Monday, July 23, 2007

2 More Finger Lakes Wineries Open Their Doors

Imagine Moore Winery

Tim Moore, owner of the new Imagine Moore Winery in Naples NY, has realized his lifelong dream of opening his own winery and he is certainly well-qualified. Tim is a graduate of U.C. Davis and has worked around the world in the wine industry, but his "day job" overseeing Vineyard Operations with a company you may have heard of called Constellation Brands brought him to the Finger Lakes and this is where Tim is putting down roots.

Tim's vision for Imagine Moore Winery is to be a winery that makes superior wines and does it by being environmentally-friendly, emphasizing sustainable farming practices, and even going so far as to use recycled wood from old homes nearby in the building of the tasting room and using lead-free organic inks on his colorful bottles.

Tim, along with co-owner and wife Diane and Finger Lakes tasting room veteran Mike Johnson have created a unique tasting room experience, from the cozy and artful decor to the very cool stemless wine tasting glasses that you get to keep with a tasting ($3 for tastings, 4 wines right now, but more on the way). You can feel the passion and vision that this team puts in to every aspect of Imagine Moore, and especially in the wine. Here are my tasting notes:

2006 Peace- Pinot Gris: .4%RS, $16.99, in New French Oak for 2 weeks then finished in Stainless, Very Soft mouthfeel with rounded green apple and citrus tones and finishing with the perfect touch of vanilla and subtly spicy oak.

2006 Joy- Dry Riesling: .6%RS, $14.99, 1st vintage of grapes from new vineyard, very fresh and floral aromas, Once again very soft mouthfeel with rounded citrus tones and long but subtle mineral finish that just melts into your mouth.

2006 Love- Semi-Dry Riesling: 3.0%RS, $14.99, Again that very soft mouthfeel (In all of the Finger Lakes Riesling I've tasted, I don't remember any other Finger Lakes Riesling being this soft and rounded- Tim attributes it to the low yield from the new vineyard). It has an amazingly soft and delicate texture, but it doesn't sacrifice fruit with velvety peach and honeyed citrus highlights.

2006 Change- $11.99, 88% Cabernet Franc & 12% Corot Noir (one of the new grape varieties from Cornell). This is 2006 fruit using carbonic maceration (click here for info on carbonic maceration) in a Beaujolais style, Soft berry fruit with a hint of pepper and a little edginess at the finish, perhaps from the Corot Noir.

Coming within the next month are new bottlings of 2006 Cab Franc (labeled Wisdom), a 2006 Cab/Syrah blend (labeled Synchronicity), and a semis-sweet 5.5% RS Cayuga/Traminette blend (labeled Harmony). The website at will be up soon.

Keuka Lake Vineyards

Mel Goldman, owner of the newest winery to open on Keuka Lake (aptly named Keuka Lake Vineyard), has always admired and respected the small farmer. So after retiring from his life in International Development which took him all around the world to Nepal, India, Korea, South America & Europe, Pittsburgh-born Goldman decided that farming would be a suitable and noble pastime for his retirement.

With degrees from MIT and Princeton, he certainly had the ability to learn new skills and, through a fortuitous series of events 15 years ago, he ended up purchasing a vineyard right smack dab in the middle of Finger Lakes Rieslings' birthplace and neighboring the venerable Dr. Frank. But Mel, who is a self-taught winemaker (which it seems is rare and refreshing in this day) is not intimidated by his well-known neighbors because he likes to do things his own way.
For instance, tell him that a Dry Vignoles or Dry Delaware won't work, and he'll prove you wrong.

Mel has spent the last 10 years selling his grapes to top Finger Lakes wineries and now it's his turn to taste the fruit of his labor. In fact, Goldman's vision is to be a small batch (1500 cases this year) estate winery focusing on high quality Rieslings (of course) and top-notch food-friendly Vignoles (what's that you say? - but sweet Vignoles is how its always been done). Don't tell that to Mel. He has proof that top restaurants will buy and serve his Dry Vignoles...Because They DO! And a Dry Delaware sounds like the ultimate oxymoron, but you'd be the moron not to try it!

Here are my tasting notes:

2006 Dry Riesling: $15.00, .45%RS, Crisp and clean with lots of that classic Keuka mineral and a hint of spice at the finish, sort of similar to his famous neighbor and that's saying a lot.

2005 Dry Vignoles: $13.00, 1.0%RS, Rounded lime and lime zest with a long dry finish. A unique Dry Vignoles and it really works. I'll drink it with Mrs. Wino's famous pork tenderloin.

2005 Delaware: $10.00, the label says semi-dry, but a Delaware at 1%RS is Dry in my book. I got a little sweet banana & petrol on the nose, very soft and subtle pear and light tropical fruit, but still crisp and clean with a touch of good petrol at the finish, a very complex Delaware, this is not your Father's Delaware but a Delaware that wants to be taken very seriously. And an excellent value at $10.00.

2005 Leon Millot: $12.00, This grape was a new one for me, so it was Appellation America to the rescue with info, it seems this grape was popular in France as a way to deepen the color of Pinot Noir but now the French have all but banished it. Mel actually inherited these 50 year old experimental vines on his property planted under the direction of none other than Charles Fournier of Gold Seal fame. 1 year in French Oak, clean and balanced with dark berry fruit balanced with oak.

With Finger Lakes winery veteran Sharon Morrell overseeing the tasting room and Mel at the helm of Keuka Lake Vineyards, expect the unexpected and don't be afraid to try something a little different. You just might like it.
In closing, I just have to say that the quality of the new wineries opening in the Finger Lakes is truly excellent and, just when you think that it's all been done and how will a new winery ever be able to differentiate itself from the herd, people like Tim Moore and Mel Goldman come along and wow us by putting their unique spin on Finger Lakes wine. It surely bodes well for the Finger Lakes region.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Finger Lakes News & Notes

- Finger Lakes Wine Festival is this weekend!!!

- Dan Berger rates Finger Lakes Rieslings

- Dr. Frank Rkatsiteli is truly unique

- Grass Roots Festival starts today

- This sounds very cool & I'm going to try and get up to Geneva this weekend for the Hobie Cat championship.

- Waterpark & Resort get preliminary approval in Ontario County

- The Riesling Rennaisance continues

- Millie Sherwood gives gift of nature

- Invasion of the giant hogweed

- Tourists want more than just Finger Lakes wine

- Chili Judging is similar to Wine Judging

- A very nice and detailed Finger Lakes travelogue

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Finger Lakes Wine Industry Trends for 2007

As the second half of 2007 begins, and after visiting & tasting at about half of the Finger Lakes 90-some wineries (I know, I'm way behind in posting my winery visit reports) I thought I would write about some trends that I have taken note of during my travels and tastings this year:

1. 2006 Rieslings- I'm finding that a good number (not all) of the 2006 Dry Rieslings I've tasted have a very bold citrus up front that I find a bit overwhelming (it also overwhelms that classic Finger Lakes mineral finish for me) and tends to make the wine seem unbalanced in my opinion. Several winemakers have told me that the 2006 Riesling crop had high acidity, leading to the bold citrus. However, after retasting some of these Dry rieslings recently, I'm noticing that a little bottle aging is toning down the citrus a bit. Now, the Semi-dry Rieslings are an entirely different story. It seems as if a little Residual Sugar balances that acidity and brings out those terrific peach, honey, and lime flavors. For now, the Semi-Dry's get my vote.

2. Grape types - As each year goes by, it seems as if Cabernet Franc solidifies itself as the premier red grape in the Finger Lakes. The 2005 Cab Francs, in general, are truly spectactular. Finger Lakes wineries are putting out quality Cab Francs in a variety of styles and I'm particularly intrigued by a number of Semi-Dry Cab Francs (for those of us who aren't afraid of a little Residual Sugar). But Cab Franc better watch it's back, because Lemberger is being planted more and more and is appearing on its own and is favored in a lot of red blends. A few wineries are making a good attempt at Syrah, but I think the verdict is still out on it. Also, Rougeon & Dechaunac seem to be popping up more. A core group of wineries has emerged that are dedicated to the challenging task of producing quality reds in the Finger Lakes and I applaud their efforts. And I can't forget the Ports. In my opinion, the Finger Lakes makes some of the best American Ports for my money.

As for the whites, Pinot Gris seems to be the new starlet in the Finger Lakes. I have sampled several excellent and very complex Pinot Gris' this year. I sure hope this Pinot Gris trend continues. And of course, Dr. Frank Rkatsiteli mania continues with the rare grape creating a unique and quite good wine. Unfortunately, I don't foresee a lot of plantings of Rkatsiteli throughout the Finger Lakes. There's also a couple of Sauvignon Blancs being attempted. Also, I'm seeing Traminette, Vidal Blanc, Gewurz & Chardonnay and a lot of the white grapes being attempted in a lot of different styles away from the norm from dry to sweet to (some very good) sparkling wines & excellent ice wines (always big sellers, even at the high prices). One thing you do get in the Finger Lakes is variety and experimentation. The Finger Lakes is still a very young wine region and it's great to be able to watch it grow. I just hope it doesn't grow up too fast.

3. Improved Quality Overall - I'm noticing improved quality, especially from the "lower tier" producers. There seems to be a general effort to improve wine quality through education and the sharing of information. Just the sheer number and diversity of Finger Lakes wineries winning top awards in competitions this year is proof of the quality. But unfortunately, a few "top tier" producers have actually disappointed me this year. Although it may be a "stylistic" change that I will address in my next point.

4. Stylistic & Price Changes - I'm noticing a trend toward lighter-bodied wines. Now in my opinion, there's a fine line between light-bodied wines that are still full flavored and wines that are thin and lifeless. Some wineries tell me that these are more food-friendly wines that don't overpower food. I guess I'm a rebel these days, but I want to taste the fruit!!! As far as pricing, I hope the trend of some of the "top tier" wineries pricing like they are California wineries stops soon. I'm just a simple working stiff. I won't be able to afford Finger Lakes wine soon! But for now, this cheapskate still manages to find some great bargains.

5. Odds & Ends - I'm noticing that the tasting room personnel, in general, just get more knowledgable and helpful all the time. That, along with good wine, is what keeps people coming back. I'm noticing more wine dinners, special themed tastings, and special events at the wineries. I think events such as Glenora's Jazz concerts that attracts top-level entertainers is the kind of thing that will replicate in other wineries as the Finger Lakes becomes a world-class tourist destination and wineries look to become places where tourists spend a day and not just an hour. I'm noticing that the wineries are updating their websites with ecommerce capabilities and more information and better graphics, which is a great improvement from the static websites that proliferated the internet just a year ago. The Wine Trails continue to work to balance the bus groups vs. the individuals visiting the wineries, which I commend. There are still new wineries opening (I know of 3 opening in July), but I'm wondering how many is too many. One big problem trend that still remains is the lack of quality lodging in the mid-range pricing level. How the Finger Lakes balances its rustic charm against creating more modern lodging for the anticipated influx of more tourists is sure to be a growing challenge.

Well, Those are my thoughts. If you have any comments or additional thoughts, please share them by posting a comment. I do still moderate the comments because of the spammers, but I will post non-spam comments. Here's to a great 2nd half of 2007. I gotta get going and get to the rest of the Finger Lakes wineries. It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it!!!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Shaw Vineyards - Newest Winery on Seneca Lake

SHAW VINEYARDS, owned by Steve Shaw, has just opened (west side of Seneca Lake, near Hermann Wiemer) but already has impressive credentials. Steve has been growing wine grapes in the Finger Lakes for many years and the wineries that have purchased grapes from him are solid proof of the quality of his grapes (Do Dr. Frank or Hermann Wiemmer ring a bell to anyone?). Steve's meticulous attention to the grapevines has now evolved into his lifelong ambition of owning his own winery finally bearing fruit.
The parking lot and tasting room are still works in progress (you might even miss the turn into the driveway (like me) if you are not paying attention, but the wines are Very Ready and well worth the visit. With Morten Hallgren (owner and winemaker of Ravines) as his mentor, consultant, and winemaking partner, Steve Shaw has hit the ground running and ready to join the ranks of a growing number of Finger Lakes wineries committed to the difficult task (with a short growing season and the potential of harsh winters) of crafting world-class red wines in the Finger Lakes. Shaw & Hallgren use innovative whole cluster pressing techniques and a commitment to letting the wines age properly before releasing to craft elegant food-friendly wines. Here are my tasting notes:

2002 Chardonnay, 1.2% RS, $15.99, 12 months in French Oak & Pennsylvania Fine Grain Oak (200 to 300 year old trees!), bright fruit with fresh clean acidity, long finish with hints of white pepper and smooth oak.

2005 Semi-Dry Riesling, 1.2% RS, $16.99, clean and fresh on the attack, bright fruit with a solid backbone, with a touch of botrytis lending honeyed citrus notes, very food-friendly.

Non Vintage Merlot, .4% RS, $12.99, Grapes from Long Island North Fork (Martha Clara/ Entenmann Vineyard), 28 months in French Oak, Lots of fruit, abundant raspberry with hints of smoke and pepper, very soft rounded tannins, And at $12.99 a great value!!! Also, a 2004 Merlot (same grape source) that was barrell selected is available for $17.99

2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, $19.99 deep ruby color, elegant soft fruit with medium tannins and perfect balance, in my opinion, one of the best Cab Sauv's in the Finger Lakes. Cab Sauv is difficult to do well in the Finger Lakes and '02 was a particularly difficult growing season, but Shaw & Hallgren have crafted a winner with this Cab Sauv. And again a great value at $19.99, Gee, Patience really IS a virtue!

Keuka Hill Reserve, Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon, Shaw's Meritage, nice fruit with hints of pepper, beautiful tannins, needs a little more time, will age nicely.

Shaw Vineyards tasting room summer hours are Fri., Sat., Sun., & Mon. from Noon to 5pm with Steve Shaw Jr. manning the tasting toom operations. Future Summer & Fall New Releases include Cabernet Franc, Dry Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Cayuga, & Sauvignon Blanc. Current Annual Production is 1700 cases. (No Website yet. Website will be up by Fall at