Friday, April 28, 2006

Finger Lakes News and Notes

-- Sheila Livadas features Heron Hill Winery in her newest winery profile.

-- Finger Lakes chefs take their bounty to New York City.

--Tickets are still available for the May 7 & 8 weekend for The Cayuga Wine Trail's Wine & Herb Festival.

-- The New York State Canal System opens in April for the first time in 33 years.

-- Tickets are on sale for 'Taste of the Finger Lakes' on May 25 at The Corning Museum of Glass featuring over 30 woneries and restaurants.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Finger Lakes Winemaker Q&A- Vinny Aliperti, Atwater Estate Vineyards

Todays winemaker Q&A is with Vinny Aliperti, winemaker at Atwater Estate Vineyards which is located on the east side of Seneca Lake. Vinny joined Atwater in 2001 after helping craft wines at Wolffer Estate in Long Island and at the esteemed Hermann J Wiemer Vineyards across the lake from Atwater. 2005 was a very good year for Vinny with his 2004 Dry Riesling and Somerset Blush each pronounced best in their class at the New York Wine & Food Classic, as well as an 89 point rating in Wine Spectator magazine for his Riesling.

WW: Briefly describe Your Philosophy of Winemaking.
VA: To make fruit forward dynamic wines that emphasize the intrinsic varietal characteristics.

WW: What is your favorite thing about making wine?
VA: The process. From the vineyard to the bottle, the process is truly unique year in and year
out. Like life, it has its setbacks and its triumphs, and at the end of the day
there is great satisfaction in pulling it all together.

WW: If you were dropped on an island and could have any 3 wines, what would they be?
VA: Beer.

WW: Do you prefer real cork, synthetic cork, or screw cap and why?
VA: Real Cork. I want a natural product in contact with another natural product.

WW:What advice would you give to anyone wanting to become a winemaker?
VA: It is a whole lot of work and a whole lot of fun.

WW: What wine tasting advice would you give to someone visiting the Finger Lakes for the first time?
VA: Don't over do it, four to five winery visits per day is plenty and try to
avoid weekends in the fall

WW: What makes the Finger Lakes area special to you?
VA: Quality of life stuff like the scenery, little congestion, friendly folks etc.

WW: What is the wine you are most proud of making and why?
VA: I like them all for what they are.

WW: What new wines are in the works for your winery?
VA: We will be releasing our second Cab Franc 2004, a Cab Sauv./Merlot blend
2004, and our very first Reserve Riesling 2005

WW: If you had to be something else besides a winemaker, what would it be?
VA: Rock Star

WW: Who has been the most important person to you in your
development as a winemaker and why?
VA: I apprenticed for three years with Roman Roth at Wolffer Estate Vineyards
on Long Island. I was green and soaked up a lot.

WW: Who is your favorite musical artist or band?
VA: Bob Marley and the Wailers

My thanks to Vinny for answering my questions. Be sure to stop by Atwater during the Seneca Lake Wine Trail's "Spring Wine and Cheese Weekend" April 29 and 30. All participating wineries on The Trail will be pairing their wines with foods prepared with products from New York's own Heluva Good Cheese Company. I hear tickets are selling fast. Go to the
Seneca Lake Wine Trail website for more info about this event and also for info about The "Riesling To Visit Passport", which offers a great value on wine tastings.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Finger Lakes News & Notes

-- In an earlier post, I had mentioned that I really liked the new Fulkerson t-shirt design. I found out who the artist is. It is Carol Culhane and you can view her art at

--Here is a nice travelog on the Finger Lakes.

--Who was the"Swamp Hermit of the Finger Lakes"?

--I'd like to add my belated condolences to the family of Bill Simiele, better known as "Captain Bill" of Captain Bill's Seneca Lake Cruises. Here is a nice article on Bill.

--An Ohio reporter makes the 9 hour drive to The Finger Lakes to see and taste.

--New York Times wine reporter Eric Asimov quenches his spring fever with Riesling.

-- Bully Hill gets a mention along with Alaskan Veggie wine in the Miami Herald.

-- Henry Stark writes about Thirsty Owl and Hosmer wineries.

-- In whats being a called a blow to the Finger Lakes wine industry, Governor Pataki has vetoed 2 million dollars in this years state budget that was earmarked for promotion and marketing of the wine industry.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Wine Blogging Wednesday

Today is Wine Blogging Wednesday being hosted by the

Wine For Newbies blog and podcast. Keep an eye out for their upcoming podcast on New York state wine. This months mission is to pick a white wine other than the Big 3- Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and the Finger Lakes beloved Riesling. If you've read my blog at all, you know of my taste for Traminette. Heck, I even wrote the Traminette varietal character for Appelation America. So yes, I will shamefully use this occasion to espouse the virtues of Traminette.

First a little history. Traminette was conceived in 1965 when H.C. Barrett from the University of Illinois crossed Gewurztraminer with Johannes Seyve 23.416 (a close relative of Seyval Blanc). The seeds were subsequently planted in the University of Cornell grape-breeding program in 1968 and today it is grown in many states. It is prized in the Finger Lakes for its hardiness in cold climates.

Two weekends ago, Fulkerson Winery released their 2005 Traminette and I picked up a bottle or three. Fulkerson has been growing Traminette grapes since 1981 and their experience with this grape shines through. Fulkerson 2005 Traminette displays the fragrant floral and citrus aromas that I find heavenly in Traminette, with tastes of lime, pear, green apple, and Gewurz spice, with a long lingering and somewhat dry finish. I am a fan of Gewurztraminer, but I feel that Traminette reveals more fruit flavors and less bitterness. My wife does not like Gewurtztraminer, but she does like Traminette, so if you don't care for the spiciness of Gewurz, "Give Tram A Try". I like that. I will make "Give Tram A Try" my new slogan to convince all of America and the World to try Traminette. Buhahahah. My plan has been hatched. Food pairings that I have seen suggested for Traminette include turkey, salmon, Thai food, Mexican food, and even Easter Ham.

My thanks to Wine For Newbies for this WBW and remember: Give Tram A Try!!!!!!!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

I Am Now A Certified Wine Judge....... Not

Over the weekend I took part in the Golden Nose Wine Judging event organized by the Seneca Lake Wine Trail and I must say I had a wonderful time and met some great people. Finger Lakes wine people are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. The event was held at the beautiful Corning Museum of Glass. The premise behind the event was to train novices about wine judging and then actually have them judge Finger Lakes wine- all in one day!
Obviously, us wine novices could not be taught in one day what it takes professional wine judges many many years to achieve. But we got a good beginning foundation with short tutorials such as "The 6 S's For Successful Wine Tasting" by wine educator Lorraine Hems, "Components of Wine" by Peter Bell- winemaker at Fox Run Vineyards, "Wine Flaws" where Dave Whiting- winemaker at Red Newt Cellars, made us smell what happens when wine goes bad, "How To Identify Grape Varieties" by Chris Stamp- winemaker at Lakewood Vineyards, and "An Overview of The Finger Lakes Wine Industry" by Jim Trezise- President of The New York Wine & Grape Foundation.
Then we seperated into Judging Panels of 4-5 people, each led by a wine professional who guided us and answered our questions as we sampled and judged 6 flights, each comprised of 4 unidentified wines from the same category (Riesling, Chardonnay, etc.). We judged each wine on our own and gave it a score and then we discussed each wine with the other members of our panel to decide if it merited a medal (Gold, Silver, or Bronze). At times, there was disagreement but my panel's wine professional, Dave Whiting from Red Newt, skillfully guided us to a peaceful resolution.
It was surprisingly difficult to evaluate the sometimes very subtle nuances in the wines and my tastebuds got fatigued very quickly. But, being a wine geek, it was fun to discuss wine with others who share my obsession and get a glimpse into the life of a wine judge. I left with a new respect for them.
Saturday night, we then got to see and taste the fruits of our labor as the awards were given out by Mike Rusinko, President of The Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance, at a dinner at The Corning Museum of Glass. I had never been to the Museum before and I was very impressed with the facility and the food. I hope to go back and tour the museum this summer.
It was a wonderful weekend and I have to thank Paul Thomas and Liz Stamp and everyone involved for their hospitality and for putting on a great event. What I enjoyed even more than the judging was meeting a lot of wonderful people who share my enjoyment of all things wine.
Here are the award-winners of the 1st Finger Lakes Golden Nose Wine Competition:
Chateua Lafayette Reneau- Owners Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Knapp Vineyards- Vignoles
Lakewood Vineyards- Cabernet Franc
Lucas Vineyards- Miss Behavin
Prejean Winery- Riesling
Red Newt Cellars- Red Newt White
Sheldrake Point- Riesling Ice Wine
Torrey Ridge- Blue Sapphire

Atwater Vineyards- Dry Rose
Earle Estates- Pear Wine
King Ferry Winery- Apple Mystique & Cabernet Franc
Lakewood Vineyards- Cabernet Franc & Niagara
Torrey Ridge- Niagara & Blue Sapphire

Atwater Vineyards- Somerset Blush
Amberg Wine Cellars- Chardonnay Reserve & Pegasus
Anthony Road- Devonian Red
Atwater Vineyards- Estate White
Cascata Winery- Red Velvet
Chateau Lafayette Reneau- Proprietors Reserve Chardonnay & Owners Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Fulkerson Winery- Matinee
Glenora Winery- Brut
Goosewatch Winery- Merlot, Pinot Grigio, Melody, Cabernet Sauvignon, Traminette, and White Port
Knapp Vineyards- Vignoles
Lucas Vineyards- Miss Behavin
Montezuma Winery- Cranberry Bog
Prejean Winery- Riesling
Red Newt Cellars- Red Newt White
Seneca Shore Wine Cellars- Lemberger
Shaw Vineyard- Pinot Noir & Cabernet Sauvignon
Sheldrake Point- Dry Rose, Riesling Ice Wine, & Barrel Reserve Chardonnay
Swedish Hill Vineyard- Blanc de Blanc & Cynthia Marie Port
Tickle Hill Winery- Sweetie Pie
Ventosa Vineyards- Saggio

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Finger Lakes Wine Competition Awards

Finger Lakes wineries did well at The Finger Lakes International Wine Competition. See all of the award winners here. Here are the Finger Lakes wineries that won Best, Double Gold, Gold, and Silver Awards:

Best Ice Wine- Sheldrake Point Riesling Ice Wine
Best Riesling- Chateau Lafayette Reneau Johannesberg Riesling

Miles Wine Cellars- Wisteria Blush

King Ferry Winery- Apple Mystique
Prejean Winery- 2004 Estate Grown Cayuga
Casa Larga Vineyard- Cab Merlot
Chateau Lafayette Reneau- 2005 Dry Riesling
Torrey Ridge Winery- 2004 Riesling
Widmer Brickstone Cellars- 2005 Semi Dry Riesling

Heron Hill Winery- 2002 Baco Noir Reserve
Fox Run Vineyards- 2002 Cabernet Franc
Miles Wine Cellars- 2002 Cabernet Franc
Rooster Hills Vineyards- 2004 Cabernet Franc
Ventosa Vineyards- 2003 Cabernet Franc
Chateau Lafayette Reneau- 2001 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Chateau Lafayette Reneau- 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Dry
Casa Larga Vineyards- Dolce Blanco Cayuga White
Hosmer Winery- 2004 Cayuga
King Ferry Winery- No Oak Chardonnay
Sheldrake Point Vineyard- 2004 Waterfall Chardonnay
Swedish Hill Winery- 2004 Reserve Chardonnay
Fulkerson Winery- 2004 Diamond
Arcadian Estate Winery- Merlot
Casa Larga Vineyard- 2003 Merlot
Knapp Vineyards- Merlot
Arbor Hill- Ambrosia
Glenora Wine Cellars- 2005 Pinot Blanc
Heron Hill Winery- 2003 Ingle Vineyard Pinot Noir
Goosewatch Winery- Rennaisance Red
Miles Wine Cellars- 2001 Milestone
Casa Larga Vineyard- 2005 Riesling
Glenora Wine Cellars- 2005 Riesling
Hosmer Winery- 2004 Vintners 100% Riesling
Hunt Country Vineyards- 2004 Semi Dry Riesling
Widmer Brickstone Cellars- 2005 Dry Riesling
Torrey Ridge Winery- 2003 Traminette
Widmer Brickstone- 2005 Vidal Blanc

Congratulations to all the award-winners!!!

Finger Lakes News & Notes

-- A couple of Finger Lakes wineries did well in the Pacific Rim International Wine Competition.
Fulkerson Winery got a Gold for their 2004 Diamond (one of my favorites) and a Bronze for their 2004 Dry Riesling. Prejean Winery received a Gold for their 2004 Late Harvest Vignoles and a Bronze for their 2003 Chardonnay.

-- Sandra Silfven on winery trends at the Wineries Unlimited show.

--Get your tickets early for the Tierce release dinner at Red Newt on May 5th. I can't wait to try it.

-- The New York Wine & Grape Foundation honors Willy Frank with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

-- Don't forget Swedish Hill Winery and Goose Watch Winery are having their New Vintage Days celebration on April 15 & 16. Get first taste of their new vintages as well as discounts on select wines.

-- Meathead comes to Rochester.

-- Those crazy Polar Plunge people.

-- BellaOnline talks about Finger Lakes wine.

-- Here's a good update on The New York Wine & Culinary Center from Dowd's Wine Notebook.

-- Fill in the Blanc with Lenn Thompson at Wine Sediments.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Lakewood Vineyards Visit

Liz Stamp at Lakewood Vineyards pours you a tasting, answers questions from five people, runs the register, helps a customer find a bottle, and does five other things all at the same time. And all with a smile! I was only there for 20 minutes, but I was exhausted after watching Liz. Lakewood Vineyards is a true family winery, with the entire family involved in running the winery. I've even seen the children practicing their sales skills in front of the winery. Even the winery dogs, who are beautiful Australian Shepherds (Having 2 Aussies of our own, we know that their charm can not be resisted), do their part in retaining customers. The Stamps have been growing grapes in the Finger Lakes for over 50 years and started Lakewood in 1988. They make about 25,000 cases of wine per year and it is a beautiful place to stop and taste their wine offerings.

Here are my tasting notes for our visit: 2003 Dry Vignoles, $9.99, Bright citrus aromas with the light taste of oak and vanilla. 2004 Chardonnay, $12.99, Very nicely balanced with slight oak overtones. 2004 Vignoles, $8.99, Tastes of citrus and pineapple, with a touch of honey and finishing nice and light, An excellent wine at a great price. 2003 Cabernet Franc, $15.99, Nice aromas of raspberry/blackberry with a raspberry jammy start with some smoky pepperriness and finishing soft and balanced. 2002 Port, Made from Baco Noir with ripe fruit aromas, sweet, rich, and decadent, a lovely dessert wine. We also scored a sample of the Just Bottled and Not Yet Released 2005 Riesling. All I can say is, if this Riesling is representative of the 2005 crop, then it's going to be a good year. Even newly bottled, it showed awesome floral aromas and a perfect balance of citrus and mineral. Also, see my post right after this for the Q&A with Lakewood winemaker Chris Stamp.

Winemaker Q & A - Chris Stamp, Lakewood Vineyards

Name & title: Chris Stamp, Winemaker/VP

Winery name: Lakewood Vineyards

WW: Briefly describe your philosophy of winemaking:
CS: It's all about the fruit. We're non-elitist. There are very few bad grape varieties for making wine, but a whole lot of bad ways to make wine. We strive to find the best approach to unlock the greatest beauty in each variety.

WW: If you were dropped on an island and could have any 3 wines, what would they be?
CS: Which island? Different wines go better with different islands.

WW: Do you prefer real cork, synthetic cork, or screw cap and why?
CS: Natural cork. One of the characteristics of wine that separates it from widgets is sensuality. You put a screw cap on and you take the sensuality out.

WW: What advice would you give to anyone wanting to become a winemaker?
CS: It's not a romantic job. You'll have a lot of dirty T-shirts at the end of the day.

WW: What wine tasting advice would you give to someone visiting the Finger Lakes for the first time?
CS: Get here soon, before the rest of the world discovers us. The lines will be shorter and the prices more attractive.

WW: What makes the Finger Lakes are special to you?
CS: How can a place this beautiful not be over run with humanity?

WW: What is the wine you are the most proud of making and why?
CS: That's like asking me which one of my kids is my favorite. We give 110% to every one of our wines. The rest of the equation is up to God.

WW: What new wines are in the works for your winery?
CS: It's top secret. If I told you, I'd have to kill you.

WW: Who are your 3 favorite Finger Lakes winemakers?
CS: There's not a one of them I don't consider a friend. I think I'll take the fifth.

WW: What are your 3 favorite non-Finger Lakes wines?
CS: Do they make wine other places?? Seriously, it's a moving target, but I'd have to say, Peju Province Cabernet Franc, Alsatian Gewurztraminer, and Gran Reserve Tempranillo from the Rioja region.

WW: If you had to be something else besides a winemaker, what would it be?
CS: Beer maker. Is there a pattern emerging here?

WW: Who has been the most important person to you in your development as a winemaker and why?
CS: My dad. His homemade wine was so bad I was inspired to study the right way to do it.

WW: Who is your favorite musical artist or band?
CS: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band.

WW: Who is your favorite movie actor?
CS: Certainly nobody from "Sideways." Maybe Gene Hackman. He was awesome in "Unforgiven," one of my favorite movies.

My thanks to Chris for answering my questions and for making great wine. See my post above for my visit and tasting notes on Lakewood Vineyards.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Finger Lakes Winery Visit Report

We visited about 10 wineries this weekend and
I will post reports over the next week or so.
We had to start at Fulkerson because I couldn't wait to taste the new Traminette that was just being released this weekend. And it did not disappoint. Awesome floral and citrus scents with a citrus-grapefruit bite into a lightly spiced crisp finish. Being a huge Traminette fan, this one's a winner in my book.

Our friendly server Margaret also gave us a taste of the new Matinee, made from Himrod grapes, which are a small seedless white grape variety. Himrod was developed at The New York Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva as a cross between Ontario and Thompson Seedless grapes. The truly unique thing about this wine is its aroma and taste of mint. It is an excellent and unique sweet white wine with 8% Residual Sugar.

I was also very impressed with their new T-shirt design, featuring a heart-shaped grape wreath with the Finger Lakes drawn in the center. I don't know who the designer is, but it's one of the nicest designs I have seen for Finger Lakes winery apparel.