Monday, March 2, 2009

New York Wine Expo Recap

Friday night I went to the New York Wine Expo with a few friends of mine. It is a fun event that takes place at the Javits Center each year, where you can buy tickets for $85. The people at the NYWE were nice enough to give me a press pass so that I could come and talk to the different producers and winery representatives.

One of my favorite wine educators was there, Kevin Zraly. Kevin is the founder and teacher of Windows on the World Wine School and is a great speaker. If you have the chance to listen to him, I would suggest you do so. I have met Kevin on a variety of occasions, even being invited to speak to his class about Chile a few times. He makes wine so much fun and helps people understand that the world of wine is not meant to be scary and overwhelming but that it is meant to be explored the same way food is and meant to be drunk the same way bud light is. Well, ok not quite the same as Bud Light, but my point is that no one should feel that they cannot walk into a wine story and pick something up for dinner. Also, once he has taught you to say “Sangiovese” you will never mispronounce it again.

I am always really impressed when a winemaker comes to one of these types of events. The New York Wine Expo is definitely a consumer event where avid wine enthusiasts can come in and taste to their hearts’ content. An export manager, brand sales representative, or public relations representative can handle most of the questions that everyday wine drinkers will have. However, when a winemaker is there you can get such a great view of what goes into the bottle and it gives the wine life and a history, not just a taste.

One such winemaker was Rainer Karl Lingenfelder of Wiengut Lingenfelder Estate, based in the Pfalz region of Germany. Rainer was excellent to talk to and was the perfect introduction to the NYWE for the friends I was with. When he handed his card to me, it made me smile to see his title as Grapegrower in the Age of PostChardonnism. We listened to him talk about his wines and you could really feel that this winery was in his family for the past 15 generations. When asked about his philosophy on winemaking he said that while some winemakers are craft masters and artists, he and his family are really simple grape growers. His wines are made using natural yeasts found in the vineyards, and their technique is to do as little as possible to change the natural expression of the grapes. He says, “True wine comes from the soil.” The efforts that he and his family put into the soil are readily evident in the wines, which have such character and enjoyment when tasted. The wines he was showing were a single vineyard Riesling and a single vineyard Pinot Gris. Both have great minerality and acidity. The Pinot Gris was nicely creamy and rich. Definitely wines to look out for.

I read a lot of coverage about the state of New York wines, thanks to the great people at LENNDEVOURS (I am sure they will put me on their blog roll one day…), and since I was at a New York wine event I figured it would be wrong to not taste through the local wines.

I started with the Brooklyn Oenology, since what could be closer to me than Brooklyn? It turns out that they source their wines from Long Island, but that is still closer than Germany. For each of their wines they hire a local Brooklyn artist to design the label. Each year every label is different, allowing for more artists to have their work put on the bottle. And even better, the labels peel off like a sticker, helping those of us who like to keep the labels from going through the length process of peeling it off ourselves. I was only able to taste one of the wines from BO (oy, that’s an unfortunate acronym), their current release Viognier. It had that classic, lovely perfumed nose that makes me just want to keep my nose in the glass all day long. The taste was a little disappointing, not quite living up to its aroma, but certainly good enough to make me want to explore their other wines.

I also had the opportunity to taste a few Finger Lakes wines, two from Lakewood Vineyards and one from Atwater Estate Vineyards. The Rieslings I tasted from each winery were quite good. Both had very nice minerality, with the Lakewood Riesling having a more floral nose and the Atwater presenting more petrol notes. I also tasted the Lakewood Chardonnay, which was very nice. Chad, representative from Lakewood, told me that 33% of the Chardonnay was fermented in New York oak. For me the wine had a very interesting orange citrus taste, very fresh with a hint of vanilla richness towards the end.

Those were my highlights of the evening. I did not even come close to my personal best of tasting 100 wines, but I had a great time doing selective tasting. I hope my friends enjoyed themselves as well, and everyone else who went to taste through the more than 100 producers represented.
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