Nathan Kendall is one of the bright lights of the Finger Lakes wine scene. He’s winemaker at Hickory Hollow winery, but also makes wine under his own name. And he’s also involved in a new project with Pascaline Lepeltier, the famed New York Sommelier, making a pet nat called Chëpika.
Nathan met Pascaline a few years ago when she was putting together a wine list for Rouge Tomate – she was talking about finding some local organic wines which don’t exist. So Nathan suggested working with these hybrids which are better adapted to being farmed organically. The first of these grapes were planted in the region in the 1820s. They went back to these original vines, and Delaware and Catawba were the original grapes planted, which they used for these two wines.
They did a trial batch in 2014 with bulk juice, doing traditional method. They decided there was a great deal of potential. So they found a property that had been organic since 1971, bought some fruit and made it as a pet nat. In 2016 they used a bit of sulfur at press, in the 2017 none. ‘It was to see what was possible,’ said Pascaline. ‘We wanted to make wines as transparent as possible.’
They upped production to 1850 bottles in 2017. These are really interesting wines that show the potential of hybrids.
Chëpika Delaware 2016
Direct press, spontaneous fermentation. Picked at 18 Brix. Tangy and bright with lovely pure citrus fruit. Juicy and a bit grippy with nice freshness and brightness. Has keen acidity with a pithy finish. So refreshing and detailed, with a saline edge. 89/100
Chëpika Catawba 2016
Such a distinctive, bright lemony fruity nose. Juicy and bright with some spicy, tangy grapefruit and lemon notes. Juicy and tangy with a jellyish like character. So juicy and bright with keen acidity. Delicious if a bit unusual. 88/100
Chëpika Delaware 2017
There’s a slightly nutty edge to the bright lemony fruit. Textural and interesting with a fresh finely spiced citrus, apple and pear character. Complex and detailed with some savoury biscuit notes. 89/100
Chëpika Catawba 2017
Bright, lively and lemony with a fine spiciness and bright pithy, lemony fruit. Floral, spicy and grapey. Linear and focused with a lovely bright grippy edge to it. Great acidity. 90/100
Nathan Kendall started his own brand in 2011. He hails from the region, worked around the world, and came back in 2011. He started working at Ravines, where he began to make a few barrels of wine. Every year he’s gradually made more wine. ‘I’m a big fan of textural components of wine,’ says Nathan. ‘I’m trying to make richer, more textured wines.’ He uses spontaneous fermentations and doesn’t add anything, except for a bit of SO2.
Nathan Kendall Chardonnay 2016
Blend of two vineyards, one 40 years old (clay loam), one 20 (shale soils). Nutty and detailed with lovely fine-grained structure. Nice lemony notes with some pear and peach richness, and some fine spiciness. Has lovely balance and weight: such finesse here. 92/100
Nathan Kendall Dry Riesling 2013
Comes from the White Springs vineyard. This is so delicate, primary and pristine still with spicy, slightly salty citrus fruit. Fine and expressive with lovely citrus and pear fruit, with a hint of apple and a long mineral finish. Very fine and expressive. 92/100
Nathan Kendall Dry Riesling Green Label 2016
10.8% alcohol. Two vineyards, one 45 yr old one 20. Older vines in neutral French oak, the younger in stainless steel. Linear and focused with high acidity. Quite mineral with lovely precision and freshness, and a bit of grip here. A touch of sweetness (4 g/l) on the finish. Very expressive. 91/100
Nathan Kendall Dry Riesling Black Label 2016
Harvested later, from silt loam soils. Realised tasting these two they could never blend. 12.8% alcohol. Stainless steel fermentation. Stony, bright and lemony with lovely precision. Dry and linear with a nice steely edge. 91/100
Nathan Kendall Pinot Noir Rosé 2017
Pinot Noir. Made the anti-Rosé. Direct pressed to neutral French oak barrels, full malolactic, gross lees ageing. Reductive and quirky but with lovely texture in the mouth. Stylish and smooth with nice weight. Very smooth and detailed. 89/100
Nathan Kendall Pinot Noir 2016
Incorporated a new vineyard and increased whole cluster to 40%. Same vineyard blend as Chardonnay. Pale coloured. Smooth and sweet with a warm, spicy, fine textural palate. Pretty, rich, warm and spicy with nice weight. It’s rich and warm but also elegant and quite fine. Very textural style. 91/100
Nathan Kendall Pinot Noir 2015
100% 20 year old vines on shale, back pack cuttings from Clos Vougeot. This is quite intense with bright raspberry and cherry fruit. Mouthfilling and warm with nice brightness, but also a warm spiciness. Juicy and quite chunky, but has some elegance too. 90/100
Hickory Hollow Cabernet Franc 2016
Doing some whole bunch, trying to make balanced wines. Supple and elegant with fresh juicy raspberry and red cherry fruit. Quite elegant and bright with lovely juiciness. Supple and honest, and quite delicious. Juicy red fruits character. 92/100
Hickory Hollow Cabernet Franc Merlot 2016
Pale cherry red in colour. Very supple and refined with nice fine spiciness. Juicy red cherry and plum fruit. Easy and balanced with lovey supple red fruits. Lovely balance with fresh acidity. Expressive. 92/100
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