My Favorite Wines of 2023

  1. Virginia Wines

****Pippin Hill Wild Acre Reserve ’17: This debut high-end reserve red blend for Pippin Hill is something special. Made of 60% estate-grown Tannat and 40% Cabernet Franc, the nose is of ripe black fruits and clean earth with dried cherries. The palate is all about texture, like drinking dark purple velvet! Tannins are very smooth and the fruit is ripe, but it still needs a few years for the fruit to flesh out to match the structure. Winner of the Monticello Cup Wine Competition in 2023.

****Arterra Tannat ‘19 (Delaplane, VA)

When you think about what a great vintage 2019 was in Virginia, you could wonder what a fully dry Tannat could taste like. Well, this is likely as good as it gets, and for all the tannin lovers out there who want a gutsy red Virginia wine, this is the real deal, but I’m glad to say as big as it is, it’s also balanced. Color: inky dark. Nose: complex mix of black fruits and earth/stone. Palate: high tannin level, with rich, spicy black fruits. Still young, needs 2+ years to tame it but clean, intense and a great way to showcase this grape in Virginia. With time in the glass, the ripe black fruit flavors emerge, and the tannins become increasingly smooth. I didn’t realize how high the alcohol was until I read the spec sheet: 17%! This isn’t technically a table wine anymore, but the high alcohol is masked by the big fruit, acids and tannins. This is skillful winemaking, but don’t quaff a flagon of it; as Eric Idle said in his monologue on Australian wine, “Eight bottles of this and you’re REALLY finished.”

***Chiswell Farms Sauvignon Blanc 2021 was a nice fresh, bright change of pace, with very grassy varietal notes, but mellow and smooth on the palate and a dry, refreshing finish.

*** Chisholm Cabernet Franc ‘19: Nose: Wow! Juicy and ripe, typical for the vintage, ripe black cherry. Palate: very distinctive due to native yeast fermentation which subdues the varietal fruit, but brings a rich and multi-dimensional texture that is rich, supple and sexy, with subtle ripe cherry flavors, drinking well now. Fermented 2 weeks on the skins in large format oak.

***Chisholm Farmer’s Reserve ‘17: 35%  Petit Verdot, 33% Tannat, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon. Nose: intriguing briar fruits, vanilla/oak spice, but well integrated. Palate: fine ripe tannins and black fruits, large volume, juicy, dry, distinctive and an original blend ratio.

***>*Barboursville Octagon ’19: Nose: large, full but elegant, typical of the vintage with ripe red fruits. Palate: full-bodied, dried red cherry, smooth ripe tannins, baking spice notes, just starting to open up (was decanted twice), needs another two years, but worth laying down and waiting for.

***Knights Gambit Petit Verdot ’19: Don’t be fooled by the Stelvin twist-off cap; this is a high-quality Petit Verdot from a top vintage. Maybe I like the wine because the fruit expression is so pure, and also for its reasonable price (just $20), but maybe the two are related, due to the lack of big vanilla oak. Ripe, varietally correct fruit of black briarfruits, full flavored and smooth tannins; drink or hold.

***Barrel Oak Vineyards 2021 Sauvignon Blanc, made with grapes sourced from Maggie Malik Vineyard in northern Loudoun Co. Nose: very Loire Valley-like, reminiscent of Pouilly-Fume’ or Sancerre, with lots of flint and mineral notes. Palate: vibrantly dry, with a Loire-like flintiness and citrus fruit.

***Barrel Oak Winery Rose’ 2021

Mostly Chambourcin, the color is light red, and it was co-fermented with Vidal juice, which I’ve seen work very well in the Finger Lakes of NY. Nose: fresh, creamy cherry. Palate: fun, juicy but dry, with loads of cherry and apple fruit. An original and hedonistic style.

*** DuCard Cabernet Franc 2021 is a rare opportunity to taste the “naked grape”, as well as how it performs in a cool European-style region like the Shenandoah Valley. I not only found fresh red fruits on the nose, but also subtle notes of rose! A very clean, Loire Valley-like style. On the palate, Wow! Big tannins (vintage), but being unoaked, the wine stayed fresh and lively, with pure red and black cherry flavors! Great for warm weather and a way for those who want to experience the “naked grape” style of Cabernet Franc.

Crimson Lane Vineyards:

***Albariño ’21: Nose: racy lime, passion fruit and mineral notes. Palate: Wow! BIG acidity AND citrus fruit; it’s all going on! Versatile, alive with energy, a great food wine.

***Sauvignon Blanc ’20: First vintage from these vines. Nose: rich but subtle, Loire Valley-like but not racy. Palate: intense  fruit/acid balance, apple/pear flavors, Riesling-like but original with high quality, great food wine.

***+ Chardonnay ’19 (stainless): Nose: light, fresh, bright, hint of lemon. Palate: intense, like a proper Chablis; big Meyer lemon flavor and acidity, firm and long, impressively Burgundian style but no reduction. Note: Tom told me this bottle had been open for a day; brilliant.

***Chardonnay ’19 (barrel aged): 13 months in 30% new Hungarian and French oak, 50% full malolactic fermentation. Nose: intriguing hint of “paprika” from the Hungarian oak, hint of yeast and lemon. Rich, viscous texture, then powerful, BIG Meyer lemon flavor carries through to the finish. Rich but stylish.

**Petit Manseng ’22: The residual sugar for this wine is 4% (40 g/l) but it drinks as if it were half as much due to the high (natural) acidity of the grape. Nose: light, fresh, gently tropical fruit. Palate: bright fruit, firm acidity, very well-balanced, a crowd-pleaser and versatile now, but will benefit from a year or two of age.

***>*Callina ’19 (50% Merlot, 25% ea. Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon).

Tom explains that he and Dominick taste every barrel of the red wines post-fermentation, and the best ones go to the “Parral” blend, regardless of the varietal portions. The rest go into the Callina blend (translated as “hill” in Italian), in what turned out to be a “Right Bank” style Bordeaux blend, but Tom points out that the blend ratio could be completely different in another vintage, and that “we always try to make the best wines we can possibly make.” Callina spent 24 months in 50% new oak. The color is opaque but with a crimson rim typical of the vintage. Nose: fresh, bright red fruits but with depth. Palate: at first, fruity and forward, then deep with rich, smooth tannins, and a sexy mocha finish. Fresh, integrated and balanced.

****Parral ’19: The premier red blend of Crimson Lane, made from the best barrels of Merlot and the two Cabernets, the blend for this vintage was 42% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Franc and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. Nose: black fruits, ripe but elegant, with a hint of new oak. Palate: rich, intense, ripe spicy tannins; drinks more like a 2017 in style, but rich and elegant. Named for a town in Mexico where the vineyard manager and his crew members come from, to honor their contribution to the wines of Crimson Lane. Worth laying down until 2029, or longer.

****Petit Verdot ’19: Tom explains that he tried to blend the Petit Verdot into the Meritage-style blends, but as neighbor Jim Law of Linden discovered, on these low-vigor mountain sites, the fruit was too intense and overwhelmed the blend. Accordingly, this is the only varietal red wine of Crimson Lane.

What makes it unique in Virginia is the use of two clones; the “masculine” clone 400 which is half of the blend, and that’s the dominant clone in Virginia, but the other half is clone 1058, which Tom says makes a more fragrant, fruity and “feminine” style. The two styles are both evident here, but in a finely balanced way, as if they are dancing a tango across your palate! Nose: (typical) high alcohol but rich, ripe black fruits. Palate: intense, BUT rich, ripe fruit with very smooth tannins; an impressive blend of these two styles of clones and a must for any fan of fine Virginia Petit Verdot. For more information, visit

Southwest Mountains Vineyards, Monticello AVA

***White Blend 2020 Monticello AVA: 60% Viognier, 40% Petit Manseng. 70% barrel fermented and aged, 30% stainless steel. Nose:  rich, complex, lees contact and oak, but balanced and stylish. Palate: rich, ripe tropical fruit with bright acidity, oak and malolactic notes flesh out the mid-palate texture and flavors with fine fruit/acid balance. A big, rich white wine, ideal for Thanksgiving or late fall/winter food pairings, but still elegantly balanced.

***Rosé 2021 Monticello AVA: 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc. 60% barrel fermented and aged four months in oak, 40% stainless steel. Nose: Gentle, with a hint of flowers and red cherry (no obvious oak). Palate: lovely, freshly fruity and balanced with acidity, showing finesse and integration.

***+Chardonnay 2020 Monticello AVA: 100% barrel fermented and aged 10 months in French oak, 30% new. Color: light gold. Nose: rich, but also well integrated, with subtle nuances of spiced apple. Palate: very rich texture, apple flavors with a hint of caramel. Rich, but with firm acidity and no vanilla “planky” oak. A bold, full-bodied style but balanced; a fine food wine and fine example of Virginia Chardonnay in a Meursault style. $45

****Gruener Veltliner 2021 Monticello AVA: Gruener is now being grown on the East Coast, but by far this is the most impressive example I’ve had outside Austria, and fans of serious, non-oaky white wines will enjoy it. Nose: a fascinating blend of grated white radish and ginger/lemongrass, with fresh honey! Palate: racy lime zest, firm acidity, with a lively finish. Impressive varietal expression in an original style.

***Cabernet Franc 2021 Monticello AVA: Fifteen percent Merlot. Aged nine months in mostly neutral French oak. Nose: classic fresh varietal cherry and mineral/pencil lead. Palate: smooth, lush texture, ripe black cherry flavor, with a hint of baking spices. Only 12.7% alc. in a hot vintage, an elegant and fruit-forward style you could enjoy soon, or lay down for a few years.

***Red Blend 2019, Monticello AVA: 54% Cabernet Franc, 39% Petit Verdot, 7% Merlot. Barrel aged nine months in mostly neutral French oak. Nose: subtle, needs time to open, has red and black cherry nuances. Palate: smooth and subtle, good integration; the fruit gradually opens, very smooth tannins, elegant texture. Primary fruit is fading but has elegant finesse and freshness.

****Red Blend 2021, Monticello AVA: 62% Cabernet Franc, 28% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot. Nose: lots of finesse and elegance for a big vintage, like a Chopin waltz, with subtle and ripe red fruits. Palate: Wow; more intense, with red fruits and some oak, gradually fades but with lots of finesse and elegance.

****Petit Verdot Reserve 2021, Monticello AVA: Nose: elegant, subtle, much like the regular ’21 red blends. Palate: Wow; very velvety smooth tannins with a big mocha chocolate finish; sexy! Oak in the background but well-integrated with the fruit.

  1. Finger Lakes, NY Wines

CAYUGA LAKE Finger Lakes, NY

Favorite Rieslings

***Hosmer Ltd. Release Riesling ’17: Nose: impressive, complexities; jasmine, a hint of marmalade. Palate: impressive maturity; fruit/acid balance, big flavor which shows you can enjoy dry Rieslings at only five years old.

***Hosmer Semi-Dry Riesling ’21: Nose: some petrol. Palate: complex fruit/acid dance of pineapple, smoke and orange rind. Still young, evolving but will be rewarding in another year and way in the future.

***Hosmer Dry Riesling ’22: Nose: jasmine and lime blossom, fresh-cut red apple. Palate: vibrant, intense fruit/acid balance, red apple, peach flavors with bright acidity, could drink or lay down. Very young but very promising.

***Thirsty Owl Vineyards ’21 Dry Riesling: Staff favorite in a pretty crummy vintage for everything. Nose: beeswax and cantaloupe. Palate: BIG volume, apricot, peach and cantaloupe. Vibrant fruit/acid balance, with long finish (0.6% residual sugar).

***Thirsty Owl Vineyards ’22 Appalachian Bottom Dweller Riesling: The name comes from a shallow layer of Appalachian shale on this site, and it smells and tastes of slate! 10.9% alcohol and 0.3% residual sugar. Nose: classic slate/mineral. Palate: same, with a slatey Mosel flintiness, and a long finish. Not fruity, an austere but racy, Germanic style (I think I can hear the Tannhäuser overture…)

Other White Wines

**>*Thirsty Owl Gewurztraminer ’22: Despite being bottled just 10 days before tasting, this aromatic variety really shone on the palate, despite being faint on the nose. The palate gave floral flavors leading to tangerine, but with better acidity and spice than usual, showing the potential for aromatic wines in the ’22 vintage. Thanks to acidity and an alcohol below 13%, this wine could be bottle aged.

***Thirsty Owl Pinot Noir Rosé ’22: Light color, complex nose, some strawberry aromas with a hint of pepper. Palate: BIG juicy flavors! Ripe strawberry and red cherry, juicy! A bit low in acidity, but still very hedonistic and versatile.

SENECA LAKE, Finger Lakes, NY (Wineries visited/tasted: Hector Wine Co., Silver Thread Vineyards, Wagner Vineyards, Standing Stone Vineyards, Fox Run Vineyards).

**>* Forge Cellars Tango Oaks Pinot Noir 2021: Nose of red and black cherry, clean earth with a bit of shale. Palate: clean, fresh cherry fruit, with vibrant but balanced acidity, and earth/mineral elements with a hint of smoke. Gains depth and complexity with time in the glass. A Burgundian would be pleased with this terroir-driven expression of Pinot, the freshness of fruit and the moderate alcohol (12%). With several years of age, this wine could turn a few heads.

****Anthony Road Blanc de Noirs 2017 (Seneca Lake, NY)

Winemaker Peter Beecroft explained that this fine sparkling wine was made exclusively from the Mariafeld clone of Pinot Noir, noted for its high acidity. Nose: very nice bright red cherry notes and yeast. Palate: WOW! Large palate volume, ripe red cherry flavors, high acidity balanced by yeasty lees, but the vivid acidity persists through the finish. Four years on the lees.

Favorite Rieslings

***Silver Thread Riesling Estate ’22: Nose: Wow! Racy, subtle lemon, apple, peach/apricot notes. Palate: medium dry (1.3% R.S.) with peach, apricot and apple flavors, nervy acidity and vibrant length. Stylish, promising.

***Wagner Riesling Select 2012: Nose: complex fusel oil, apple, peach. Palate: juicy, sweet, BIG ripe apple and peach, apricot and pineapple (4.7% R.S.). Just beginning to open its wings after 10 years of age, and will reward those looking for dimension and intensity of flavor in Rieslings.

Other White Wines:

***Hector Wine Co. Sauvignon Blanc ’21: Nose: lime blossom, flinty, racy. Palate: high acidity, flavors of passion fruit and lime; very Sancerre-like, great length and finish. Could drink this summer or lay down for a year.

***Hector Wine Co. Pinot Blanc ’21: Nose: creamy lemon notes. Palate: fresh and lively lemon notes, nice roundness mid-palate. Very stylish, with more dimension than most Pinot Blancs while being true to its varietal flavors.

***Hector Wine Co. Gewürztraminer ’20: Nose: rich, with notes of maturity, big floral lychee, very Alsatian. Palate: spicy phenols help buffer the alcohol (13.2%), full-bodied but balanced; drink by Thanksgiving this year.

Red Wines

**>*Silver Thread Cabernet Franc ’21: One of the rewarding surprises of the 2021 vintage, also shows how Silver Thread’s dedication to low intervention winemaking can pay off where purity and varietal character can trump richness and oakey pretention. The color is light, but the hue is a healthy red. On the nose, Wow! Pure, fresh raspberry (tank fermented). Palate: zesty, bright and fresh raspberry flavors, and like fruit/acid balance. Excellent for the next year or so as a summertime red, but could also lay down for a couple more years for a surprising Thanksgiving treat.

***Wagner Pinot Noir Reserve ’20 (from their reserve tasting): Nose: bright, clean, fresh red cherry. Palate: firm acidity, lively red fruit, no obvious oak. A fresh, clean pleasingly Burgundian style in the Finger Lakes.

***Wagner Pinot Noir Reserve ’16 (from their reserve tasting): Much the same style as the ’20, from a similarly fine vintage, but four years older. Nose: mature, yet lively and fresh red fruits. Palate: mushroom, earth/forest floor, red/black fruit nuances.

***>*Hector Wine Co. Merlot ’21: Nose: impressive for the vintage, with ripe black fruits, herbs, fresh and zesty. Palate: Wow! Large volume, ripe black fruits, lively acidity, with mocha chocolate  notes on the finish. Could be the prize wine of the vintage, with great varietal characterr in a very Finger Lakes style.

**>*Hector Wine Co. Syrah ’21: Nose of bacon fat and bright roasted red cherries. Palate: oak, smoke and roasted plums and cherries. Impressive ripeness and varietal character for the vintage.

***Standing Stone County Line Cabernet Sauvignon ’20: Nose: complex, closed but with hints of black cassis and briar fruits. Palate: vibrant Finger Lakes acidity. BIG volume, ripe black fruits and tannins, licorice flavors. Amazing depth, complexity and balance, with aging potential. Note: there is Brettanomyces on the finish.

***>*Standing Stone Barrel Select Saperavi ’20: Nose: subtle, elegant ripe black fruits. Palate: gutsy, big tannins but ripe, with rich blackberry flavors. Young, needs a lot of time, but promising and stylish.

KEUKA LAKE, Finger Lakes, NY

***Leseurre Gewürztraminer ’19: stainless steel fermented. Nose: lovely fragrant rose water and apricot. Palate: firm acidity, bright citrus fruit, lively and balanced, bottle age helps the balance and volume.

***Weis Gewürztraminer ’21: Nose: BIG floral/lychee aromatics with peach and apricot. Palate: great acidity, plus Gewürztraminer viscosity. Young and zesty, has the guts to last a few years.

Red Wines

***Weis Zweigelt ’20: It’s reassuring to see this (possibly superior) progeny of the widely-planted Blaufränkisch + Sank Laurent showing so well in this superior vintage. Peter Weis has been making a stylish rosé from this Austrian red grape (now the most widely planted red varietal in that country), and everyone now growing and making Blaufränkisch in the Finger Lakes and nearby cool climates should buy this wine, taste it with colleagues and discuss it. Pronounce it phonetically as “TzvIgelt”, it has racy fresh red briar fruit aromas, with raspberry flavors and acidity on the palate, without being too tart, then pepper and tannins, but smooth, offering maybe more dimension than Blaufränkisch alone, but still in a cool-climate format.

This wine had vibrant floral notes and bright red/black cherry on the nose. Palate: ripe cherries and berries with vibrant acid and tannins. Stylish, still evolving.

****Weis Cabernet Sauvignon ’20: Nose: clean, fresh, ripe cassis and baking spices. Palate: BIG volume, acidity and tannins, ripe cassis flavor in the background. Needs time, but promising and excellent balance of elements and Finger Lakes terroir, age until 2030+.

On the west side of Keuka Lake, I visited Heron Hill, Point of the Bluff, Dr. Frank Vinifera Cellars, and Bully Hill Vineyards.

Favorite Rieslings:

***Dr. Frank Riesling Nature ’19: Methode champenoise sparkler, two years on the lees. Nose: complex, smoky, hint of petrol and apple. Palate: complex, dry, multi-faceted flavors, zesty acidity, a great way to showcase fine sparkling Riesling.

***Dr. Frank “Margrit” Riesling ’20: From a single vineyard in Hector, southeast Seneca Lake, this is one of the more impressive Rieslings from the hot, dry 2020 vintage (clones are #356 and #90, both German). Nose: more dimension than with most of this vintage, with flint, apple, and pineapple. Palate: lots of flavor, dimension, and intensity. Promising; stylish now, will age well.

***Dr. Frank Reserve Riesling ’21 (Auslese style, 4.5% R.S.) This wine was harvested later than most, with a fair amount of botrytis mold (that concentrates the flavors). Nose: a hint of Rheinpfalz pineapple. Palate: rich, round, classic Auslese style; elegant! Enjoy near term or cellar.

***Point of the Bluff Riesling Semi-Dry ’21 (2.2% R.S.): Nose: ripe apple and white peach. Palate: juicy, plump, easy to drink and fun! Also a deal at $17.

Other White Wines:

***Dr. Frank Brut ’19: a blend of all 3 classic Champagne grapes incl. 5% Pinot Meunier (55% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir), with 30 months aging on the lees. Nose: classic champagne aromas of yeast, smoke and mature fruit. Palate: creamy, round, well-integrated, with a fresh finish. A classic interpretation that is versatile and stylish.

**Point of the Bluff Dry Rosé of Blaufränkisch ’22: First, a lovely vibrant dark pink! Nose: lovely fresh strawberry fruit. Palate: great fruit/acid balance; strawberry flavors and lively acidity!

***Bully Hill Cayuga NV: (off-dry, 11% alc.) It’s not often I rate non-vintage hybrid wines this highly, but when a wine over-delivers on your expectations, and under-delivers on price ($10), you should point it out. Nose: fresh-cut cantaloupe, and a cool freshness that is the classic style of Finger Lakes white wines. Palate: off-dry, but an excellent fruit/acid balance that allows the grape to be ripe with a full fruitiness, but also with a clean, fresh finish. Note: I couldn’t find this at a major local retail store, so it may be for sale only at or through the winery.

Red Wines:

***Point of the Bluff Blau Nouveau ’22: I wrote about this very fun, original wine last year; it’s a Blaufränkisch whole cluster fermented by carbonic maceration (as with Beaujolais Nouveau). Nose: elderberry and boysenberry! Juicy! Palate: also very juicy! Dry, but fun, and versatile. I understand they serve this chilled at the Rooftop Winery in Brooklyn; a great way to enjoy it. It must be popular in the City (not sure if that’s Manhattan or Brooklyn), because it’s $30 at the winery, but it’s at least worth a taste.

****Dr. Frank Old Vine Pinot Noir ’20: These vines were planted in 1958 by Dr. Konstantin Frank and the second oldest commercial Pinot Noir vines in the country, I’ve always been a fan of this classically Burgundian-style Pinot with a Finger Lakes terroir, but this is the best I’ve ever tasted. Nose: complex, with dried cherries, herbs, forest floor and mushrooms. Palate: mind-blowing! Intense, concentrated fruit, oak, and clean earth nuances. Drinking well now, best this fall/winter, but worth laying a bottle down for another 2-3 years. Also, the best value I’ve seen in the 2020 Finger Lakes vintage reds @ $28.

***Dr. Frank Blaufränkisch ’20: Nose: closed. Palate: juicy, smooth, rich but fresh and zesty blackberry. Large volume, smooth tannins, very sexy, voluptuous. Excellent varietal and regional style.

***Dr. Frank Cabernet Franc ’20: Nose: ripe blackberry! Palate: juicy, a bit soft, texture voluptuous, (which I almost never associate with this grape), ripe and smooth. Should be a delightful surprise for anyone who never thinks of Cabernet Franc as being sexy.

***Dr. Frank Saperavi ’20: Nose: closed. Palate: juicy, smooth, ripe, and rich with ripe tannins. 13.5% alc. Flavors still largely closed but ripe plum and black briar fruits starting to emerge. Worth waiting for; drink 2025-2035.

*** Montezuma Winery Sparkling Diamond Pet-Nat ’22: Pet-Nat is shorthand for pétillant natural, otherwise known as methode ancestral, where the wine undergoes primary fermentation in tank or bottle with no disgorging of yeast and no secondary fermentation. A cloudy wine is usually part of the deal. Diamond is a heritage American hybrid of Concord x Iona dating to the 19th century (Concord has Semillon as part of its DNA). The wine has impressed West Coast judges, and this particular wine won a gold medal in the 2023 Finger Lakes International wine competition.

Nose: a wonderful fresh grape-iness as with fresh white table grapes, and a creamy yeastiness. Palate: smooth, round and creamy, but balanced by zesty freshness and fine grapey flavor. Off-dry, very stylish and versatile.

I’ve heard from producers as diverse as Bully Hill and Dr. Frank that port-style wines are making a comeback; here are two spectacular examples.

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****Dr. Frank Pinot Gris Tawny Dessert Wine ’18: (since “Port” is a geographically-protected name, U.S. producers can’t use it unless they were “grandfathered” in before EU countries made it illegal to use these terms like port and sherry on wines made outside those delineated regions, so U.S. wineries commonly use “dessert wine” as a stylistic label).

This Pinot Gris was two years in barrel, and has a light gold color. Nose: lovely, clean, good varietal character of ripe pineapple. Palate: bright orange citrus, firm acidity, round, with a hint of “tawny” age character. Fantastic integration of all elements and finesse on the finish! Could enjoy as soon as the winter holidays, or let age for another couple of years. $60/375 ml.

****Dr. Frank Amur Dessert Wine ’19: This is the red version of Dr. Frank’s new dessert wines in a port style. This one is named “Amur” because it’s made from a hybrid of Vitis vinifera and Vitis amurensis, the latter named for the Amur river separating Siberia from Manchuria, so we know it’s cold-hardy enough for the Finger Lakes. Nose: just like you’d expect from a genuine Portuguese port wine; loads of spice and black fruits. Palate: high tannins and acidity, intense black fruit flavors! Very young, needs five years aging (even in a half-bottle), but definitely worth it! $60/375 ml.

  1. Other States

****Loew Vineyards Chardonnay 2021 (Mt. Airy, MD)

This wine didn’t earn four stars because it was “yuge”, but because it was taut, poised, full-flavored but also well-balanced. Nose: light, lemony and fresh, with an herb/mint component. Palate: vibrant lemon flavor, lees and fine acidity. Excellent balance, varietal character; elegant. Winemaker Rachel Lipman reveals that she adds a proprietary blend of tartaric, malic and citric acids pre-fermentation which seems to give the wine a bright freshness without seeming contrived. Aged nine months in barrel.

****Waltz Winery Crow Woods Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 (SE PA)

Nose: fruit-driven, no obvious oak, delicate but masculine, black cassis with a bit of smoke. Palate: Wow! Concentrated, intense, yet fruit-driven. Ripe tannins and firm acidity, shows fine varietal character. Needs time but well-balanced., with additional aging. 13.5% alc.

***>*Loew Cabernet Sauvignon 2022 (Mt. Airy, MD, barrel sample)

Nose: juicy, fresh red cassis! Palate: naturally fruit-forward as it’s a barrel sample, but still very juicy and forward, with very smooth tannins. Needs more time and oak aging, but wonderful fruit-packed infant Cabernet! ***>* with additional aging (alc. 13.5%)

****Hermit Woods Lake House White 2020 (Meredith, NH. Not vintage labeled since that’s illegal for fruit wines).

This fine fruit wine is from 80% locally grown peaches, with rose hips and rhubarb. Color: light gold. Nose: rich, ripe peach aromas. Palate: vivid acidity like a sea breeze balances the full, ripe peach flavor. Texture combines a rich viscocity with a brisk freshness. Impressive fruit/acid balance and long finish. Impressive quality and selection of ingredients and ratios; a rare treat worth the price.

Ratings key: * = good, ** = very good, *** = classic style and quality, **** = exceptional, outstanding, + = given rating plus, > = will increase in quality with time.