kind of honey is used (and where the honey is from) as well as other variances in the winemaking process. All of his meads are bottled unfined and unfiltered. Nought is heady on the nose with blossom, toasted coconut, honey-roasted walnut, red berry fruits, and bergamot. It is quite round on the palate with ample acidity and a vinous quality not found in many other meads. It finishes bone-dry with apricot, pineapple stalk, and a hint of orange peel. This is a seriously exciting foray into mead. Thanks, Raphael! Tim Gagnon
The Mamakating Hollow cider is exotic and deep on the nose with aromas of sandalwood, almond butter, ripe apricot, hay, and decadent orange marmalade. Full-bodied and slightly effervescent on the palate, golden orchard fruit and earthy tones emerge with pronounced tannic structure followed by a hint of blood orange and iron - it almost mirrors autumn. With time open, ripe apple, pear, and apricot fruit come forward along with apple blossom. This is incredibly food-friendly and would pair well with any type of rustic vegetable dish, or even pork or roasted chicken. Tim Gagnon
A new addition to the Aaron Burr “Locational” series of ciders! All of the apples for this cuvée were foraged from various parcels of abandoned orchards along New York’s Taconic State Parkway (hence the name). With lemon peel, fresh ginger root, honeysuckle, white pepper, and sage on the nose, it is vivid, fresh, and bright. On the palate, a finely-beaded mousse is accompanied by flavors of brown spice, Meyer lemon, fresh green apple, damp earth, and a subtle hint of wood smoke. These flavors last into a bone-dry, salty, earthy finish - almost steely - with a fair amount of tannin. This is a perfect beverage to transition into fall with! Tim Gagnon
Another fantastic cider from the Aaron Burr Cidery! The Appinette blends together NY apples and a local grape, Traminette (a genetic cross between Gewürztraminer and the French-American hybrid Joannes Seyve). Lively and complex with heady aromas of guava, pineapple, banana, and lemon curd. There is also a very pleasant vinous muskiness. On the palate, it is quite earthy and very dry with a gentle sparkle, making it almost more reminiscent of wine than cider. Salty minerals, delicate fruit, and a vigorous acidity balance it out and make it rather food friendly! Tim Gagnon
Dan Rinke and Kim Hamblin, the husband and wife team behind Roshambo Artfarm and Art+Science Ciders, founded their 52-acre farm to promote both Kim's art career and Dan's unrelenting philosophy of respect for the land he farms. From their website: "The main component of Dan’s wine and cider making philosophy is one of respect. The wines and ciders are Oregon by definition and singular by nature. Respect starts on the farm with organic and biodynamic farming principles. One of biodynamics' main principles is to limit use of outside inputs (synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides) while using the farm's natural systems (cow manure, biodynamic fungicides made from plants growing on the property). By using these methods, Dan is not diluting the terroir." The only additive he uses is a bit of SO2, and this process yields a cider that is wild, aromatic, a touch funky, and very pleasurable. Lots of fruit is present on the nose and the palate brings an electric acidity backed by firm tannins. Tim Gagnon
An invigorating wine made from apple, honey, and elderberry! All of the components are allowed to coferment naturally without the addition of lab yeasts or SO2 before a year-long elévage in neutral oak barrels. A gorgeous translucent ruby in the glass, it shows bright aromas of red apple skin, cranberry, pomegranate, and brown spice on the nose. Tangy is the word that comes to mind on the palate, with tart red apple, white pepper, juicy red raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, and lemon peel. There is a fair amount of grip, and the finish is long and citrusy. This would be an esoteric pairing with Asian dishes or burgers and is fantastic by itself. Tim Gagnon
David Dolginow and Colin Davis created this dry, English-style cider in collaboration with two farms: Sunrise Orchards in Cornwall, Vermont and Dragon Orchards in Herefordshire, England. It is a blend of 7 different apple varieties (Browns, Ellis Bitter, Dabinett, Michelin, Jonagold, Spartan, and Somerset Redstreak) that are co-fermented and aged for 6 months before release. It is fresh with aromas of apple, pine, mango, and citrus oil. On the palate, it is dry and clean with minerals, citrus, and ripe apple fruit with medium-sized bubbles. This is a great choice for before, during, or after a holiday feast or for an alternative to beer while watching football. Tim Gagnon
This is a great follow-up to the inaugural releases from Shacksbury! The past two vintages of the Limited Edition releases were a hit with cider geeks and staff members alike, and the first release from the 2015 harvest is equally great. Called Lost and Found, it is made from foraged apples sourced from the Champlain Valley of Vermont, and from heirloom varieties in New Hampshire, most of which were trees originally planted by homesteaders over 100 years ago. It is fermented with native yeasts and goes through secondary fermentation in bottle, with no SO2 added at any time. If you haven’t tried any of the Shacksbury products, you’re seriously missing out. Tim Gagnon
Made from a blend of foraged heirloom varieties of apples and Vermont and English cider apples grown by Sunrise Orchards in Cornwall, VT, this cider is made using the Méthode Ancestrale. Just like the grape-based pét nats we all know and love, it is bottled while it is still undergoing fermentation and is aged for two months on the lees before it is released unfined, unfiltered, and with zero SO2 added. The result is a bone-dry cider with pretty aromas of red berries, ripe pear, and apricot blossom. Gently sparkling and dangerously drinkable, this is one of my favorite releases from Shacksbury to date. Tim Gagnon
Made from an assortment of Franconian apple varieties, with second fermentation in the bottle, and no sulfur added; the nose is oxidative, with hints of brown butter and apple blossom. The palate is savory and tart, balanced with notes of burnt caramel, yellow apple and a stony minerality: think savory like Asturian sidra but with more bubbles and darker tones. Cari Bernard
Located on High Meadows Farm in East Delhi, NY, Wayside Cider is a newcomer to the ongoing trend of American cider makers that are not looking to Europe for their inspiration, but taking a more local approach that reflects the rich agricultural history of New York. They work with foraged apples from wild, abandoned trees and then graft the varieties they find to trees in their own orchards. The owners, Irene Hussey and Alex Wilson, tend an organic vegetable garden and also focus on livestock rearing (namely pigs, which help to manage waste from the cider making process), making for a truly self-sustaining farm. The Catskill is their flagship cider and is made from the aforementioned wild apples. It is aged partially in used bourbon barrels from a local distillery which helps to mellow the tangy acidity. Bright, crisp, and woodsy with a hint of vanilla and spice on the nose, it is ever so slightly effervescent with a saltiness that is balanced by bourbon spice making for a distinct and food-friendly cider. Tim Gagnon
The Dupont estate has been producing Calvados, cider, and cheese since it was founded in 1890. Their orchards are planted to thirteen varieties in chalky, marl-heavy soils and no pesticides or herbicides are used at any time. Their Vieille Reserve is a blend of twice-distilled Calvados, of which the youngest is 5 years old. It is aged in 50% new French oak barrels which lends a softer, more decadent spirit than one might expect from products similar in age. Juicy green apple, sea salt, and caramel (the soft chewy kind) abound on the nose with a touch of walnuts and cinnamon. The palate is also quite round and luscious with more caramel backed by baked apple, vanilla, black pepper, and tart tatin that lead into a salty, mineral-laden finish. A delicious Calvados for a great price! Tim Gagnon
This exquisitely clear apple brandy comes in one of the cutest printed packages in the store, but that shouldn’t be the only reason for you to buy it. The fact is that this is one of the most delicious ways to experience New York’s abundant apple crop’s flavors. The apples growing on Neversink’s organic farm were selected for their high acid and high tannic character (not great for eating, but essential to creating delicious ciders and spirits). The mash is then twice distilled which makes for a bright, delicate spirit that truly showcases the quality of the raw ingredients used. In Europe, brandies like this are enjoyed neat after dinner but current cocktail creators are experimenting with all sorts of uses: the most simple being a touch of sugar and a squeeze of citrus for an apple-infused take on a Sour. Tim Gagnon
A fantastic new gin from our friends at Neversink Spirits in Port Chester, NY! Made from a base spirit of apples, wheat, corn, and barley that is distilled in-house; the ingredients include 11 different botanicals. These range from the traditional ingredients of juniper, orris root, and angelica root to provide a bitter, earthy backbone to elderflower, cinnamon, and three types of fresh citrus peel to give it uncompromising lift and freshness. On the nose it is heady and fruit-forward with a botanical persistence and underlying earthy tones. The palate is fuller-bodied and pleasantly viscous with juicy apple character backed by a citrus tang with minerals and a kick of juniper on the finish. This is perfect sipped neat, over ice, and as the basis for many gin cocktails. Tim Gagnon