New York City is a wine-and-food metropolis, but it’s also a place with deeply rooted regional farming traditions, placing the locavore movement center stage in fine dining.
It’s a little-known fact outside of the state that New York is the third-largest producer of grapes in the country (after California and Washington). Over the last decade, quality winemaking in the Finger Lakes, Niagara Escarpment, Long Island and Hudson Valley regions has taken off, and sommeliers are taking note.
Distinctive and expressive of their unique terroir, wines made in New York are making it a region to watch, and explore.
As wine director of The NoMad, Thomas Pastuszak’s wine menu leans towards wines from Piedmont, Friuli, Burgundy and Champagne—cool
-climate regions producing wines with Old World flavor profiles. Brisk with acidity, distinctly mineral and elegant with fruit, for Pastuszak, these are the ultimate food wines to pair with Daniel Humm’s sophisticated cuisine. The one oddball New World region represented with pages of offerings is the Finger Lakes.
“In the U.S., as far as I’m concerned, the Finger Lakes region is the only true cool-climate wine region that delivers what we’ve come to love from Europe,” Pastuszak says.
Pastuszak relishes the chance to serve Finger Lakes wines to guests blind, especially industry colleagues. “I’ve never had a guest not like them, and in fact, most think the wines are entirely unique, if not extraordinary.” When asked to guess the wines’ origin, “they inevitably go towards Old World producers in the Wachau or the Rheingau, even specific vineyard sites of high regard,” he says.
“I’m not here to challenge people, or make them uncomfortable,” Pastuszak says, “but it’s a great opportunity to disarm consumers by taking away the label recognition, and to allow them to make the recognition of how good these wines truly are.”
What he’s pouring:
Bloomer Creek 2010 Tanzen Dame Morehouse Road Vineyard 2nd Harvest VS Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes)
Anthony Road 2009 Art Series Riesling (Finger Lakes)
Shaw 2007 Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes)
When she first came to New York City, Wine Director Pascaline Lepeltier was decidedly unenthusiastic about New York wines. “You could see they were still quite clumsy, still childish,” the Loire Valley-raised, Brussels-trained sommelier says.
In the last five years, however, her eclectic wine menu of mostly minimal intervention, organically or biodynamically produced wines from places as diverse as the Republic of Georgia, Burgundy and the Loire, has come to include a hefty number of wines from Long Island and the Finger Lakes.
“When I started to recognize these wines as having a sense of place, an ability to catch something in the vineyard, I was blown away,” she says. Today, Lepeltier considers New York to be one of the best wine regions in the United States, particularly for white wines.
“It only takes trying these wines to understand how fresh and Old World in style they are,” she says. “Everyone still puts Europe at a benchmark when seeking wines with lower alcohol, higher acidity and higher minerality,” but “it’s something that’s very much a part of New York.”
What she’s pouring:
Ravines 2010 Cabernet Franc (Finger Lakes)
Hermann J. Wiemer 2011 Magdalena Vineyard Riesling (Finger Lakes)
Anthony Nappa 2011 “Bliss” (Long Island)
For almost 20 years, Gramercy Tavern, one of New York City’s hallmark dining establishments, has been a gustatory vignette of New York’s agricultural traditions.
As part of the restaurant’s devotion to locally sourced, sustainable produce, New York wines have always featured prominently on the menu.
“It’s in our backyard,” says Wine Director Juliette Pope, describing regions like the Finger Lakes, Long Island and the Hudson Valley, “and supporting, listing and pouring New York wines have been a tradition here as long as the restaurant has existed.”
In the last decade, however, they’ve come a long way in terms of quality, she says.
“The vines are aging, and everybody’s learning how to grow better and farm better,” Pope explains. Noting the many producers who have begun experimenting with organic, sustainable and biodynamic grape growing, “there’s a real sense of movement towards farming responsibly, carefully, with a keen focus on quality, not quantity” that truly reflects in the wines, Pope says.
What she’s pouring:
Channing Daughters 2009 Meditazione (Long Island)
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2010 Rkatsiteli (Finger Lakes)
Paumanok 2010 Cabernet Franc (North Fork of Long Island)