Chances are if you follow this blog, there’s a pretty good chance that you adore food and wine. I began drinking wine in my early twenties, but I didn’t become a “real” wine drinker until I tasted my first Cabernet Sauvignon at the age of 25. From that sip I was hooked and knew that I was about to start a life-long relationship with red wine. It’s not that I don’t enjoy white wines or rosés because I do, very much. But as someone who drank only white zinfandel for several years, that first bottle of Cab gave me a sort of wine education, or at the very least, enticed my palate. Since then, I’ve tasted and sipped many wines from all over the world, including many New York wines, produced locally in Long Island, the Finger Lakes, and the Hudson Valley.
Wine is fun no matter the circumstances, but it’s always best to taste and sip with friends or family. I’d been saving six New York wines to try, and friends Heather and Scott spent the evening with us, sampling, drinking, and noshing. This wine tasting was the first I’ve hosted in New York, so it was only apropos that we taste wines from New York State.
We had one bubbly, three whites, and two reds. Here are the six New York wines we tasted and the order in which we tried them:
Lenz Cuvee 2012 – 100% Pinot Noir – North Fork of Long Island
We detected apple and cherries in this dry yet crisp sparkling wine. Bubbly can be paired with more foods than any of us imagine. Great with cheese and dessert, but recommended to drink with roast chicken too.
Chateau Lafayette Renau Semi-Dry Riesling 2015 – Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes
We picked up honey right away in this bright Riesling. The lightest of the three whites, this wine also has apple and orange notes. It started sweet but finished dry. This Riesling would do well with spicy food or on its own.
Swedish Hill Winery, Humphries Vineyard Riesling, 2013 – Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes
We liked the nose on this wine and detected citrus. A sip finished with pear flavors. This dry Riesling paired well with the creamy brie that I served. Recommended pairing is broiled fish or shrimp.
Brooklyn Winery, Chardonnay, Un-Oaked, 2014 – Finger Lakes
We detected nectarine and acidity in this chard. Grapes are grown in the Finger Lakes, but the wine is crafted in Williamsburg. We came close with the fruit, but grapefruit, strawberries, honeydew and white peach essences are listed in the winemaker’s tasting notes. This wine made a lovely pairing with cheese ravioli, asparagus, and fresh chives (our dinner after the wine tasting), but it’s drinkable alone too.
Whitecliff Vineyard, Reserve Gamay Noir, 2015 – Hudson River Region
This ruby-colored wine was our favorite of the six we tasted (except Scott loved the bubbly!), because we found it to be the most pleasing to our palates, but also versatile. If you like Pinot Noir, you’ll probably like Gamay Noir. This one is 10% Cabernet Franc too. We found this red to be slightly peppery, but easy to drink with or without food. A winner for sure.
Wolffer Estate Fatalis Fatum, 2013 – Sagaponack, Long Island
This blend of Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, and Petit Verdot creates a big, juicy wine that we thought needed steak, lamb, a game meat or a hearty pasta or stew to be best enjoyed. I cooked pork tenderloin the night after our tasting, and Mike and I enjoyed the remaining half bottle very much with our dinner.
Start light. When tasting, I recommend starting with sparkling, followed by lightest whites, heartier whites, rosés, light, medium, and then full-bodied reds, with dessert wines at the end.
Temp matters. Wine shouldn’t be too warm or too chilled. Appropriate temperatures for serving wines are sparkling 40 to 45 degrees, whites 40 to 50 degrees, and red wines 55 to 65 degrees.
Take your time. Smell the wine. Take a sip and swirl it. Wait. Take another sip. Wine tasting should be savored and never rushed.
Pick a theme. If you’ve not hosted a wine tasting before, it’s best to stick with one region or grape varietal. For instance, you could do wines from Languedoc, or all rosé wines, or Italian reds. If wines are produced close to your home, that makes for a fun theme, similar to my New York wine tasting. In the US, areas of the country that we don’t associate with wine such as Arizona, Texas, Idaho, and Florida produce some excellent wines. Research – you might have local wines and not know it.
Blind or not? You can go with blind tasting if you like. Cover the labels on each bottle and sip by numbers. We did not do blind tastes, but rather, sipped and made notes on each wine we tried and then discussed.
Food is essential. Don’t neglect the nibbles when you host a wine tasting, not only to help cleanse the palate but also to prevent anyone from getting too tipsy. 🙂 Cheese with bread or crackers, charcuterie, grapes, nuts, etc. are terrific for snacks in between tastes.
Don’t forget the background music. Because our theme was New York wines, I played a combination of wine and New York-themed music in the background. Tunes like New York, NY, New York State of Mind and other Billy Joel songs, Red Red Wine and Hotel California (“Please bring me my wine”), were part of our play list. Great music sets the mood.
Have fun! You decide on the details. Don’t fret if you don’t know a lot about wine because tasting and drinking are how you learn about it. The most important thing is to have a great time.
Do you have any favorite New York wines? Have you hosted a wine tasting party at home? Do tell in the comments!
Many thanks to New York Wines for sending these local wines. New York State is the third largest wine producing region in the US, and continues to be recognized nationally and internationally for Rieslings, Chardonnays, Cabernet Francs, and others varietals. For more info on New York wines, visit their website.