Words of Wit, Wisdom and Wonder on Wine & Spirits

Monday, November 7, 2011

Well Stated: Empire Cellars Debuts

Someone wise once quipped that there was nothing so great as an idea whose time has come. Empire State Cellars has proven the point well.

Gift packs and accessories greet you at the entrance

For the uninitiated, Empire State Cellars is the name of the recent wine store that opened last week at Tanger Outlet Center in Riverhead, where rack after rack are filled with wines and spirits produced exclusively in the state of New York. The brainchild of Jim Silver, General Manager at Peconic Bay Winery, along with winery owners Paul and Ursula Lowerre who financed the creation of Empire State Cellars, the ample store is chock a block with terrific bottlings from wineries on the North and South Forks of Long Island, the Finger Lakes region and the Hudson Valley.

The impressive Wall of Wine at Empire State Cellars

More than 150 New York wineries are represented and, at present, about 400 bottlings of wines and spirits can be found. Silver reports that he hopes to boost the number up to 600 and beyond before too long and increase the number of New York wineries the store stocks to nearly 200.

Wall of Fame portraits of winemakers, vineyard managers and owners

 Apart from the massive wall of wines that flanks the left side of the store, with floating racks and tables situated throughout the space, there is a tasting bar and Silver is bringing in a large communal wood table with seating as well. On the green colored walls adjacent to the tasting bar is an ersatz "wall of fame" that showcases blow-up portraits of seminal New York winemakers, vineyard managers and winery owners. Included in the portraits are Pindar founder Dr. Herodotus "Dan" Damianos, Bedell Cellars winemaker Richard Olsen-Harbich, Paumanok's Charles and Ursula Massoud, and Lenz winemaker Eric Fry, among others.  Eventually Silver says he hopes to represent as many New York wine personalities as the wall will hold.

 A rare 10-year vertical of Riesling from Peconic Bay Winery

An unabashed oenophile and thoroughly knowledgeable wine enthusiast, Silver has methodically selected some interesting and rare bottlings.  For anyone looking to immerse themselves in the world of fine wine made in New York, Empire State Cellars offers ample opportunity. There are offbeat varietals such as Vignoles, Lemberger and Blaufrankisch represented (Hudson, Finger Lakes and Long Island respectively) along with a vertical bottling of Peconic Bay Winery Riesling of the last decade. Also worth noting are select Pinot Noirs from the Finger Lakes and Reserve bottlings of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Meritage blends from the Hudson Valley.

Hard to find bottlings from Clovis Point and One Woman
There are even certain bottlings from Long Island that were new to this writer such as Coffee Pot Cellars Merlot. And did you know that the Hudson Valley produces single batch whiskey? Empire State Cellars has it. Interestingly, Silver is already thinking that if the Tanger Center store works, the Empire State Cellars idea could be duplicated elsewhere, especially at airports in the metropolitan area. Given the embarrassment of wine riches on display and for sale at Empire State Cellars, it's not much of a stretch to think we'll not see other shops popping up elsewhere before too long. Great ideas have a way of doing that.