Champagne Castelnau Réserve NV

This is an impressive Champagne for the price. Made by the CRVC ( a cooperative, this spends six years on lees, which is a long time for an NV Champagne.

Champagne Castelnau Réserve NV France
£28 The Wine Society
12.5% alcohol
40% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, 20% Pinot Meunier, one-fifth reserve wines. 8 g/litre dosage. This is unusual for a wine at this price in that it has been aged for six years on its lees. It’s fine and toasty with nice freshness. Citrussy and taut with some bready notes, and faint hints of cheese and fine herbs, as well as a hint of apricot and some almond nuttiness. Lovely intensity here: it’s rich but not too rich. 91/100

New York State (13) Lamoreaux Landing, Finger Lakes

There have been vineyards on the site of what is now Lamoreaux Landing since 1947. It’s an estate of 750 acres on the eastern side of Seneca Lake, with 120 acres under vine in some 20 different blocks. We visited with owner Mark Wagner, who manages the vineyard, and Josh Wig, who is co-owner and looks after the winery and sales.

They represent the third generation of their family on the property. Mark planted vinifera in the 1970s for the first time, and started the winery in 1992, with first vintage released under the winery name the 1990. They still grow a few hybrids but the Labruscas have all gone. All vineyards are managed with four-cane Scott-Henry trellising, and Riesling accounts for half the acreage.

The Rieslings and Cabernet Francs here are pretty impressive.

Lamoreaux Landing Brut 2009 Finger Lakes, New York
Everything done by hand. This has been off the lees for 12 months. 3-4 g/litre rs. Very tight and linear with crisp, taut lemony fruit. Brisk acidity. Quite dry and intense with lovely precision. Very tight and precise. 90/100

Lamoreaux Landing Dry Rosé 2017 Finger Lakes, New York
Cabernet Franc. Light, clean, crisp and delicately fruity with nice citrus, pear and strawberry notes. Pretty and expressive with lovely harmony and balance. Dry style. 89/100 ($17)

Lamoreaux Landing Yellow Dog Vineyard Riesling 2017 Finger Lakes, New York
Clone 98, furthest from the lake, at 1800 feet. Fresh, linear and bright with pure citrus fruit. Lively and expressive with clean, pure fruit. Nice mineral tension here. A very pure wine that’s still quite primary. There’s a lot of acidity here. 90/100 ($24)

Lamoreaux Landing Yellow Dog Riesling 2009 Finger Lakes, New York
Complex and savoury with some subtle toast, wax and hazelnut alongside vivid lemon and lime fruit, with some marmalade and grapefruit pith notes. Really high acidity makes it taste quite dry, but there’s a lot of sweet fruitiness here, too. Such lovely complexity and focus – this has developed beautifully. 93/100 ($45)

Lamoreaux Landing Round Rock Vineyard Riesling 2016 Finger Lakes, New York
This has some density and also nice harmony, with citrus, apple and pear fruit. Lovely juiciness with a bit of grip, showing good acidity. Linear and primary, with lots of fruit and a hint of sweetness on the finish. 90/100 ($24)

Lamoreaux Landing Red Oak Vineyard Riesling 2016 Finger Lakes, New York
Open, juicy and lemony with some floral notes over the top of the taut, focused fruity palate. Pithy and bright with lovely compact, clean fruit. Nice density here: should age really nicely. 91/100 ($24)

Lamoreaux Landing Gruner Veltliner 2015 Finger Lakes, New York
Fresh, focused and a bit pithy. Bright and simple with a slight cabbage edge to the juicy citrus and pear fruit. Subtle bitterness on the finish. 86/100 ($20)

Lamoreaux Landing T23 Unoaked Cabernet Franc 2017 Finger Lakes, New York
Stainless steel, pressed off two-thirds way through fermentation. Juicy, focused and bright with vivid raspberry fruit. Lovely intensity and focus here with pure raspberry and cherry fruit. Lovely depth of fruit here: so bright and joyful with a bit of grip adding interest. Nice sappy hints. 91/100

Lamoreaux Landing Cabernet Franc 2016 Finger Lakes, New York
Grippy and savoury with some cedary, spicy oak characters as well as structured, dense blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. There’s a bit of raspberry and some tar, too. Grippy, tannic, slightly drying finish. 89/100 ($23)

Lamoreaux Landing Cabernet Franc 2010 Finger Lakes, New York
Showing some nice maturity, this is savoury, gravelly and spicy with some blackcurrant fruit. Grippy and savoury with nice spiciness to the dark fruits and tarry notes, with a supple personality. Attractive stuff. 91/100 ($45)

Lamoreaux Landing 76 West 2014 Finger Lakes, New York
55% Cabernet Franc, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot. Supple, expressive and quite elegant with juicy red berry fruits and a hint of leafy blackcurrant. Very expressive with a bit of grip under the pure, open fruit. Very stylish with nice brightness of fruit. 90/100 ($30)

Lamoreaux Landing Riesling Ice 2014 Finger Lakes, New York
Frozen artificially. Very rich and sweet with a spicy edge to the viscous citrus and apricot fruit. There are some cedary notes, too, although it’s not oaked. Juicy acidity provides balance. 90/100 ($38)

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You don't drink the same wine at home

Wine is situational. Wine doesn’t exist outside of a drinking experience, and that experience is part of our perception of wine.

Often, in the wine world, people talk about the significant extra cost of drinking a wine in a restaurant. ‘It’s an outrage,’ they say. ‘I’m paying three times retail – or more – in order to drink that wine. I can enjoy it at home for much less.’ For example, a restaurant has Jamet Côte Rôtie 2008 on the list. You have a case of Jamet 2008 at home. But the reason you pay extra for the wine in the restaurant is that you don’t drink the same wine at home.

Think about airlines. People pay a significant premium to sit in a business class seat. I just searched for flights from London to San Francisco with BA for some random dates in May 2019 and the results I got were £1400 for economy class and £7000 for business class. That’s a lot of extra money. What does it buy you? A more spacious seat that turns into a bed, and better food and drink. But you aren’t just paying to sit in that seat. It’s not really about that seat at all. If you were to take the airline business class seat and put it in your home, it would be an entirely unremarkable seat. Your couch is probably more comfortable. And think how you get to stretch out in your bed! Yes, in the plane you are paying in part for the extra room and comfort level, but also – and perhaps most significantly – because you get to feel more special. You have, by virtue of spending a lot more money, superior status to the people who turn right and file into the economy cabin. Airlines are very good at using our status-seeking behaviour, deeply wired into us through evolution, in order to make money from us.

No one who buys a business class ticket says, ‘It’s an outrage, I can sit in a much more comfortable seat at home.’ It’s a clearly silly thing to say. You pay the premium or you don’t, and you know what you are getting, and you understand that it’s the whole experience you are paying for, including the status.

There’s a parallel here with drinking wine in restaurants. You don’t drink the same wine at home. You see, wine isn’t just about the liquid in the glass. It is much more than that. When you go to a restaurant, you are not paying for the food and drink. Well, technically you are. But in addition to that what you are paying for is the ability to consume this food and drink at a certain time in a certain place. You are paying for an experience. If you open a bottle of Jamet 2008 at home you are having an experience, but it is different to the experience you would have drinking Jamet 2008 in a restaurant. Done well, a good meal is one of the most pleasurable things I can think of. The combination of the place, the company, the food, the drink, the atmosphere all work together to create an experience, and to try to dissect out elements of this experience is somewhat futile. Yes, I enjoy drinking wine at home. But I pay a lot more, and gladly, to drink great wine in restaurants. And, yes, some home meals beat any restaurant experience when you have good people in good humour, tasty food and delicious wines. But my point still stands: you don’t drink the same wine at home.

London restaurants: Frenchie, Covent Garden

It was time to catch up with Phoebe and Chrissy for some dinner and wine, a sort of reunion of our Ireland tour. But where should we go? Chrissy had an old bottle of Fleurie she wanted to share, so we needed BYO. A perfect solution unfolded: free corkage and 20% off the bill on Monday for trade folk at Frenchie Covent Garden, somewhere I’d been keen on checking out for a while.

Chef Greg Marchand already had a thriving bistro and a wine bar in Paris before setting up here in London, and the central location is a bit of a relief: it’s nice not to have to schlep east for once in source of gastronomic joy. The dining room is long, modern and quite beautiful, and the front of house and service excellent. We opt for the tasting menu, at £60.

We were bring a bottle each. Christina’s old Beaujolais (a 1973 Julienas) was beautiful, as old Bojo can often be. Delicate, ethereal, hints of venerable decay, and sheer drinkability. I bought a concentrated, mineral Swiss Chardonnay that cost me a fortune and was perhaps just about worth it. Phoebe bought the fab Cornas Les Combes 2015 from Mark Haisma, still youthful but harmonious and layered. But we still ordered from the list, which is incredible. This is one of London’s great lists from the wine geek’s point of view, natural heavy but carefully chosen with some rare gems.

This is what we chose from the list: the Les Onglés from Stéphane Bernaudeau: a Loire beauty that deserves its own write up. Reductive in the most perfect of ways, this is a Chenin up there with the best from Richard Leroy.

The food is classic French bistro, with some skilful flourishes and a dash of adventure (but not too much). It’s a nice tasting menu in that it’s not wanky. These are proper dishes.

Bacon scones a very strong start.

And followed well with a tasty oyster, fancily dressed.

Duck foie gras appropriately embellished with blobs of stuff. Pretty tasty combination.

The fish – Cornish brill – a beautiful dish, perfectly cooked. This was really good.

The meat dish was venison. Again, this is extremely competent cooking. It’s just I’m a bit bored with dishes like these. This was my least favourite, but I imagine it would be a huge hit with more conservative diners.

Verdict? Franchie is good. Very good. If you want Michelin-star-standard French bistro grub and no nasty surprises, then this is perfect. And the whole place oozes competence and confidence. Next time I go, I’ll raid the wine list, which is one of the best I’ve seen in the capital.

Hawke's Bay, New Zealand (9) Trinity Hill's Homage Syrah

Trinity Hill planted their first Syrah in the Gimblett Gravels in 1995, using cuttings from Stonecroft, a clone known as Mass Selection. The first vintage was 1997. The current releases also include some vines grown from cuttings that came from Jaboulet in the Northern Rhône. The first version of prestige cuvéeHomage was made in 2002, and it has subsequently been made in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Damian Fischer, winemaker, Trinity Hill

I asked winemaker Damian Fischer what he considered to be the strengths of Hawke’s Bay. ‘For me Chardonnay and Syrah are the two highlights,’ he replied. ‘It can do a lot of things very well, but I don’t see that as an advantage – we need to focus on things we do very well and shout that from the rooftop.’

He elaborated: ‘Chardonnay we get ripe flavours but also acidity. The Syrahs are beautifully aromatic, they are medium bodied, but they also have this vibrant acidity that adds to their drinkability. Syrah from here is so unique. The better we make it, the more unique it seems to become.’

These two Syrahs were just beautiful. One, age 12, and the other the current release. This, the 2016, is perhaps the finest New Zealand red I’ve tasted. It’s a remarkable wine.

Trinity Hill Homage 2006 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
The third Homage, from quite a cool year. Cork sealed. There were a couple of significant rain events during harvest. The yields from this year were very low. Destemmed berries, not crushed, inoculated and coinoculated for malolactic to reduce brett risk, pumped over two or three times a day. 100% new oak, sulphured quite early. As a young wine this was concentrated, spicy and powerful, and it still shows signs of this. Focused, fresh and vivid with lovely savoury notes of roast meat, leather and charcoal, as well as black cherry and blackcurrant. Savoury and taut with lovely freshness and depth. Keen acidity with some grip under the fruit. This is developing beautifully. 95/100

Trinity Hill Homage 2016 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
13% alcohol, pH 3.73. Cork sealed. 30% whole bunch. Normally, they use a 6.5 ton open fermenter with whole bunches, and the remaining lots are destemmed. The whole bunch is foot stomped, more bunches are added, it is foot stomped again, and viognier skins are added, and then it is inoculated. Pumped over once a day. Beautifully aromatic with perfumed black cherry fruit and a hint of pepper. The palate is sleek and refined, compact and very pure with lovely black cherry and raspberry fruit, and some graphite/charcoal undertones. Great concentration but nicely poised with purity and elegance, and incredible prettiness. It’s tannic but the tannins are so refined and well integrated. Ethereal and quite profound. 97/100

Damian explained why he thinks 2016 is so special. ‘Whole bunch fermentation transforms Gimblett Gravels tannins: rather than being gritty and grainy, it tends to change the texture and density of them. It makes the wine more compact and denser in the mouth without adding weight. Some of the great wines of the world have balance but they have that third dimension of texture in the mouth. This is where we want to take Homage, into that realm. The 2016 is one of the prettiest Homages to date. It is almost Pinot like. It has real restraint, finesse and breed about it which is really quite special.’

After this we went through barrels tasting the 2018 Syrahs. It wasn’t the easiest ever vintage in Hawke’s Bay, but the wines are looking really strong, from the more commercial level through to the lots presumably destined for Homage.

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New York State (12) Silver Thread, Finger Lakes

The view from the tasting room over the Silver Thread vineyard

As a wine estate, Silver Thread is now 27 years old. The previous owner, Richard Figiel, bought the property on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake in 1977 and replanted with vinifera beginning in 1982.

Figiel was an organic enthusiast and for a while held organic certification, which is quite challenging in this climate.

Paul Brock

Current owners Paul and Shannon Brock bought Silver Thread Vineyard in 2011. Paul got a graduate degree in winemaking from Cornell in 2007, and Shannon has been a wine educator since 2005. They have expanded the vineyard to 8 acres. In addition, they buy some grapes from two Riesling vineyards.

Neither Paul or Shannon have come from money, and Paul teaches as well as making wine. ‘We’re working hard to raise 2 kids and make a living off the vineyard,’ says Paul. They have a sustainable approach to winegrowing but aren’t organic. ‘We’re not interested in spraying that amount of copper and sulfur,’ says Paul. ‘We are trying to get back there [organics] without using copper.’ He’s been trialling new materials, including various extracts and live organisms. They stopped using herbicides in 2014, and started planting started planting Fescues which don’t grow up into the canopy. ‘But we are sustainable and generate 100% of solar power,’ he says. He describes his viticulture as ‘biointensive’. In the winery he uses cultured yeast strains and pays attention to nutrition, and uses DIAM cork.

Assistant winemaker Andi Hawk with Paul Brock

Silver Thread Chardonnay STV Estate Vineyard 2015 Finger Lakes, New York
All neutral oak, 100% barrel fermented and aged on the lees. Pithy, detailed pear, apple and citrus fruit with a nice texture. Understated with nice depth to the fruit. Has a slight savoury quality. 91/100

Silver Thread Dry Riesling 2016 Finger Lakes, New York
Has about 12 components in it. Lively and bright with nice purity: there’s a lovely lemony core to this wine with a hint of sweetness. Nicely weighted with a fine herbal hint and some subtle peachy, melony richness. Long lemony finish. Nice weight. 91/100

Silver Thread Gewurztraminer STV Estate 2017 Finger Lakes, New York
Highly aromatic rose petal and lychee nose. Nice texture on the palate with a soft grapey core and some stony, spicy notes. 90/100

Silver Thread Riesling STV Estate 2016 Finger Lakes, New York
Very mineral and taut with nice dense citrussy fruit. Lively with good concentration and some hints of apricot and spice. There’s a lovely lemony intensity here. 92/100

Silver Thread Semi-Dry Riesling 2013 Finger Lakes, New York
There’s a pithy, herbal twist to the pear and citrus fruit. Some notes of wax, too, with attractive texture and weight. Some sweetness. 89/100

Silver Thread Semi-Dry Riesling 2016 Finger Lakes, New York
25 g/l rs, 8 g/l acid. Very attractive with nice density. Lively lemon, melon and pear fruit with a nice grainy structure. Great concentration with a floral limey edge to the fruit. There’s some sweetness, but it’s well supported by the acidity. 92/100

Silver Thread Dry Rosé of Pinot Noir STV Estate Vineyard 2017 Finger Lakes, New York
Dry, taut and quite mineral with lovely sappy red cherry and cranberry fruit. Nice delicate style that’s quite dry. Stylish stuff. 90/100

Silver Thread Pinot Noir STV Estate Vineyard 2015 Finger Lakes, New York
Open top fermenters, punched down three times a day. Never used stems. Juicy and lively with a sappy, savoury edge to the red cherry and plum fruit. Nice grip here with a lovely juicy, grainy character. Lovely balance in a light, elegant savory style. 92/100

Silver Thread Pinot Noir STV Estate Vineyard 2016 Finger Lakes, New York
Very sappy, bright and light with easy, fragrant cranberry and red cherry fruit. Light, focused and balanced with a slight sappy edge to the fruit. Fragrant and delicate with nice grip and acidity. 91/100

Silver Thread Blackbird STV Estate 2015 Finger Lakes, New York
76% Cabernet Franc, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon. Supple and expressive with some blackcurrant and blackberry fruit, with some cherry freshness. Supple and grainy on the palate with nice focus. Has some generosity, but also some good structure. 91/100

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Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois NV France

This is an interesting Champagne, marketed on the basis that fermentation is entirely in oak barrels, something that’s very rare for larger Champagne houses. It’s made of Premier and Grand Cru Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs; Premier and Grand Cru Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims, Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ; and Pinot Meunier from the right bank of the Vallée de la Marne. Vinification and ageing take place in oak casks at low temperature, there’s partial malolactic fermentation, around one-third reserve wines and 6 years ageing on lees.

Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois NV France
£65 Lea & Sandeman and
12% alcohol
One third each of the main Champagne varieties, fermented in old barrels, then aged for six years on lees. 7 g/litre dosage. This is really fine and delicious. The oak – average age of 15 years – doesn’t add any flavour, but the barrel ferment of the base wine gives a real supple, elegant texture to the wine. There are lovely cherry, apple and lemon fruity notes, with some refined toastiness from the extended lees ageing. Real harmony here with lovely elegance and depth. It’s quite vinous and is full of interest. 94/100

Three lovely Pinot Noirs from Franz Haas, Alto Adige, Italy

Franziskus Haas is the fifth generation to run his family’s winery, and here I got to try three of his Pinot Noirs, a variety he planted in the 1980s. Haas has some of the highest vineyards in the region, starting at 300 m and going up to about 850 m, and Pinot Noir, known as Pinot Nero here, clearly does really well in certain sites. The single-vineyard Pònkler was particularly impressive.

Franz Haas Pinot Nero 2016 Alto Adige, Italy
14% alcohol. 20% new oak, 15% stems. Very sleek and elegant with nice purity. Lovely raspberry and cherry fruit with some lushness but also nice savouriness. There’s good freshness and purity here with no rough edges. Lovely sleek fruit. 93/100

Franz Haas Pinot Nero ‘Schweizer’ 2015 Alto Adige, Italy
This is from selected vineyards. There’s a delicacy and savouriness to this wine, which shows focused fresh red cherry and raspberry fruit. There’s a bit of savoury cedary oak lurking in the background, but it is quite well integrated. Has freshness, precision and purity with lovely elegance. 94/100

Franz Haas Pinot Nero Pònkler 2012 Alto Adige, Italy
13% alcohol. Single-vineyard special release. Floral and intense but with some tarry, cedary savouriness from the well integrated oak. The palate is dense and structured with sweet black cherry and blackberry fruit, as well as some fine cherry notes. There’s real depth here, some mid-palate softness and lushness, but also real elegance. It has seriousness and it’s fully ripe, but never deviates from freshness and balance. 95/100

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Hawke's Bay, New Zealand (8) De La Terre

Tony Prichard, De La Terre

De La Terre is a Hawke’s Bay gem, and it’s the project of Tony and Kaye Prichard. Both started their careers as food technologists. For a long time, Tony was head winemaker for Church Road (1990-2005), but it went through a couple of corporate ownership changes and the feel of the place changed. So he decided to resign and do his own thing. He started working as a consultant winemaker and began building his own winery, in a quiet place off the beaten track, on the edge of Hastings. Before Tony and Kaye started here, it was just a green paddock.

Their vineyard is elsewhere: they have 5.3 hectares on Te Mata Peak. It’s a cluster of eight separate limestone terraces, each with their own distinct terroir. ‘What gives the difference is the variation in slope and contour,’ explains Tony, ‘and also the ratio of limestone to topsoil, and even the amount of limestone. These three factors have a huge influence on the flavour of the wine.’

An example would be the De La Terre Viognier, which Tony thinks tastes more like Chenin than Viognier because of the soils. ‘Kay is a foodie,’ says Tony, ‘and the wine style is all about texture, balance and elegance, not so much varietal definition. It’s all about palate texture and having everything in balance.’

At Church Road Tony worked with Deutz (Champagne) and Cordier (Bordeaux), so there is a bit of a European feel to the wines, deemphasizing the varietal importance. All their wines are made from hand picked, estate fruit. They do all their own bottling. They are trying to get away from the increasing tendency for industrial winemaking.

‘The key to white wines is hand picking,’ says Tony. ‘As soon as you machine harvest you start extraction in the vineyard.’

De La Terre have a new series of wines called Cloud, which are unfined and unfiltered. What drove this was in 2014 he stopped filtering the red wines entirely. The regime now is that he racks every three months, washes the barrels, adjust the sulfur and returns the wine. ‘Filtering is a brutal process,’ he says. ‘It robs some intensity and integrity from the wine.’

He’s also concerned about bentonite additions. ‘They are stupid,’ Tony asserts. ‘I’ve never seen a protein unstable wine yet. And wineries are cooking the samples up at 85 C. Winemakers unnecessarily fret over this, and damage their wines.’

As a consultant Tony says he has seen a lot of brett issues. ‘The easiest way to get brett into a red wine is to have a slightly stuck fermentation,’ he says. ‘Cold soak and wild fermentation are risk factors. Nutrient management is also very important. There’s a three tier risk factor here, and it is not about looking at yeast available nitrogen (YANs) but rather looking at vine vigour, plus brix levels (once you get into 24 you get into dangerous territory) and then adopt a strict molecular sulfur regime. Coinoculating for malolactic fermentation reduces the risk, too. Straight after malolactic fermentation Tony likes to have molecular SO2 running at 0.45-0.5, which can mean up to 45 or 55 ppm free SO2. He’s not keen on acidification: ‘I despise when you see acid in red wines as part of the palate structure.’ So sometimes he works with a pH as high as 3.75. ‘With elevage in barrel the total SO2 doesn’t build up: it oxidises to sulphate.’

In the tasting room, Tony is trying out his new home-made Enomatic-style nitrogen-powered wine dispensing system. It seems to work very well, and cost him just $500, as opposed to perhaps $10 000 if he’d purchased a commercial inert-gas dispensing system. It’s very cool.

De La Terre Cuvée Two 2015 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Blanc de Blancs, two years on tirage. Zero dosage, hand disgorged a la voleee without freezing the neck, recovering the yeast plugs to blend with what is being laid down, in a sort of solera system. They don’t use glycol because of the risk of contamination. Picked at 19.5-19.8 Brix, which is slightly higher than Champagne. Make an effort to get the whole bunch ripe by fruit zone leaf management, which stops the berries at the back being unripe and sour. Tight and focused with lovely compact citrus and pear fruit. Crisp but with a ripe fruit spectrum, with nice ripe fruits, a hint of toast and real harmony and focus. Lovely stuff. 92/100

De La Terre Reserve Viognier 2018 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand (barrel sample)
Whole-bunch pressed using a Champagne program (low yield of 510 litres/ton). Hyperoxidised must barrel fermented in old barrels. Smooth, seamless and textural with fine acidity and some mineral notes. Very stylish. 92-94/100

De La Terre Ridgeline Viognier 2018 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Hand picked, and pressed with SO2. Primary with nice texture and lush fruit, showing some apricot and pear notes. Has lovely weight. 89-91/100

De La Terre Chardonnay 2014 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Very gentle pressing, with a view to letting the limestone minerality come through. There’s a bit of reduction here with subtle toastiness. Nice finesse with a supple mid palate. Developing nicely. 92/100

De La Terre Reserve Chardonnay 2015 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
50% malolactic fermentation. Tony delays SO2 additions for 6 weeks after the malolactic to allow any diacetyl to degrade. 50% new oak. Seamless with hints of toast and whisky, some fine spices, and textured pear and lime fruit. Nice linear acid structure. 93/100

De La Terre Cloud Series Chardonnay 2017 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Fermented in Hungarian oak. Full malolactic. Nutty and mealy with some butterscotch and spice notes, as well as toast. Distinctive. 86/100

De La Terre Barbera 2015 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Tony says that Barbera is the most difficult red he’s ever dealt with. It has small berries with thin skins, and this is a low acid clone. Fresh and linear with nice cherry and plum fruit. Juicy and bright with lovely acid. 90/100

De La Terre Montepulciano 2015 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
This is the easiest red Tony works with, giving big bunches with big berries, and thick skins. This is a chunky, grippy wine with fresh red cherries. Restrained fruit, with raspberries and cherries and some ruggedness from the structure. 92/100

De La Terre Reserve Syrah 2015 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Very fine with pepper and clove notes, as well as some spiciness. Supple, expressive and bright with nice precision. Has real elegance and purity. 93/100

De La Terre Cloud Series Syrah 2016 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Supple with nice pepperiness and some fine spicy notes. Supple and drinkable with nice weight and finesse. 93/100

De La Terre Tannat 2016 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
From heavy clay soils with no limestone. Refined with nice density and supple black cherry and blackberry fruit. Structured but not too tannic. Expressive with nice texture. 92/100

De La Terre Grande Reserve Tannat 2015 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
This is from a special parcel that gets a lot of sun, and it’s 50% new oak. Concentrated with nice depth and fine spiciness. Dark, intense, structured and vibrant with good acidity and notes of cherry, blackberry, plums and spice. Lots of everything, but some restraint and savouriness. 93/100

De La Terre Tempranillo 2018 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand (cask sample)
Supple and quite light with elegant red cherry fruit, as well as some  raspberry. Fine grained and quite elegant. 90-92/100

De La Terre Noble Viognier 2016 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Sweet with ripe apricot and nice citrus fruit, as well as honey and spice. Very stylish and balanced. 93/100

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New York State (11) Red Newt, Finger Lakes

One of the leading wineries in the Finger Lakes, Red Newt is named after the eastern red spotted newt. It’s based on the east side of Seneca Lake in the hamlet of Hector.

Owner David Whiting tasting from barrel

David Whiting founded the winery in 1998 when he bought an old dairy farm with some land, but he’d been involved in the region since the mid-1980s, when it was just starting to grow. After college he went to California, spent a month there, and got exposed to wine. It was then that he decided to enter the wine business.

He headed back to the Finger Lakes to see what was happening, and began working in the vineyard at Fulkerson, which was then a grape juice business. He worked harvest there, and pruned grapes all winter, eventually landing a job as a cellar assistant. This was followed up with work at a few different wineries in the region.

David and his wife Debra had no money, but they leased the building. The previous owners had lost the farm. They started a restaurant and in the first year made 1200 cases of wine. The business just grew from there. To this day they have relied on growers and have never planted vineyards. Last year some land surrounding the winery came up for sale and David will be planting their own vines at last in a year’s time.

Kelby James Russell, winemaker, Red Newt

Kelby James Russell has been winemaker here since 2011. He was previously at Fox Run, working with Peter Bell, and has experience of doing vintage in Australia.

Production is currently around 15 000 cases, three quarters of which is Riesling.

But on this visit I also discovered a passion that Kelby and David share: for fortified wines, particularly in a sherry style. ‘The history we tell ourselves now is that the region started with Dr Frank and Hermann Weimer then picked up the torch,’ says David. ‘We totally overlook the fortified history from the 1930s until the 1970s, and the sparkling wine. We made millions of bottles a year: it was the largest wine region in the USA until prohibition.’

Red Newt Cellars Kelby James Russell Riesling 2013 Finger Lakes, New York
Made in Eden Valley style (Kelby has worked vintage there). Dry, stony, pithy and very limey. Dry, crisp and focused with very clean limey fruit. Structured and pure. 90/100

(The fermentation starts out with QA23 a thiol producing yeast, then it’s chased with a thiol-fixing yeast, Vin13. It’s fermented bone dry. Australians are scared of phenolics, and Kelby uses the heavy pressings because these are the equivalent of Australian free run.)

Red Newt Cellars Tangle Oaks Vineyard Riesling 2013 Finger Lakes, New York
No topsoil. Gravel over shale. Supple, expressive and bright with sweet citrus fruits. Quite delicate with fine lemon and pear fruit. Lovely purity and elegance here, showing fine-grained structure. Dry and delicate. 91/100

Red Newt Cellars Dry Riesling 2015 Finger Lakes, New York
Overnight cold soak on the skins, about 5% botrytis. 10 months on the lees. 3 g/l sugar. There’s a bit of sweetness here with lovely supple juicy citrus fruits. Very pure with nice concentration. Fine spiciness here with lovely tension and a nice apricot and mineral edge to the palate. Nice purity and balance. 91/100 ($19)

Red Newt Cellars The Knoll Dry Riesling Lahoma Vineyards 2015 Finger Lakes, New York
Clean fruit used here. 4 g/l sugar. Complex, mineral and taut with a lovely flinty, mineral edge, and some apricot, mandarin and lemon fruitiness. Has lovely tension with some generosity but also some keen acidity. Very fine. 93/100

Red Newt Cellars The Big H Riesling Lahoma Vineyards 2013 Finger Lakes, New York
Clean, pure and off-dry with nice mandarin, apple and lemon fruit. Some subtle cabbage hints with a nice linear citrus core. 89/100

Red Newt Cellars Circle Riesling 2016 Finger Lakes, New York
30 g/l sugar. Fresh, off dry and textured with lovely tangy mandarin and lime fruit. Has brightness and complexity, but also lovely balance. Finished tangy and citrussy. Great value. 90/100 ($14.50)

Red Newt Cellars Riesling Lahoma Vineyards 2013 Finger Lakes, New York
A Kabinett style with fresh, supple, slightly sweet lemony fruit and nice tangy detail. Fine, elegant and detailed with lovely fruit. Such a pretty, expressive wine with the sweetness (39 g/l rs) balanced beautifully by the acidity. Real finesse here. 92/100 ($24)

Red Newt Cellars Pinot Gris Vin Gris 2013 Finger Lakes, New York
Hard pressings, fermented in older oak and put through MLF. Complex, savoury, nutty and detailed with some structure and a bit of mandarin and pear fruit. Has a slight cedary edge. Nice detail here with some grippy structure. Distinctive. 92/100

Red Newt Cellars Gewurztraminer Sawmill Creek Vineyards 2012 Finger Lakes, New York
Off dry (and textural with lovely weight. There’s melon, pear and lychee, with rich texture, some sweetness, and a long, spicy finish. Very attractive. 92/100

Red Newt Cellars Gewurztraminer Sawmill Creek Vineyards 2010 Finger Lakes, New York
15.1% alcohol, 30 g/l sugar. Rich, sweet, seamless and quite complex with lovely pear and lychee notes, with some baked apple and spice. Balanced and textural with a sweet finish. 90/100

Red Newt Cellars Cabernet Franc 2017 Finger Lakes, New York
5 d cold soak, whole cluster, spontaneous fermentation, 4 weeks on skins. Stainless steel ageing. Very fresh and fine with lots of juicy bright raspberry and cherry fruit with a bit of spicy grip. Primary and delicious. 90/100

Red Newt Cellars Glacier Ridge Cabernet Franc 2017(cask sample)
Very shallow soils. Whole cluster ferment then to barrel. Supple, juicy, showing lovely red cherry and berry fruits with a bit of grip. Very elegant and pure with bright focused fruit. Superb. 92-94/100

Red Newt Cellars Syrah Glacier Ridge 2017 (cask sample)
A site well suited to Syrah, which is at risk of winter damage. Very pure, expressive and a bit spicy and peppery but with elegant red fruits. Lean and taut but with finesse. 92-94/100

Red Newt Cellars Glacier Ridge Pinot Noir 2017 Finger Lakes, New York (cask sample)
Concentrated, powerful and peppery with nice grip. Structured with vivid, grippy, slightly reduced black cherry and raspberry fruit. 91-93/100

Red Newt Cellars Vidal Amontillado Style 2012 Finger Lakes, New York
This barrel had flor and then was fortified to 18% alcohol when the flor died. Nutty, complex and salty with real complexity. So good. 91-93/100

Red Newt Cellars Riesling Fino Style 2017 Finger Lakes, New York
Tangy and salty with lovely finesse. Stony and mineral with a bit of citrus. Expressive. 92/100

Red Newt Cellars Pinot Gris Palo Cortado Style 2011 Finger Lakes, New York
Complex, spicy, mineral nose with hints of raisins and old furniture. Really textured palate with a hint of sweetnes, a nutty edge and a lovely cedary, spicy finish. Saline and delicious. 93/100

Red Newt Cellars Cream Sherry 2006 Finger Lakes, New York
Made from Niagara grapes. These hybrids have a long history of making long-aged solera sherries because the methyl anthranilate (which gives the hybrid taste) goes after a while. This is so complex and rich with nice density. Spicy with lots of complexity. 93/100

Red Newt Cellars Merlot Fortified 2012 Finger Lakes, New York
Juice fortified using grape spirit. Sweet, spicy and fruity with nice texture and some warmth from the alcohol. Smooth and moreish. 90/100

Red Newt Cellars Concord Fortified 2013 Finger Lakes, New York
From 100 year old Concord vines, this is fermented then fortified. Spicy and minty with bright sweet berry fruits. Has a herby, minty edge and a slight foxiness. Very attractive. 90/100

Red Newt Cellars Tangle Oaks Noble Select Riesling 2015 Finger Lakes, New York
220 g/l sugar, pH 3.3, 8.1 g/l acid, 8% alcohol. Concentrated and textured with melon and apricot as well as some citrus character. Viscous and complex with great balance and smooth harmony. Such a beautiful wine. 95/100

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