Top 3 Wines of New York and California: An Interview with an Expert

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Cindy Garcia, trained wine specialist and connoisseur

The challenge of answering the question, “What are the 3 best wines from California and New York?” is difficult on many different levels, but creating the criteria with which to judge them is even more complicated. So, instead of my trying to figure this out, I asked an expert.

Introducing my good friend Cindy Garcia. Her credentials as a wine specialist are impressive. Post retirement: Wine and Spirit Education Trust II certified, wine club member Ravines Winery, Heart & Hands, (Finger Lakes) Gold Medal Wine Club, (California), ex wine ambassador at NY Kitchen Tasting Room, amateur wine maker, wine related vacations and has sampled wines from all 50 states.

I asked Cindy to explain the criteria for her wine choices as well as recommend some food pairing ideas for each wine. Here are her top wine picks along with delicious pairings and recipes…

“I’ve selected three wineries from each state based on a couple of categories that I decided upon: My personal favorite, price point, and /or a 90+ rating. I have also picked the wineries based on varietals that I typically drink. The varietals being Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Cabernet Franc for the New York wineries. For California, I chose Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.

New York wineries represent the Finger Lakes AVA (American Viticulture Area) and Hudson Valley AVA. The California wineries are from NAPA, Anderson Valley, and Central Coast AVAs.


Heart & Hands Wine Company, Cayuga Lake, New York

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This winery is located in a serene setting overlooking the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake. It is owned and managed by husband and wife team Tom and Susan Higgins. This boutique winery produces around 2000 cases per year while focusing exclusively on Pinot Noir and Riesling wines.

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2017 Elaine’s Pinot Noir ($36.99)

Limited production wine crafted from Pinot Noir grown on Elaine’s Vineyard on the east side of Seneca Lake. This is my favorite Pinot Noir east of Oregon (which I believe produces the best Pinot Noir wines). Fruit was hand-picked and optically sorted to select only the best fruit, and 50% of the stems were included in the fermentation. The wine was aged in Francois Freres French oak for one year. Aromas of cloves, cinnamon and cherries on the nose, followed by dark cherries and plums on the palate and medium-firm tannins on the lingering finish.

This wine pairs nicely with oven-baked salmon filets, garlic and herb roasted pork tenderloin, a braised duck breast, mushroom and truffle flavored dish or burgundy beef bourguignon.”

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Burgundy beef bourguignon recipe, credit:

Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, Seneca Lake, New York

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The winery was selected as one of the Wine & Spirits Magazine Top 100 Wineries of 2020! The wine I’ve selected, 2019 Dry Riesling was #19 on VinePair’s 50 Best Wines of 2020.

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2019 Dry Riesling ($21.99)

This is the winery’s signature wine. The grapes are sourced from three distinct vineyard sites on Seneca Lake. The grapes are hand-picked, hand-sorted, whole cluster pressed with 4-month indigenous yeast fermentation. The nose on this wine is full of floral and honey notes maybe even a whiff of lime. One would taste layers of citrus, stone, and tropical fruit on the palate with taut acidities and a clean mineral finish.

You might consider pairing this with a baked fish; maybe a grouper or halibut, with onions and curry spices like cumin and coriander seeds.

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Curry grouper recipe, credit:


Millbrook Vineyards & Winery, Hudson River Region New York

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This winery is called “the Hudson Valley’s flagship winery” by the New York Times and “a great place to visit” by the Wall Street Journal.

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2017 Cabernet Franc Proprietor’s Special Reserve ($40)

Cabernet Franc, a relative of Cabernet Sauvignon, is a small grape with high acidity, but has a less intense profile and is also typically medium to full-bodied. Once used as a blending grape, it has become very popular as a stand-alone varietal. Aromas of violet and dark bramble fruits such as blackberry and black raspberry characterize the rich notes. On the palate, you’ll get flavors of black currant and coffee bean with ripe tannins that finish smoothly.

Serving suggestions for this wine would be a filet mignon, pasta with Bolognese, mushroom risotto or braised short ribs.

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Pasta Bolognese recipe, credit: Italian Sons and Daughters of America



Four Vines (Central Coast)

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California’s Central Coast is a vast, rugged landscape stretching from Santa Barbara north to Monterey Bay. It’s wild country with a gorgeous coastline and few towns. Four Vines makes interesting wine, for interesting people.

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Four Vines 2018 Naked Chardonnay, Edna Valley ($11)

This wine is Bohemian in spirit, artistic in nature and sourced from extreme coastal vineyards in Edna Valley, which is just a stone’s throw from the Pacific. This wine was chosen as #6 in the Wine Enthusiast 100 Best Buys 2020.

Aromas of crisp Asian pear, citrus blossom and mint. The palate explodes with flavors of melon, lime, pear and a slight hint of guava.

This lean, no oak style of Chardonnay is great with raw seafood like oysters, sushi, sautéed fish, pâté, chicken piccata, or vegetable risotto. The crispness, minerality, and delicate flavors crave crisp, delicate foods.

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Maki sushi rolls recipe, credit:


Goldeneye (Anderson Valley)

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Goldeneye Winery is the Mendocino County outpost of Napa Valley Merlot powerhouse Duckhorn. It has found fertile ground in the cool-climate Anderson Valley with this vineyard near the headwaters of the Navarro River, in the southern reaches of the valley, producing intensity.

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Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Gowan Greek Vineyard 2017 ($86)

Big, rich and creamy, with concentrated plum tart and dark cherry flavors, backed by medium grained tannins. Dried green herbal notes on the palate that lead to a finish that offers chocolate mousse accents. Pinot Noir pairs nicely with mushroom soup, mac and cheese, grilled vegetables, grilled duck or grilled pork tenderloin.

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Chef John’s creamy mushroom soup, credit:


Round Pond Estate (Napa Valley)

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Located in the acclaimed Rutherford region of Napa Valley, California, Round Pond is a family-owned and operated estate designed around our world-class vineyards, gardens and orchards. This is an area renowned for the depth and complexity of its Cabernet Sauvignon, and limited-production wines produced from its estate.

Kith & Kin, Old English for “Friends & Family,” is a Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from all corners of the Napa Valley to create a supple and approachable wine. Always a crowd pleaser, Kith & Kin Cabernet Sauvignon will surprise your palate with ripe blueberry and black cherry partnered with warm notes of vanilla, mocha and hints of lilac. It finishes with velvety tannins and a touch of sweet oak.

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Kith and Kin Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($40)

Some people may say that this wine is beautifully complex, however, its soft aromas of violets, cola, ripe fig and plum linger on the nose. You’ll experience bright, ripe blackberry and boysenberry with the first taste, softening through the palate with black cherry, cocoa, and allspice. The finish leaves you with notes of licorice and tarragon. This cabernet pairs deliciously with dishes of beef, lamb, poultry, and mature and hard cheeses.”

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Mediterranean grilled lamb recipe, credit:

Thanks so much Cindy for this exciting list! Whittling down the top wines from New York and California must have been rough. Hope you were able to sip on a few of these delightful picks while you deliberated. Let’s end with a fine toast:  “There are good ships, wood ships and ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships and may they always be. Sláinte!


Diane Weisbeck

Diane Weisbeck

Diane Weisbeck is a native New Yorker. A luxury lifestyle content writer, Diane was a retail buyer for Lord & Taylor’s flagship store, a product design/developer for Saks Fifth Avenue’s corporate office and a Director of Retail for major museums and high end retailers. She assists global luxury brands with their marketing and brand strategies and is also a Fair Trade corporate art consultant.

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