Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Finger Lakes Winemaker Interview

Readers of this blog have been asking me for more in-depth postings about Finger Lakes wine and winemakers and now, through the generosity of the fine winemakers of The Finger Lakes, I will be posting Q&A's with Finger Lakes Winemakers.

My first Q & A is with one of the premier winemakers in the region, Thomas Laszlo - Vice President of Winemaking Operations at Heron Hill Winery. Laszlo crafted top-notch wines with wineries in Canada and Hungary, before coming to Heron Hill in 2002, and he is especially praised for his ice wines.

WW: Briefly describe Your Philosophy of Winemaking:
TL: Attention to detail in the vineyard and the winery. Intervene only when
intervention will yield the best results.

WW: What is your favorite thing about making wine?
TL: It is a great creative outlet. I enjoy pushing the boundaries of
winemaking science with creative intuition.

WW: If you were dropped on an island and could have any 3
wines, what would they be?
TL: Chateau Pajzos 2000 Tokaji Aszueszencia, J.J. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr
1990 Riesling Auslese, Heron Hill 2003 Estate Riesling Icewine

WW: Do you prefer real cork, synthetic cork, or screw cap and why?
TL: Real cork. I like the feel and texture of cork. I like to see how cork
ages and changes in bottle after decades yet still seals the wine perfectly.

WW: What advice would you give to anyone wanting to become a winemaker?
TL: Drink a lot of different wine all the time for 4 solid years. During this
time read all that you can about viticulture and winemaking. Look to
apprentice under somtimes difficult, opinionated winemakers who are at the
top in their class.

WW: What wine tasting advice would you give to someone
visiting the Finger Lakes for the first time?
TL: Taste all the whites and know that Riesling is World Class in the Finger
Lakes. Taste the red wines and keep an open mind. Do not compare to other
red wine growing regions. Find out what is special in our reds.

WW: What makes the Finger Lakes area special to you?
TL: The best terroir for Riesling in North America and maybe the best in all
of the New World. Scenic and undisturbed.

WW: What is the wine you are most proud of making and why:
TL: Heron Hill Riesling Reserve Dry and Icewine from our Estate vineyard
planted in my birth year: 1968. Intense MINERAL!

WW: What new wines are in the works for your winery:
> 2005 Ingle Vineyard Select Late Harvest Chardonnay (Botrytis affected)
2005 "Old Vines" Riesling (youngest 32 years and oldest 38 years), 2005 Late
Harvest Muscat

WW: Who are your 3 favorite Finger Lakes winemakers?
TL: Herman Wiemer, Morton Hallgren, Peter Bell

WW: What are your 3 favorite Non-Finger Lakes wines?
TL: Chat.Calon Segur (3rd Growth St.Estephe) Chat. Lafite-Rothschild,
Egon Muller Scharzhof Riesling, Saar,Germany

WW: If you had to be something else besides a winemaker, what would it be?
TL: Master Carpenter

WW: Who has been the most important person to you in your
development as a winemaker and why?
TL: My Wife. She introduced me to winegrowing in Niagara,Ontario during
college. She has always supported and sacrificed for my pursuit in winemaking.

WW: Who is your favorite musical artist or band?
TL: Grateful Dead

WW: Who is your favorite movie actor?
TL: Clint Eastwood

WW: Any other comments you would like to add?
TL: Every now and again when you have some extra cash buy a really top notch
wine of pedigree and prepare a simple Sunday meal around it and enjoy with
one to three other persons.

Once again, Thanks to Thomas Laszlo for taking the time to answer my questions. Heron Hill is a first-class operation and is a must-see winery for anyone visiting the Finger Lakes. For more information on Heron Hill Winery, visit their website and see my blog post (Look in November archives at right side of page) on my visit there last year. Stay tuned for more winemaker Q&A's.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

News & Notes

-- Calling all wineries from around the world, don't forget that the deadline of March 27, 2006 is fast approaching to submit your wine for entry into the 2006 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition with judging being done April 1-2 in Rochester NY. Last year's event attracted over 1600 wines from around the world.

-- Lenn at LennDevours blog clued me in to an interesting feature on the Appellation America website. They have descriptions of grape varieties paired with artistic renderings of those grape personality profiles. They also have a good reference page for the Finger Lakes appellation. You can also submit your own descriptions of grape varieties that do not have descriptions yet. I submitted a description for one of my favorite Finger Lakes grapes, the Traminette grape developed at Cornell University-
Traminette-> You are the daughter of that spicy bad girl of grape royalty, Gewurtzraminer and that dependable hard-working gentlemen Seyval Blanc. You have your fathers balance and strong backbone, but you have your mothers zest for life. You are a perfect spring garden of floral scents whipped by the winds of enchantment. You are the Princess Diana of the grape world. On the outside, you may appear to be the quiet and obeying wife, but on the inside there is a fire that longs to seduce anyone who ventures to know you.

-- Glenora Wine Cellars is running some wine specials: Monarch Cabernet – a fruit forward, easy drinking red, $8.99 for a 1.5L or $6.99 for a 750ml. Catawba – light, refreshing and grape flavored, $9.99 for the party size 1.5L.
Or if you need a little incentive to re-stock your wine cellar, order a full case of wine (either on line or by phone) and use coupon RESTOCK06 and they'll take an extra 5% off your purchase. (That’s a total of 20% per case!) Also, in their recent newsletter, they answer a question that has been on my mind, what with the unusual winter weather in the Finger Lakes this year:

"How are the vines doing, is the question that we often hear at this time of year as many of our friends and customers are concerned if the winter has caused damage to the vines (actually the fruiting buds.)
Each grape variety has a different tolerance to cold temperatures ranging from 0 degrees Fahrenheit for a variety such as Merlot to minus 5 to 10 degrees for Riesling and Chardonnay, to a minus 15 for many of the native varieties.
Unfortunately it not quite as clear cut as just being a “temperature only thing.” Other factors that can impact a vines’ ability to withstand winter cold temperatures would be the stresses of the previous growing season (heavy crop, lack of rain, and disease pressure). Probably the biggest potential for bud damage is an extreme rapid change in temperature. We are definitely walking the tightrope now with respect to “some possible bud damage” to “significant bud damage.” Our weather pattern this past week has been one that could create issues for us. Temperatures reached a high of 55 degrees last Thursday night then started to decline. By Sunday morning we were at 7 degrees. We will be cutting buds to check for damage this week. Keep your fingers crossed!" The Weekend Wino will certainly be saying a prayer for the vines!

--Sheila Livadas at FingerLakesWine.com writes her latest Finger Lakes winery profile on Atwater Estate Vineyards, located on the east side of Seneca Lake.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Finger Lakes News Flakes

-- We opened a bottle of Torrey Ridge Delaware this week and I remembered why we had purchased it. In my experience, most wines made from the native Delaware grape are too grapey for my taste. But this white wine moderates that grapiness and sweetness with a crisp acidity that really makes a good and balanced wine. So, if you are a fan of native grape varieties, I'd recommend the Torrey Ridge Delaware. I tried to access the Torrey Ridge website, but it is under construction. Hopefully, they'll have a great new website soon. If you are visiting wineries on Seneca Lake, make sure to visit Torrey Ridge, with one of the newest and grandest tasting rooms in the Finger Lakes. And don't forget to walk around the corner to Earle Estates Meadery for a unique wine tasting experience of mead, or honey wine.

-- I came across this Vintage Chart from Wine Enthusiast magazine that shows their vintage ratings for Finger Lakes wine. They rate the 2001 vintage for both reds and whites as the best in the 12 years of ratings listed.

-- I have not read it yet, but the February issue of the new wine magazine for women, Wine Adventure Magazine, has an article on Touring & Tasting in the Finger Lakes( subscription required).

-- If you are looking for something fun to do this weekend, check out the Beat The Blues weekend at Dr. Frank's, Heron Hill, and Hunt Country wineries on the west side of Keuka Lake. Beat the winter blahs with live Blues music and great wine.

-- The battle for direct shipping continues. Tom at Fermentations and Free The Grapes are keeping the pressure on for states to allow direct shipping of wine, to benefit consumers and the small family-owned wineries.

-- Here is an excellent article on the way that acidity acts in wine and on our palates.

-- If you are planning a trip to the Finger Lakes, check out Finger Lakes Wine Adventures for a customized wine tour.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Finger Lakes News & Notes

-- Don't forget, it's Mardi Gras on the Cayuga Wine Trail this weekend. Participating wineries will have wine and food samples and prizes and, if you dress up in your best Mardi Gras costume, you have a chance to be named King or Queen of Cayuga Mardis Gras.

--Jeff Richards latest wine column tells of Bully Hill's new limited release wines comemmorating the Eldridge Park Carousel.

-- From this article, it looks like the Finger Lakes Scenic Railway "Blues and Brews" Train is a lot of fun. They are having another one on March 18. Here is their website.

--If you are looking for Producers of Fresh Produce, Meats, and Dairy Products in the Finger Lakes area, The Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty website has a good directory.

-- Here is a fascinating article on the year they had snow on the 4th of July in the Finger Lakes.

-- If you are a Grape Grower or interested in growing grapes, don't miss the Finger Lakes Grape Growers Convention and Trade Show March 3 & 4 at the Waterloo Holiday Inn.

-- A nice primer on the Riesling grape in this article. Unfortunately, only a very brief mention of Finger Lakes Riesling.

-- In trying to find out what all the fuss is over Robert Parker, the notorious wine critic who it seems can make or break a wine, I came across this interview(I don't know when it was written). From this interview, he seems like an ok chap to me.

-- Don't forget to sign up at the bottom of this page for my new monthly newsletter filled with Finger Lakes news, wine specials, and events.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Finger Lakes News Waves

-- After a top-secret meeting at an undisclosed location with my Finger Lakes inside source "Deep Vine", I can tell you, my dear readers the following classified information. But you must all promise me that you won't tell anyone else: Highland Cellars/Hickory Hollow is coming out with a ready-to-drink Pinot Noir that will be value-priced, and also you should take a look at their new website. Fulkerson Winery is almost out of their Vidal Ice Wine, so get it while you still can. And Deep Vine says, Get your tickets now to enjoy the fun and wine at Savor Syracuse, April 13 at The Landmark Theatre in Syracuse.

-- A taste of Austria opens up in Lodi. Now I know what a Heuriger is.

-- Sheila Livadas' newest winery profile is on Chateau Lafayette Reneau. Mrs. Wino & I had a romantic stay at their Bed & Breakfast a few years ago and we really enjoyed our morning walks through their vineyard and down to the lake. A first-class operation by any measure.

-- The new 2006 Steuben County Travel Guide is out. You can order your copy by calling

-- If you are a biker, Bike Magazine has named The Finger Lakes Trail at Letchworth State Park as one of the best, least-known bike trails in the country. The 22 mile trail takes mountain bikers along the rim of the Genesee River Gorge.

-- According to this study, all that wineries have to do to sell more wine is play the right music. Who knew it was that easy?

-- If you are interested in what goes on at a winery, here is a good winery blog.

-- All you professional winemakers out there look out for all of us amateurs when we get a WinePod, the new Home Personal Winery. Thanks to Tom at Fermentation for posting about this.

-- Don't forget to check out my wine links on the right side of the page.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Finger Lakes Valentines Wines

Mrs. Wino (Honey, I hope you don't mind being known as Mrs. Wino, but I guess it's too late to ask now) and I celebrated V-Day by pulling a couple of Finger Lakes wines from our cellar and enjoying them after we savored Mrs. Wino's perfectly cooked New York Strip steaks topped with caramelized onions. We opened a Vidal Blanc from Barrington Cellars. Barrington Cellars is a small, family-owned winery tucked up in the eastern hills overlooking Keuka Lake. We always enjoy our visits to their tasting room. The Vidal Blanc, $7.75, 6.5% Residual sugar, 11.25% alcohol, exhibited nice clean floral and mineral scents and opened up on the palate with a citrus start, sweet pear in the middle, and ended with an earthy mineralness for a very nice semi-sweet taste for Valentines Day.

The other wine we opened is one of our favorite Rieslings from one of the finest wine (and beer) making operations in the Finger Lakes, Wagner's Semi Dry Riesling. I know, I know, Dr. Frank and Hermann Wiemer are the Riesling kingpins just across Seneca Lake but Wagners Semi-Dry ($11.99, 2.5% Residual sugar) fits my palate perfectly with a touch of citrus/lime, a touch of melon sweetness, and the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity for me. Wagner Vineyards is always a favorite stop. There is so much to see and do. Wine tastings and purchases (usually by the case for me & Mrs. Wino), beer tastings and purchases from their microbrewery, unique wine items in their gift store (I got a fabulous wine barrel-style wine rack there a few years ago), great food with an amazing view from the Ginny Lee Restaurant, a very interesting winery tour, summer weekend entertainment on the deck of the unique 8-sided main building, rousing up the ornery geese in the pond, or just enjoying a glass of vino as you let your mind drift into the sparkling waters of Seneca Lake. I guess you can tell. I am a fan of Wagner's. And, as I held Mrs. Wino's hand on Valentines Day, these 2 Finger Lakes wines swept our minds off to a breezy summer day on the deck staring at the diamond water and the whispy white clouds in an azure blue sky. Ahhhh, I just can't wait for spring!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Finger Lakes News Drippings

--It's not too early to think about your spring/summer vacation to the Finger Lakes. To see all that the Finger Lakes has to offer, check out Finger Lakes Wine Adventures- It's not just a wine tour, It's a Personalized Wine Adventure. Don't Drink and Drive. Leave the driving to Finger Lakes Wine Adventures and let them create a Personalized Fun & Educational Experience for you!!! Just click on the link above or at the left side of the page for more information.

--Fox Run Vineyards is having the following wine events this weekend: Friday, Feb 17- Food and Wine pairing at 43 Phila Bistro in Saratoga Springs.- Call 518-584-2720 for info.
Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 18 & 19- Cabernet and Kisses at Fox Run Vineyards featuring their 2002 Cabernet Franc.

-- Sheila Livadas at FingerLakesWine.com writes her winery profile on Seneca Shore Wine Cellars. As I've written before, they make one of my favorite buttery, silky Chardonnays.

-- Here is some more information on the 19,000 square-foot New York Wine and Culinary Center now being built in Canandaigua.

-- Geneva On The Lake resort is hosting a series of free Finger Lakes wine tastings and culinary demonstrations. Call 315-789-7190 for times. The schedule is:

Feb. 24- Anthony Road Wine Co.
March 10- Hermann J Wiemer Vineyard
March 24- Red Newt Cellars
April 28- Standing Stone Vineyards

-- Travel writer Rudy Maxa writes about the Cayuga Region.

-- Here is everything you wanted to know about that Finger Lakes staple, Grape Pie.

-- The winner of Geneva's bicentennial slogan and logo is announced.

--If you want to receive monthly updates about Finger Lakes news, events, specials, and discounts, just fill out the form at the bottom of this page.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

News & Notes

-- Amberg Wine Cellars is offering special Wine and Chocolate Gift Baskets for Valentines Day. They are also having a sale on their Pegasus, Red Baron, & Traminette wines.

-- Four Chimneys Winery is offering a Valentines discount of 15% off of all internet wine orders through Feb. 14.

--The newest winery profile by Sheila Livadas is about Americana Winery, located on Cayuga Lake.

--A new "Cheesery" called Finger Lakes Farmstead Cheese Co. has opened in Trumansburg near Cayuga Lake. What's better to go with Finger Lakes wine than Finger Lakes cheese. Here is a good article about it.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Finger Lakes Valentines Ideas, Events, and Other Ramblings

--The Grapery online store has put together some special Valentines Day Wine and Chocolate gift packages to romance your Valentine with.

-- Casa Larga is having its Fire and Ice Festival, Sunday Feb. 12 from Noon to 6pm featuring Ice Wine tours, Ice Sculptures, and their Ice Wine Fiori Delle Stelle.

-- The Keuka Lake Wine Trail is offering two special weekends of Be Mine With Wine on Feb. 11 & 12 and Feb. 18 & 19. as participating Keuka Lake wineries offer up special romantic food and wine pairings. The Seneca Lake Wine Trail is having their Chocolate and Wine weekend on Feb. 11 & 12 with participating wineries offering up special wine and chocolate pairings. Also, many Cayuga Lake wineries are planning special Valentines weekend events (see Schedule here).

--2 wineries offering romantic evenings of food, wine, and music are Chateau Lafayette Reneau on Feb. 10 and Knapp Vineyards on Feb. 11.

--For a list of other February events happening in the Finger Lakes, see the Events Calendar at www.FingerLakesWineCountry.com

-- My secret Finger Lakes wine info source, who I'll call "Deep Vines" (remember Deep Throat from Watergate) tells me that Red Newt Winery is coming out with a new wine on the sweeter side (not yet named) this spring made from Niagara grapes. Deep Vines also says Penguin Bay Winery (formerly Finger Lakes Champagne House) has a great lineup of wines featuring an outstanding dry red named Maroon Four (a Shiraz-style blend). And Cornell has developed 2 new red grapes that are designed for the Finger lakes cooler weather. More news from Deep Vines as I get it.

-- More on the Great Wine Shipping Debate from Pennsylvania in this article. It seems that, due to recent court actions, Pennsylvania which has had one of the most restrictive shipping policies, now has no shipping regulations at all as they wait for the Pennsylvania legislature to come up with new laws. The author of this article was successful in about half of his attempts to have wine shipped to Pennsylvania. The best quote in the article is from a California winery owner who says "If I were in the gun business, I could ship to any state... but not with wine". How true.

--Fox Run Vineyards winemaker Peter Bell was featured last month in Dan Bergers Vintage Experiences newsletter as one of 22 winemakers who has added to the fine wine scene, but who have not received proper recognition. Twenty-two winemakers were profiled and only two from the Finger Lakes Region were featured, Peter Bell and Derek Wilber. Dan Berger states in his article "At Fox Run, Peter's Rieslings and Cabernet Francs make him a superstar on the rise." Owner Scott Osborn stated " We are incredibly proud of another great recognition for Peter Bell. Peter is committed to the highest levels of excellence and this recognition only proves that further. We are also very happy that two of the top listed winemakers reside and work within the Finger Lakes Region." Also, Fox Run owner Scott Osborn will be featured this week in an online interview (podcast) on www.thewinescout.com

-- Ontario County, located in the northern Finger Lakes region, has been named "Best Place To Live In Rural America" by Progressive Farmer magazine. Just one more reminder that the Finger Lakes region is one of the most beautiful places in America. But a lot of us already knew that.

--If you are producer of local Finger Lakes food products, you will want to be included in the "Guide To Foods Priduced In The Finger Lakes". Click here to read how to get listed.

--In off-wine topics, Who is telling all these people on American Idol that they are good singers? To combat this problem, I've come up with a new bumpersticker "Friends don't let friends who can't sing go on American Idol". Also, The Super Bowl's today and I was thinking about the halftime show with The Rolling Stones. I really hope their are no "wardrobe malfunctions" because that would just be nasty.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Bits and Pieces

--Developers and conservationists square off in Hammondsport about land for a park in honor of hometown hero Glenn Curtis in this article.

--I missed it, but Hunt Country Vineyards was featured on NBC's Today Show last month spotlighting their ice wines. It's always good to see national recognition for a Finger Lakes winery.

--Found this interesting wine travelog through Europe and America from Aussie blogger Martin Fields.

-- Wine collectors take note- Tea may be the new liquid investment as this article shows.

-- Congratulations to Holly Howell, who has been named Director of Education at the new New York Wine & Culinary Center, scheduled to open this summer in Canandaigua.

--Here is a list of Wine Festivals around the country this year.

-- The fight for fair wine shipping laws continues at the Fermentation blog and at
the Free The Grapes website.

--See more great photos of the Finger Lakes here and here and here.