By Christopher Matthews
At a recent — and first-ever — group tasting of the Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc Coalition (HVCFC) wineries, one of my standout wines was Whitecliff Vineyards‘ 2017 Olana Vineyard Cabernet Franc.
It seems that I am not alone in my opinion…because Whitecliff’s Olana just scored a Gold medal at the 34th Annual NY Wine Classic, “The Oscars” of New York wine competitions, organized by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation.
Considered by many the Hudson Valley’s signature red (vinifera) grape, Cab Franc is also popular across other New York state wine regions, especially in the cool-climate Finger Lakes, where it also can shine. Some 42 of the 685 medals awarded at this year’s NY Wine Classic were Cab Franc-based wines, including the winner of the prestigious Governor’s Cup (Best-in-Show), Six Mile Creek Vineyard‘s 2016 Cab Franc (Finger Lakes region). Only nine of the Cab Franc wines that earned medals won Double Gold (5) or Gold (4) in the competition, however, which puts Whitecliff’s Olana in some elite company.
“Olana” refers to the majestic residence and property (now a museum and park) of famed 19th Century Hudson Valley School artist Frederic Church.
While Whitecliff’s winery and main vineyards are located in Gardiner, NY, west of the Hudson River, owner and founder Michael Migliore has developed a new vineyard just below Olana, literally on the east bank of the Hudson, 700 feet from water’s edge (and 263 feet above it). With a four degree slope, making for excellent air drainage, it resembles something along Germany’s Rhine river, and benefits from a prevailing southwestern wind that helps dry the grapes. Planted in 2016, the vines grow in north-south rows in gravelly sandy loam (Hoosic soil type). Clearly, this is a well-chosen spot, with formidable terroir — and stunning Catskills views.
With an aromatic nose of plum and earth, this single vineyard wine already has amazing structure and length, particularly from such young vines. The future for the Olana Cab Franc cuvee is indeed bright — it could become a Hudson Valley benchmark.
Also representing Hudson Valley Cab Franc well at the Classic was Fjord Vineyards, which took two silvers for its estate-grown 2017 Cab Franc and 2018 Dry Rosé of Cab Franc, respectively. It also earned a Gold medal for its 2018 Albariño.
I look forward to judging some of these wines at the upcoming Hudson Valley Wine and Spirit Competition in September.