Holiday Gifts for Food-Lovers: Envelope, Orange Wine From Channing Daughters Winery
Channing Daughters, widely considered one of the best wineries in New York State, cultivates its vineyards on a wild and windy stretch of Long Island's South Fork. The grapes from the estate--like Tocai Friulano, Muscat Ottonel, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Blaufrankisch, Pinot Noir, Dornfelder, and Cabernet Franc--are harvested by hand and red grapes are foot-stomped, just like on I Love Lucy.
If you're looking for a gift for a locavoric oenophile, check out Channing Daughter's Envelope (as in, pushing the...). In our interview, Patrick Watson of the Brooklyn Wine Exchange called this wine "world-class," and said he'd drink it over white Burgundies at the same price. What makes it particularly interesting is that it's an orange wine--a white that's made like a red.
Most white wines are fermented without their skins, using just the juice of the grape. Even when the skins are left in contact with the grapes, the skins are almost always removed within a day. Red wines, by contrast, are crushed and fermented with the skins, which gives the wines their color, tannins, and heavier body. Orange wines are whites fermented like reds--left to macerate with their skins.
In the case of Envelope, the Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, and Malvasia Bianca grapes used in the blend were held in an open-top fermenter with their skins, and then aged in oak barrels for 13 months. The back of the bottle notes that Envelope was inspired by the Vino da Meditazione (meditation wine) from the Friuli region of Northeast Italy, which is the center of orange wine production.
The 2007 vintage has 13% alcohol and is 84% Chardonnay, 11% Gewurztraminer, and 5% Malvasia Bianca. It is deep gold in color, and when you stick your nose in the glass, the wine smells honeyed and aromatic, a bit like apricots. It's heavy-bodied and viscous, and has a flavor reminiscent of spiced peaches. It's floral and tropical-fruity, as you might expect from a Chardonnay-Gewurztraminer blend, but also somehow a little bit dark and funky. It's an interesting wine to drink, in the best sense.
Unfortunately, it isn't cheap (only 69 cases were made), retailing for $39 at Astor Wines. As a wine to drink with your take-out on a Tuesday night, it's far too expensive, but as an unusual gift for someone who would appreciate it, it's fair. And maybe that person will crack it open on the spot and share.