On a recent weekend, the tasting room of Whitecliff Vineyards on McKinstry Road was full of people anxious to try new flavors and enjoy wine made with grapes from the Hudson Valley, Long Island and the Finger Lakes.
Currently, Whitecliff offers approximately twenty wines, ranging from dry to fruity to full flavored. Wine maker Brad Martz has also expanded the range to include three sparkling wines —Awosting White, Dry Rosé and Moscato—sold on tap or in Growlers, and meant to be enjoyed within a few days.
The sparkling Awosting White is a version of the still wine of the same name, and would go well with roasted almonds, sharp cheddar and a ripe Gouda. The Dry Rosé, a delightful sparkling wine, brings back memories of the old French rosé wine–tart and with plenty of color and flavor, perfect for a summer day, and was so good that I brought a growler home to serve my friends at a dinner party. (I served it with a soft, creamy, bloomy rind cheese called Margie, from Sprout Creek; Dulcinea, a hard sheep’s milk cheese from Fulton, NY; Stilton from England, and a fig and almond cake. The combinations were delicious.)
After the sparkling wines I moved on to the still whites, which range from dry (2013 Reserve Chardonnay) to the more fruit forward (Awosting White and the 2013 Traminette). The fresh tasting Awosting White, an easy drinking blend of Seyval Blanc and Vignoles grapes, goes well with any summer foods from sandwiches and burgers on the grill to chicken with potato salad or cheeses, nuts, and bread or for a picnic in the Gunks. (Disclosure – I have liked this wine for years and once carried two cases to Martha’s Vineyard for a summer vacation.)
The Traminette, a Gold Medal winner for the past several years (2011, 2012, and 2013) in the San Francisco International Wine Competition, is a spicy wine that goes well with Indian and Asian foods. I liked the spicy taste (like a Gewürztraminer) so much that I bought some home and served it with wild caught Coho Salmon marinated and baked in garlic, ginger, scallions and fermented soy sauce. Everyone loved it since the wine complimented the salmon perfectly. The more commonly known 2013 Reserve Chardonnay, fermented in oak barrels for five months, has a taste of oak but not too much, making it a delight to serve with roasted chicken and garlic roasted potatoes or with shrimp scampi.
On to the reds! I tasted several: the 2013 Gamay Noir, fermented in oak for ten months, would make a wonderful accompaniment to roasted pork loin with garlic and mustard, grilled fish, or steak. The 2012 Pinot Noir, lighter than Oregon pinot noirs and sister to the Gamay Noir which is also made from Finger Lakes fruit, would compliment grilled fish, pork tenderloin with a spice rub, roast chicken, and pasta with clam sauce (if you like red wine with fish).
Even better with steak, ribs, or butterflied leg of lamb would be the 2013 Cabernet Franc, with grapes grown in the Hudson Valley. It has a luscious smoky flavor and has been one of the wines that Whitecliff has been making since the beginning. I also tasted the 2013 Merlot-Malbec combination that reminded me of cherries and blackberries. I would serve it with grilled pork chops, pasta with a strong marinara sauce, or good bread and cheese, sitting on a patio. The Table Rock Red, a new wine for Whitecliff, was also a delight. Three different grapes from the Hudson Valley are used in making it. Its bouquet and flavor made me want to make a pasta puttanesca, or serve it with a grilled rib eye marinated with garlic and Worcestershire.
For a lovely afternoon, visit the tasting room, open at this time of year from Thursday through Sunday and open seven days a week from June through November. For more information, call 255-4613 or check out the website at www.whitecliffwine.com.