New York State (11) Red Newt, Finger Lakes

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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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