Today's Sponsor
 The California Wine Club Introducing our By Reservation Only Program!

In This Issue
 Uncorking New York Will changes in U.S. wine-shipping laws elevate New York from niche market to greater stature as a significant wine producer?
 Dr. Konstantin Frank 2003 Finger Lakes Dry Riesling ($15.99)
Rich but bone-dry, this classic Riesling builds credibility for New York's Finger Lakes.
The winery price on Friday's Oregon Pinot Noir wasn't as bad as I thought.
 The California Wine Club Introducing our By Reservation Only Program!
 This week on An extensive report on a tour of the Port region, and forum discussions on comparing U.S. and New Zealand Pinot Noir and selecting wines that newcomers will find easy to like.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index The Wine Advisor archives.
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Uncorking New York

Think of wine in the United States, and chances are you'll immediately visualize the West Coast: sunny California and perhaps the rainy but mild Pacific Northwest. Wine-related thoughts about New York State are not likely to pop into your head.

This might not be entirely fair, as New York, in spite of its failure to register as more than a blip on most wine lovers' radar, is actually the third-largest wine-producing state in the nation (after California and Washington State), with sales approaching nearly a half-billion dollars in 2004; and its commercial wine-making history goes back just about as far as California's, dating to the middle of the 1800s.

Why is such a major wine producer so little-known? A combination of factors have held back the Empire State on the national wine scene ... but watch for this to start changing.

If the climate in California's wine regions is somewhat like that in Mediterranean France, Spain and Italy, New York's is more like Germany; indeed, New York's long, narrow and deep glacial-cut Finger Lakes even look a bit like the Mosel or the Rhine.

Until recent decades, that continental-style climate, with its freezing winters, has held back the development of Vitis vinifera vineyards, the familiar wine grapes that dominate the fine-wine market. New York has been better known for Vitis labrusca, strong flavored grapes normally used to make sweet, syrupy wines that more closely resemble Welch's grape jelly than Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel; even the more ambitious wineries typically compromised on "French-hybrid" grape varieties, designed to withstand fierce winters that can kill vinifera but that only rarely yield world-class wines.

Eventually, though, a few pioneers, including Dr. Konstantin Frank and Hermann J. Wiemer in the Finger Lakes, fought the odds to grow classic European wine grapes and, particularly when they specialized in varieties appropriate to colder climates, such as Riesling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, they won competitions and earned a growing reputation.

But even as the wines got better, another problem stood in the way: In contrast with California's liberal wine sales and shipping policies, New York law forbade the state's wineries to ship wine out to consumers, as it denied its own citizens the right to buy wine across state lines. As a result, and in the absence of any real national demand to move New York wines into traditional distribution channels, the state's wines were (and largely remain) unknown in the rest of the world.

But last year's Supreme Court decision on wine shipping, which banned disparate treatment of in-state and external wineries in interstate commerce, may have opened the gates. Thanks to enabling legislation passed over the wails of the distribution lobby, New York wineries are now free to ship wine direct to consumers in other states where the law allows; and to the extent that this change increases visibility and demand for the wines, wider distribution is likely to follow.

I'll be exploring New York wines myself in June, as I attend the annual "NiagaraCool" gathering of Eastern wine enthusiasts in Niagara Falls, taste a lot of local wines and tour some wineries in the region.

The gathering, like the similar annual "MoCool" wine-lover gathering in Michigan in August, is strictly social, non-profit and non-commercial, with participants agreeing to share the actual costs of wine touring and a Sunday wine-and-food picnic. If you live within reach of the Niagara Falls and Buffalo area (on either side of the U.S./Canadian border) or will be traveling in the region the weekend of June 10-11, you're welcome to participate. Check out the details on our WineLovers Discussion Group,
or, if you prefer, send me E-mail at

Dr. Konstantin Frank Dr. Konstantin Frank 2003 Finger Lakes Dry Riesling ($15.99)

This is a pale, transparently clear but distinctly golden wine. White fruit and stoney slate aromas display the odd but pleasant minerally scent that Riesling-lovers call "petrol." Its full, ripe flavor hits the palate with a surprising burst of tangerine, shaped by firm, steely acidity. Rich in texture but fully dry, its tangy citrus flavors linger in a very long finish. Excellent Riesling; it would be intriguing to see it served "blind" in a flight of Rieslings from Germany, Austria and Alsace. (May 14, 2006)

FOOD MATCH: Almost too rich for more delicate seafood and fish, this one seems made for veal and pork dishes. It went very well with simple veal burgers made in the style of Italian polpette meatballs.

VALUE: With the exception of a few dessert wines and a handful of sought-after producers, Riesling in general remains a good buy around the world. No complaints about value at this mid-teens price.

WHEN TO DRINK: Riesling is one of the most long-lived of whites, and this wine's good fruit and sturdy structure suggest it would fare well in the cellar. It would certainly be safe to keep it five years or more under good storage conditions.

The Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Cellars Website offers online sales and a wine club (shipping limited to states where the law allows), plus information about the winery and its wines.

Find prices and online vendors for Dr. Konstantin Frank wines on


In my "VALUE" comments on Friday's wine tasting report, Henry Estate 2003 "Umpqua Cuvee" Oregon Pinot Noir ($15), I questioned an apparent $39 price for a wine that sells in wine shops for $10 to $15. As it turns out, the $39 price (plus $9 shipping) is for three bottles, which is not a bad deal if you can't find this good Pinot locally.

I've posted today's column in our Netscape WineLovers Community, where you're welcome to read the replies and add your own comments or questions at this link:

For more advanced wine-enthusiast discussions on this or any wine-related subject, you're welcome in our non-commercial WineLovers Discussion Group, where today's article is featured at this link:

To contact me by E-mail, write I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

Here's a simply formatted copy of today's Wine Advisor, designed to be printed out for your scrapbook or file or downloaded to your PDA or other wireless device.

California Wine Club
Introducing The California Wine Club's By Reservation Only Program

Many of California's highest-rated and most coveted wines sell out before most wine consumers ever have the chance to purchase even one bottle.

Wines like these are even difficult for The California Wine Club to find. In fact, the club sometimes acquires so few cases of a special wine that it's not possible to feature them as a regular selection or post them on the website, so these special treasures are instead offered to a select group of customers.

Now 30 Second Wine Advisor readers can join California Wine Club's By Reservation Only program, offering you selective access to these rarities, only the wines you want, with no commitment and no obligation.

Here's how it works:

  • When a very special or limited wine opportunity comes up, we will automatically reserve a case for you.
  • Once your case has been reserved, we will contact you. At that time, you can choose to accept or withdraw your reservation.
  • Priority is given on a first-come, first-served basis. The longer you are on the list, the higher your priority level.

To add your name to The California Wine Club's By Reservation Only program please call 800-777-4443 or email

This week on

Some highlights of recent articles on that I hope you'll enjoy:

For the Love of Port: The Dynamic Douro
Port expert and columnist Roy Hersh and his associate Mario R. Ferreira recently collaborated to host a group of wine enthusiasts on their first visit to Portugal, an extensive visit to the Upper Douro, home of the great Port region. In this report, Hersh details many of their winery visits, with extensive tasting notes of Ports and Douro reds.

Hot topics in our WineLovers' Community
Our WineLovers' Discussion Groups are the best places online to ask wine questions and participate in the civil and intelligent discussion of good things to eat and drink. In addition to our WineLovers Community on the Netscape/CompuServe service, we've just revamped our "classic" WineLovers Discussion Group (WLDG), the Internet's original wine forum, a non-commercial venue intended for serious wine conversations that range from apprentice-level to wine professionals. I hope you'll take the time to visit both of our forums today!

U.S. vs. New Zealand Pinot Noir
In this intriguing tasting report from the Philippines, a group of wine enthusiasts in Manila samples Pinots from opposite sides of the Pacific in a blind tasting, with some surprising results.

Wines for beginners
Members of our Netscape WineLovers Community suggest a few ideas for a wine newcomer who's looking for selections that are easy to like.

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

 Remember Sideways? (May 12, 2006)

 Affordable Spanish red (May 10, 2006)

 Is ritual necessary? (May 8, 2006)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Trompe la bouche (May 11, 2006)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:

 30 Second Wine Advisor, daily or weekly (free)
 Wine Advisor FoodLetter, Thursdays (free)
 Wine Advisor Premium Edition, alternate Tuesdays ($24/year)

For all past editions, click here


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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

Monday, May 15, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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