I go to a lot of wine/spirit/cocktail events and I have different expectations for every event I go to. There are the events that are geared for industry professionals and non industry enthusiasts. They usually serve the higher end and eclectic spirits. Many are open to consumers and spirit neophytes and those tend to focus on quantity more than quality. But they are a good way for the neophyte to learn more about wine ands spirits and they usually make for a fun party. I’ve had my expectations met, I’ve had them exceeded and sometimes the event did not live up to my expectations.
I recently attended an event that was more the latter than the former. It was a “Best Of” beer and food event in Brooklyn. Buying a ticket gained you entrance into a spartan, bare bones industrial floor space with a handful of beer vendors and food vendors that you had to purchase food to sample. It didn’t keep my interest peaked for too long and I spent less time at the event than on the commute to get there.
Fortunately the event was held at Industry City located at 36th Street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Industry Center is a complex of commercial buildings dating from the 1890’s that has been repurposed as a retail and commercial space. You can easily spend that day shopping, eating and drinking and when the weather is nice, relaxing in the outdoor spaces. It’s also home to breweries and distilleries.
The Craft New York Act of 2014 eased the regulations for opening a brewery or distillery in New York State which has resulted in a boom of those businesses in the state especially if they use local agriculture to make their products. Distilleries and Breweries have opened once again in New York City.
In Industry City if you walk over to building 5/6 you’ll find a few and since I didn’t spend too much time at the beer and food event, I stopped by a couple to sample a few spirits.
Standard Wormwood Distillery
This distillery produces sprits and liquors using New York State grown ingredients particularly wormwood as a base. Wormwood was a formally banned ingredient traditionally use in the production of Absinthe. I had a flight of spirits/liquor which included a Rye, an Agave, an Amaro, an Apertivo and a Wermut (vermouth).
This is the State’s first Sake brewery. They make several craft Sake and serve them on tap in their minimalist tasting room complete with a view of the brewing vats in the background.
I had a glass of the Bluedoor Junmai which was described as “umani laden, rich, clean”.
Next door to the Sake bar, they have the largest selection of New York spirits in the city, in fact those are the only spirits they are allowed to serve. I had a craft old fashioned.
This past Saturday on January 25th I attended the New York Wine Festival. It was a consumer event with tasting sessions in the afternoon and in the evening. I attended in the evening. The event was held at The Tunnel event venue at 269 11th Avenue on the west side of Manhattan.
These bi-yearly wine festivals are run by the same company at venues in Brooklyn and Manhattan. They are more or less cookie-cuter versions of each other with the same food and wine vendors in attendance. They’re not events for hardcore wine and spirit drinkers but rather events for wine and spirit neophytes who are looking to sample something new while socializing in a party atmosphere.
They poured a wide selection of wines from Italy, France, Spain, South Africa and the United States. Local wines from New York State were represented by RooftopReds, an urban winery based in the Brooklyn Navy Yard using New York State fruit and by Pumphouse Wines which poured locally produced red, white and rosé on tap.
The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux is a trade organization that promotes the Grand Cru wines of Bordeaux, France. At the beginning of each year they sponsor a world-wide tour where they showcase the current vintage that is being released. The U.S. and Canadian portion of the tour will make stops in Toronto, Montreal, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington DC and on January 20th, the tour arrived in New York City. The event as usual, was held at Cipriani restaurant at 110 East 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan across the street from Grand Central Terminal. It’s the former Bowery Savings Bank which was constructed at a time when banks were built to be opulent places of commerce. A trade tasting was held in the afternoon and Sotheby’s auction house held a tasting for consumers at the same venue in the evening.
The 2017 vintage in Bordeaux was not the best of vintages. It was the “year of the frost” where the worst frost in living memory created conditions that had yields coming in at about 40% lower than the previous year. There were fewer wineries attending this tasting than there were in previous years as many wineries did not make a wine or made very little wine from the 2017 vintage.
In tasting through the wines, no one would confuse them for the lush and fruit forward wines of a Napa Valley Cabernet. In general for this vintage, I was finding a lot of lean red fruit with red cherry aromas and bitter cherry flavors on the finish. Many, not surprisingly for young wines, were hard edged, but many had low tannins and acids. I was not getting the type of concentration in these wines that I had gotten from the 2015 or 2016 vintages. I think these will be wines to be drunk in the short term.
Chateau Haut-Bailly: Clear medium red, toasty nose, tight with big tannins at the end.
Chateau Canon-La-Gaffeliere: Opaque medium to dark red, pretty nose of black fruit and graphite, dusty red cherry fruit with firm tannins.
Chateau Canon: Clear medium red, cooked fruit notes on the nose, tight with crisp acids and firm tannins.
Clos Fourtet: Opaque dark red, crushed black fruit on the nose, juicy, graphite black fruit ending with a firm, silky finish.
Chateau Larcis Ducasse: Opaque medium red, sweet red cherry on the nose, moderate silky and dusty fruit with moderate tannins and acids at the end.
Chateau Pavie Macquin: Cloudy dark red, crushed black fruit and mint on the nose, tight red cherry fruit with tongue coating tannins at the end.
Chateau Villemaurine: Medium clear red, floral black cherry on the nose, bright dark fruit with a bitter cherry finish.
Chateau La Cabanne: Clear medium brick, dark chocolate on the nose, juicy red fruit with silky tannins and firm acids.
Chateau Clinet: Clear light amber, red cherry graphite on the nose, tight, silky tannin on the firm finish.
Chateau Gazin:Clear medium red with some tar and earth on the nose, tight, red cherry fruit, low acids.
Chateau Cantemerle: Opaque medium red, graphite notes on the nose, tight red fruit with big tannins and acids on the finish.
Chateau Citran: Opaque medium red, candy red cherry on the nose with juicy red fruit and moderate acids.
Chateau Coufran:Medium to light brick, sweet red cherry on the nose, light black fruit with a chewy finish and moderate tannins.
Chateau La Lagune: Opaque medium red, dusty red leather on the nose, tight fruit with bitter red cherry at the end.
Chateau Giscours: Medium to brick in color, toast and wet earth on the nose, moderate chewy fruit with dark chocolate on the finish, nice balance.
Chateau Kirwan: Clear medium red, crushed black fruit and some earth on the nose with bright red fruit ending with moderate tannins and acids.
Chateau Rauzan-Gassies: Clear medium red, crushed black fruit on the nose, chewy, toasty red cherry fruit with a firm finish.
Chateau du Tertre:Opaque medium red, toasty dark chocolate on the nose, bright dark fruit, firm finish.
Chateau Beychevelle:Medium purple, green olives on the nose, light fruit with olive notes, balanced finish.
Chateau Branaire-Ducru:Clear medium red, toast and graphite on the nose, light fruit with a bitter cherry finish.
Chateau Lagrange: Clear medium red, minty nose, dusty dark chocolate fruit with crisp acids.
Chateau Leoville-Barton: Medium red, tarry nose, moderate black cherry fruit, firm but balanced.
Chateau d’Armailhac: Clear medium red with some cooked vegetable notes on the nose, light fruit with very tight tannins on the finish.
Chateau Clerc Milon: Medium to light red, dirt and sweet red fruit on the nose, tight with big tannins.
Chateau Duhart-Milon: Clear medium red, stinky nose, moderate dusty fruit with a bitter cherry finish.
Chateau Grand Puy-Lacoste: Clear medium red, dusty nose with tight red fruit and crisp acids.
Chateau Lynch-Bages: Opaque medium red, red cherry and graphite on the nose, light red fruit with high acids at the end.
Chateau Pichon Barton: Clear medium brick, chocolate on the nose, chewy bitter cherry fruit with a firm but balanced finish.
Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande: Opaque medium red, tar and red cherry on the nose, light and tight with low tannins and acids on the finish.
Chateau Ormes De Pez: Light red in color, graphite on the nose, tight red fruit, nice grip.
Chateau Phelan Segur:Cloudy medium red, red pixie stick and toast on the nose, tight, light closed fruit with low tannins and acids.
The 10th annual Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival was held on Saturday January 18th. It was a change of venue this year with the event moving from The Tunnel in Manhattan to the Brooklyn Expo Center at 72 Noble Street in Greenpoint.
The motto of the festival was “Brew it. Taste it. Sip it. Pork it”. It was an all afternoon event of “southern fried good time” consisting of whiskey, beer and BBQ. At the event there was a “Beast Cage” serving exotic meats and a “Shrine to Swine” for whole pork worship. Various seminars were held throughout the afternoon.
Since this is one of the only real BBQ events in the city, the impending snowstorm didn’t stop the barbecue connoisseurs from lining up outside the venue to get in. I was able to sample a wide range of ‘cue including ribs, brisket, pastrami, wings and pulled pork sliders.
It was an all-American whiskey list with most producers pouring a Bourbon and a Rye though I felt not as many as in past events. Craft beers and hard ciders rounded out the beverage list. I was able to attend the Bulleit seminar. My favorite whiskey of the afternoon was Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye, it was bold and smooth.
The Long Island wine industry has grown tremendously since the first vines were planted in the early 1970’s. Now there are 2,000 acres devoted to growing grapes and 55+ vineyards and wineries on the North and South fork of the island with three of those are on the South Fork and the rest of the bulk of them on the North Fork AVA. The North Fork is a 30 mile long peninsula that’s not very wide. It was inevitable that vineyards would be planted west of the two forks and a handful of new wineries have opened for business. I spent an afternoon on a touring a few.
Harmony Vineyards 169 Harbor Road, St. James
This winery established in 1999 has to be one of the most scenic wineries on Long Island. After a drive along rolling hills you arrive at the winery and the tasting room is in an historic circa 1690 home built by one of the original European settlers. It’s like being in a museum. The back patio overlooks a vineyard sloping down to Stony Brook harbor. All their reds are a Bordeaux blend consisting of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with vintages from 2005-2016. On this Sunday afternoon I had to place all to myself.
2015 Harmonious Blend
Opaque black with a purple rim, black licorice on the nose, dark and concentrated, chewy with mint and slate notes on the nicely balanced finish.
Whisper Vineyards 485 Edgewood Avenue, St. James
First vines planted in 2004. The tasting room is in the Borellas Farm Stand which sits across the highway from the vineyard., very low key. Another tasting room all to myself.
Unfiltered 100% Merlot matured for 18 months. Opaque dark red with an amber rim, roast hazelnuts on the nose, tight and concentrated with chewy, black fruit ending with firm, silky tannins with a touch of astringency at the finish.
Del Vino Vineyards 29 Norwood Road, Northport
The first winery on the north shore wine trail as you travel East. This family run winery was built on an old apple farm. The previous two tasting rooms were a much more sedate experience since I was the only one in the room drinking, this tasting room was completly polar opposite experience. The villa type building which was opened in 2018 is a restaurant as well as a tasting room and it must be a popular restaurant because on this Sunday afternoon the place was mobbed. I was able to find a spot at the bar to sample a glass of wine and listen to the live music.
They call this their Cabernet blend but in previous vintages they included Merlot and Tempranillo. Clear medium to dark red in color, toasty red cherry and crushed rocks on the nose, rustic, with toasted nuts at the beginning and finishing with a big hit of dark chocolate.
With over 55 vineyards and wineries out on Long Island there are a lot of winemakers being kept busy. On this cloudy Sunday afternoon I decided to take a winery run to the North Fork of Long Island and sample wines made by women winemakers.
The Old Field Vineyards 59600 Main Road, Southold
Winemakers: Rosamond and Perry Bliss
Haven’t been to this out of the way vineyard for a while. They planted vinifera grapes in 1974 which makes it along with the old Hargrave Vineyard (now Castello di Borghese) which was established in 1973, the oldest vineyards on the Island. At this family run winery, you get the full rural experience. You’ll be surrounded by barns with chickens running around the property and you sample their wines made by a mother and daughter winemaking team in a rustic 1860’s tasting barn.
NV Rooster Tail
Mostly Merlot with about 10% Cabernet Franc. Opaque dark red to black in color, closed nose of slate and crushed black fruit, thick, chewy and dusty fruit with firm acidity at the finish.
One Women Winery 5195 Old North Road, Southold
Winemaker: Claudia Purita
One of my favorite wineries to visit when I’m out East. Another family run operation with probably the smallest tasting room on the wine circuit. When I walked in I spotted a bottle of Petite Vedot on the table which was a new bottling for them so I had to give it a try.
2016 Petite Verdot
Inky black with a purple rim, dried rosemary and crushed rocks on the nose, tight, dusty fruit with mouth coating tannins on the finish.
Peconic Cellar Door 2885 Peconic Lane, Peconic
Winemakers: Robin Epperson-McCarthy, Alie Shaper
One of the newest tasting rooms out East, it’s an off-site tasting room in an old general store featuring the wines from a pair of women winemakers. It’s also next door to another tasting room, the Winemaker Studio.
2017 Saltbird Sauvignon Blanc “Migratus”
Barrell fermented, gold in color, cooked asparagus on the nose, very viscous for a white with cooked fruit on the finish, moderate to low acidity.
Macari Vineyards 150 Bergen Avenue, Mattituck
Winemaker: Kelly Urbanik Koch
And another family run winery, this one established in 1995 with a couple of tasting rooms on the North Fork wine trail.
2016 Cabernet Franc “Lifeforce”
This wine has been fermented in a concrete egg. It’s a lighter version than most Cabernet Francs you find on the Island, closer in style to what you would find in the Loire. Clear light red in color, roasted nuts on the nose, crisp red licorice fruit.
This past weekend of December 7-8th I was able to attend a couple of Holiday beverage events.
On Saturday afternoon I attended the Brooklyn Whiskey and Spirits Festival which was held at the Brooklyn Expo Center at 72 Noble Street in Greenpoint Brooklyn. The event offered over 100 styles of whiskey and spirits.
I have to admit, that these spirits events are more or less cookie cutter events with many of the same purveyors in attendance, I’m getting to recognize many of the people pouring (and they’re recognize me!). I have to say though that this event had a better selection of spirits than the last whiskey fest I attended a couple of weeks ago.
Most American whiskey producers make several styles of whiskey including Bourbon, Rye and Blends. At this tasting I decided to focus on Rye whiskey for the afternoon and was able to sample a few nice ones. As an outlier I tasted a few aged rums which I enjoy. I particularly enjoyed the X.O. and V.S.O.P. rhum agrigole from Clement Rhum in Martinique. Rhum agricole is made from fresh cane juice instead of from molasses and makes for a more polished drink, the type that you sip on its own.
On Sunday afternoon I attended the Fruit & Grain beer and cider festival. The event was a benefit for Raices, a nonprofit agency and was held at the Second event space at 849 6th Avenue in midtown Manhattan.
The theme of the room was 1960’s “Flower Power” complete with the requisite groovy, psychedelic art poster. They poured mostly local craft beer from 30+ brewers, ciders from 12+ New York State cideries and a handful of spirits. My focus this afternoon was on ciders and they had some familiar labels as well as ciders from small, “mom & pop” cideries. An interesting outlier was a local distillery based in Brooklyn, St. Agrestis that makes amaros and a prepackaged Negroni.
Whiskey Fest Rye
Catoctin Creek Rye 80°, 92°
Pinhook Rye Humor Cask Strength 97°
Taconic Distillery Straight Rye 95°
Uncle Nearest 1856 100°
Deadwood Rye 83°
Minor Case Straight Rye 90°
Coppersea Straight Malt Rye 96°
Koval Single Barrel Rye 80°
Cutwater Whiskey American Rye 90°
Duke Founders Reserve Rye 98°
Sagamore Spirit Double Oaked Straight Rye 112°
Fruit & Grain Cider
Sündtrom Cider: Sauer, Sponti
Wildarc Farms: Blackbird, Kitchen Sink
Eve’s Cidery: Albee hill ’18, Darling Creek ’18, Beckhorn Hollow ’18
Bad Seed: Old Elmer Barrel Aged, Bourbon Barrel Aged
Metal House Cider: Ammir, Arista
Angry Orchard: Magril
Floral Torrantes: Suburban Maraines
Descendant Cider Co.: Succesion
Rootstock Cider Works: Dry, Original, Dry Hopped
Graft Cidery: Farm Flor, Forest & Flor, Amber City