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Wolffer Estate Late Harvest Chardonnay (375ML) 2007
Owned by Hamburg-born Christian Wölffer, the 55-acre winery, located between Southampton to the west and Easthampton to the east, is at once an American winery but with a decidedly European character, both in its spirit and its wines. The winery currently produces 13,000 cases annually.
Under winemaker and general manager Roman Roth’s meticulous care, Wölffer Estate wines embody the region as well as a classical style of winemaking, with a rich concentration of fruit and lively acidity born of the unique terroir of these Sagaponack vineyards, similar in some respects to conditions in Bordeaux. In fact, it is the condition of the local soil, called Bridgehampton loam, a by-product of the glacial moraine that formed Long Island, that provides a perfect host for grapevines.
An often-overlooked wine-producing state that has recently begun to garner widespread attention, New York trails significantly behind California and Washington in volume produced but is ahead of Oregon. The vast majority of its produce is dedicated to large-scale production of wines made from Vitis labrusca and French-American hybrid varieties, like the common table grape Concord. The quality of New York’s best wines, however, should not be underestimated. Divided into six AVAs—the Finger Lakes, Lake Erie, Hudson River, Long Island, Champlain Valley of New York, and Niagara Escarpment, which crosses over the borders into Michigan as well as Ontario, Canada—the state experiences varied climates, but in general summers are warm and humid while winters are cold and can carry the risk of frost well into the growing season.
The Finger Lakes region has long been responsible for some of the country’s finest Riesling, and is gaining traction with elegant, light-bodied Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. Experimentation with cold-hardy European varieties is common, and recent years have seen the successful planting of grapes like Grüner Veltliner and Saperavi. Long Island, on the other hand, has a more maritime climate influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, and shares some viticultural characteristics with Bordeaux. Accordingly, the best wines here are made from Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The Niagara Escarpment is responsible for excellent ice wines, usually made from hybrid variety Vidal.
Apart from the classics, we find many regional gems of different styles.
Late harvest wines are probably the easiest to understand. Grapes are picked so late that the sugars build up and residual sugar remains after the fermentation process. Ice wine, a style founded in Germany and there referred to as eiswein, is an extreme late harvest wine, produced from grapes frozen on the vine, and pressed while still frozen, resulting in a higher concentration of sugar. It is becoming a specialty of Canada as well, where it takes on the English name of ice wine.
Vin Santo, literally “holy wine,” is a Tuscan sweet wine made from drying the local white grapes Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia in the winery and not pressing until somewhere between November and March.