Every state needs a champion. New York has Thomas Pastuszak

Posted January 19, 2017

Stacy Brody

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Get ready. I'm about to put you in an Empire Estate of mind. 

Every state makes wine. So every state needs a champion. For New York, that's Thomas Pastuszak, a New York native and New York City sommelier. I first met him at a New York Drink New York event, where he led a panel discussion on Riesling in the Finger Lakes. 

I reached out to him some months later to ask him about visiting the store. In November 2016, he took the train out to Jersey and led an amazing wine talk about Finger Lakes wine. Not only is he a highly-regarded city somm, he's got his hand in two amazing FLX wine projects. 

Before he fell in love with wine, he thought he'd be a doctor. He studied neurobio and classical piano up at Cornell University in Ithaca. Rather than pursuing this medical career, he diverted into wine and food, taking on a role with Colicchio and Sons. He now serves as wine director at The NoMad, not to mention New York state wine advocate #1.

A New Yorker through and through, he came out to NJ walking from the train station to the store. We had an amazing line-up of NY wines, from bubbles to Riesling to rose. 

We started the evening off opening the Wiemer Blanc de Blanc 2009. This vintage is of special significance to Pastuszak, as he worked at Wiemer during the 2009 season. Made in the Methode Champenoise style and disgorged in 2016 - yea, that's 6.5 years on the lees - this small production wine is both toasty and super lemony. It's a great "food wine," said Pastuszak, who recommended pairings from sushi to scallops, from cheeses to salads and from roast chicken to fried chicken. (Fried food and sparkling wine just go together.) 

Transitioning from sparkling to Riesling, Pastuszak noted the preference sommeliers show for acid-driven wines, from Champagne to Riesling. The cuisine of NoMad is French-inspired: lively, flavorful and easy to pair with such selections. 

From cellar to table, Riesling is versatile. It can be made in styles ranging from bone-dry to dessert-level sweet and served alongside a variety of foods. In the Finger Lakes, Riesling vines are forced to work. Their roots dig deep, breaking through rock to reach minerals and water. As there are many different soil types in the Finger Lakes, as well as many different wineries, there are a correspondingly large number of different Riesling styles being made. 

And even Pastuszak has a hand in the Riesling game. Empire Estate is a project bringing together some of the biggest names in NY wine, including Pastuszak and winemaker Kelby Russell of Red Newt. The team behind Empire Estate draws their inspiration from the dry Rieslings of Austria. As 2015 was a generous vintage, the wine is naturally broader. Its lean, fresh style makes it a perfect partner for seafood and green salads. 

Not busy enough with NoMad and Empire, Pastuszak has a project of his own: Terrassen. It's a small project, with Thomas and his wife sourcing grapes from Seneca Lake vineyards. Their Cabernet Franc Rose, from that generous 2015 vintage, is food-friendly and versatile and just a bit spicy. Pastuszak names the roses of Raffaut (Loire) and Tempier (Provence) among his inspirations. Bottled in late spring and released the following summer or fall, this rose is delicious all year round (#RoseIsNotASeason). 

One of the country's top somms and most impressive figures in wine, this New York native is in an Empire Estate of Mind. Are you?

 

 

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