New York wines are popular for good reason

November 18, 2023

Roger asked about New York state wines, which rank third in U.S. sales following California and Washington. There are six New York AVAs: Finger Lakes, Lake Erie, Hudson River, Long Island, Champlain Valley of New York and the Niagara Escarpment. Sadly, the Rieslings of the Finger Lakes region are frequently overlooked. There are many terrific value wines from this region. Those who enjoy Riesling may wish to remember Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard as most likely to be easily located in Delaware. Those who enjoy late-harvest Reisling can find Bunch Select 2018, 93 McD under $35, at Swigg in Wilmington, so it can be brought in by a local shop. Reminds me of the best German Spätlese. Longer hang times promote generous, full body and ripe fruit flavors. It pairs well with roast turkey and T-Day desserts, for those who enjoy slightly sweet profiles supported by bright acidity. The 2019 is also a fine buy, 92 McD under $35. Most 2019 Riesling, best recent vintage in years, from reputable Finger Lakes wineries are a safe bet These age remarkably well and have substantial price appreciation. For instance, the 93 McD 2008 came in at $33, now $201, and the 92 McD 2010 went from $62 to $128. The aftermarket is limited. These types of analytics may reflect small production, auction or store pricing. Those who prefer dry should look for HJW Dry Riesling 2019, 91 McD under $20.

Niagra Escarpment produces some wonderful Icewine (German: Eiswein) produced from grapes frozen on the vine and pressed while still frozen, resulting in a higher concentration of sugar and acidity. It is also becoming a specialty of Canada. These are frequently expensive because they are a gamble on an extremely late harvest and a quick hard freeze. They are unavailable in some vintages. Grapes can be lost to rot, hail or other weather issues before the hard freeze arrives. Those who are interested in Icewine may wish to attend the Niagara Ice Wine Festival on the weekends of Jan. 12-28, or Cool as Ice at Niagara on the Lake. Find more info at It will be cold. When we attended, Niagara Falls was actually frozen and the silence was eerie, especially after having enjoyed the din and roar of a previous summer visit. 

Canada is the top-volume producer of Icewine worldwide, about 900,000 liters, 75% of which arise from Ontario. One of my three faves is Inniskillin Estates 2011 Sparkling Vidal Icewine, $100, 94 McD. Worth the candle. One of a very few icewine sparklers, loaded with tiny bead, showing lemon and honey flavors. The bubbles elevate the palate, somehow minimizing its sweetness. Because I enjoy chocolate, I recommend Stratus Red Icewine 2018, the latest release, $$$, go to winery. It is unique due to the use of red grapes: Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc, which prompt cherry, strawberry, raspberry and plum flavors with a hint of bitter chocolate in the finish. A tough find, but worth the work. These are 200 ML bottles, about four servings each, and it is wonderful. Finally, try Peller Estates Signature Series Riesling Icewine 2019, 94 McD around $70. Bright straw-colored, it opens to rose hip, apple and molasses aromas. On the palate, pronounced candied lemon zest. orange and spicy white fruit are balanced by a perfect level of acidity, Keep in mind, Icewine is normally sold in 375 ml (about 12.68 oz) half-bottles and a 3-4-oz. pour is proper. 

Most folks read Montes and think of Purple Angel, following a skein of 90-plus ratings from all the likely suspects. I tuned in to a winemaker tasting of their Wings Carmenere 2020. It shows promise but needs time; dark color was a tip-off. Slightly tannic and oaky, the winery recommends waiting at least one hour after decanting. I would prefer you try to locate Montes Alpha Carmenere 2018, ‘19 or ‘20, under $20. The 2019 is 92 McD plus 1 price point; the others rate a solid 90. The profile for all three is dark fruit, herbs, hints of tobacco and dark chocolate. These folks like oak, but it is subdued to the point it doesn’t mask the fruit. None of them are ready to drink, but the proportional values of color tannin, oak and acidity tell me they are an excellent value starting in 2024 and good thru 2028.


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