Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Finger Lakes Golden Nose Event is approaching fast

My favorite Finger Lakes event, The Golden Nose Event, is fast approaching on May 31. If you've ever wondered what it's like to be a wine judge, then this event is for you. Paul & Glenda of the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, along with the member wineries of the trail, will wine you and dine you and educate you and treat you like wine judging royalty during this weekend event. Let me tell you why I think this event is so special and is a great experience for any wine enthusiast.
The event actually starts on Friday evening with a wine and food reception at the Beautiful Corning Museum of Western Art. There, you will meet your fellow wine judges and sample delicious gourmet foods, drink the finest Finger Lakes wines, and see some of the most beautiful Western Art as we have this amazing museum all to ourselves.
On Saturday morning at the dazzling Corning Museum of Glass, Wine experts will teach you in a hands-on interactive way what you need to know to judge some of the best wines in the Finger Lakes. Then in the afternoon, you will put what you have learned to the test by judging flight after flight of Finger Lakes wine, with each judging team of 4-5 judges led by a wine professional. You will swirl and sample and discuss each wine with your group and then you will decide whether each wine is award-worthy. It is truly a wine lovers dream! What could be better than discussing wine with other wine afficianados and having your opinion determine the awards! And you will be able to show off your official Wine Judge certificate! Plus you can browse the magnificent glass artistry at the Corning Museum of Glass.
Then on Saturday night at the Awards Celebration, you will be served a feast worthy of the esteemed wine judge that you have become. And you will be treated to over 200 of the wines that you have chosen to be the best, while mingling and chatting with the Finger Lakes finest wine makers and winery owners. Plus you will be entertained by Finger Lakes favorite Virgil Cain and there is even rumor that yours truly, The Finger Lakes Weekend Wino may also perform.
This event truly is a wine lovers dream. But get your tickets soon because they are limited. I hope to see you there and enjoy some wine with you, my wine judging colleagues.
For tickets and info, go to

Monday, April 28, 2008

Finger Lakes News Pours

The following Finger Lakes wines won Gold last weekend at the Pacific Rim International Wine Competition:

Belhurst Winery 2006 Dry Riesling ,$18.95
Belhurst Winery, 2006 Cayuga, $14.95
Chateau Frank, NV Celebre,$19.99
Chateau Lafayette Reneau, 2006 Riesling, $14.99
Dr. Konstantin Frank, 2006 Rkatseteli, $19.99
Glenora Wine Cellars, 2001 Blanc de BlancBrut, $24.99
Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, Riesling, Dry 2007 Homestead Reserve, $17.99
Hunt Country Vineyards, 2007 Riesling, $13.99
Hunt Country Vineyards, 2007 Late Harvest Vignoles, $19.99
Prejean Winery, 2006 Cabernet Franc, $15.99
Wagner Vineyards, 2006 Riesling, $12.99
See the complete results here.

In the current edition of Wine Spectator magazine, they list ratings for 44 Finger Lakes wines:
(a lot of these were previously listed on Wine Spectator's website, but some are new)

89 rating, Anthony Road, 2006 Semi-dry Riesling
89, Standing Stone 2006 Vidal Ice Wine
88, Anthony Road, 2006 Dry Riesling
88, Atwater 2006 Riesling
88, Atwater Dry Riesling
88, Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2006 Johannesberg Riesling
88, Fox Run 2006 Reserve Riesling
88, Red Newt 2006 Reserve Riesling
87, Damiani 2006 Riesling
87, Heron Hill 2005 Reserve Riesling
87, Hosmer 2006 Riesling
87, Red Newt 2006 Dry Riesling
87, Rooster Hill 2006 Semi-dry Riesling
87, Sheldrake Point 2006 Reserve Riesling
87, White Springs 2006 Red Label Riesling
86, Sheldrake Point 2007 Riesling Ice Wine
86, Belhurst 2006 Dry Riesling
86, Buttonwood Grove 2006 Dry Riesling
86, Hosmer 2006 Reserve Riesling
86, Rooster Hill 2006 Dry Riesling
86, Swedish Hill 2006 Riesling
85, Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2006 Dry Riesling
85, Deer Run 2006 Semi-dry Riesling
85, Hosmer 2006 Dry Riesling
85, King Ferry/Treleaven 2006 Dry Riesling
85, King Ferry/Treleaven 2006 Semi-dry Riesling
85, Ravines 2006 Dry Riesling
85, Silver Thread 2006 Dry Riesling
84, Standing Stone 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
84, Standing Stone 2005 Reserve Chardonnay
84, Casa Larga Reserve Riesling NV
84, Fox Run 2006 Riesling
84, Fox Run 2006 Dry Riesling
84, Heron Hill 2005 Old Vines Riesling
84, Prejean 2006 Dry Riesling
84, Sheldrake Point 2006 Dry Riesling
84, Swedish Hill 2006 Dry Riesling
83, King Ferry 2006 Late Harvest Riesling
83, Standing Stone 2005 Pinnacle
83, Catherine Valley 2006 Riesling
83, Sheldrake Point 2006 Riesling
82, Hickory Hollow 2006 Semi-dry Riesling
81, Casa Larga 2006 Riesling
81, Prejean 2006 Riesling

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Finger Lakes Winery Reports - April 2008

We've had amazing weather in the Finger Lakes with temperatures in the 70's and even some 80's, and it's good to be back out on the wine trails. Here are my latest reports:

Glenora Wine Cellars- Glenora has a Premium Selections tasting list that is well worth trying, although, of course, they also come with premium prices. My tasting note highlights are:

> 2006 Signature, $23.99, blend of Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, and Riesling, layers of apple & pear, with undertones of toasty oak into a finish longer than the Democratic primaries, exquisitely balanced with excellent structure. I really like this wine!

> 2006 Vintner’s Select Dry Riesling, $23.99, .98 RS, Glenora does not call it a Late Harvest wine, but the grapes were left on the vines a few weeks longer than the rest and harvested in late October, excellent framework of apple and citrus into a long finish.

> 2006 Gewurztraminer, $16.99, a lighter style of Gewurz, aromatic with light spice.

> 2005 Syrah, $18.99, California fruit, very soft with cherry, pepper, and light clove, Nice.

- Knapp Winery- > 2006 Barrel Reserve Chardonnay, $13.95, .02 RS, aged in French oak, lots of spicy oak balanced with hints of butter and citrus, deep and spicy.

> 2005 Seyval Blanc, $9.95, 1.1% RS, revisiting this hidden little gem, light lemon and sweet oak spice with a finish of the most incredible vivid vanilla, this wine has developed into an amazing steal at $9.95!

> Cayuga White, $9.95, 3% RS, candied orange rind and light lime.

> Vignoles, $10.95, 5% RS, bold pineapple and tropical citrus with balanced sweetness.
> Valvin Muscat, $9.95, 4.75% RS, this is one of the newest grapes developed by Cornell, I got unique floral and strong herbal aromas and flavors that were a little “strange“ to me, I’m going to have to try more of this grape to form an educated opinion.

- Heron Hill Winery (Seneca Lake site), > 2006 Chardonnay, $12.99, .44% RS, soft light apple with light citrus and a firm structure, excellent value.

> 2006 Late Harvest Vidal Blanc, $17.99, 12.5% RS, Heron Hill knows how to make great dessert wines, I get lots of honeyed nectarine from this one, Yum.

- Ventosa Vineyards, > 2007 Tocai Friulano, click here for more info about this grape, $15.95, .9% RS, Ventosa is the only Finger Lakes winery to grow it with 3 acres planted, citrus blossoms and peach on the nose, lots of peach and a touch of melon, but very hot at 13.8% alcohol.

> 2007 Pinot Gris, $15.95, .5% RS, crisp with nice acidity, but still a bit hot for me at 13.3% alcohol, I’ll try it again with a few more months of bottle aging.

> 2006 Saggio, $19.95, blend of 40% Pinot Gris/ 36% Chardonnay/ 12% Tocai Friulano/ 12% Riesling, soft pear with a subtle nuttiness, soft acidity (anyone for an oxymoron) on a long finish, me likey but 19.95? C’mon, I’m a cheapskate.

> 2006 Rosa, $10.95, .8% RS, blend of 36% Sangiovese/ 64% Pinot Noir, beautiful pale ruby/ peach color, light strawberry flavor but again, the alcohol’s a bit hot for me for a rose’.

> 2005 Cabernet Franc, $22.95, 0% RS, cherry tobacco on the nose, cherry, strawberry in the deep palate, and cocoa on the finish.

-Villa Bellangelo, Villa Bellangelo is a little off the main trail, but I am more impressed with their wines every time I stop in and I love the new Flying Angel logo. Winemaker Michael Litterio always manages to impart an elegant style to his wines, which are light but still full of flavor, and he manages to get a very soft mouthfeel out of his wines.

> Pinot Grigio, $14.99, 0% RS, soft pear and apple into a slightly spicy finish.

> 2006 Bella Bianca, $9.99, 1.3% RS, Seyval Blanc, layers of delicate pear and apple with an amazingly soft mouthfeel, excellent value.

> 2006 Gewurztraminer, $17.99, 1.5% RS, again very soft mouthfeel with light citrus and spice. > 2006 Riesling, $17.99, soft layered pear and peach, light but still very flavorful.

> 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, $23.99, 0% RS, aged 22 months in French & American oak, very soft with tones of chocolate and hints of pepper on the finish, an excellent Finger Lakes Cab Sauv!

> 2005 Sangiovese, $36.99, 0% RS, California Fruit, beautiful smoky black cherry and even at 14.5% alcohol, it does not overpower. I like this grape and I believe that a couple of wineries are trying to grow it in the Finger Lakes.

> 2005 Porto Elena, $21.99, 9.5% RS, a lot of ports try to bowl you over with excessive sweetness and alcohol but this one wants you to savor its delicate honeyed fruit tones, very nice. > The Scooter series are Villa Bellangelo’s sweeter value wines, > 2006 Blue Scooter, $13.99, 4% RS, Riesling, lots of honey and delicate apricot in this sweet Riesling. > 2006 White Scooter, $8.99, 7.5% RS, Niagara, soft with light grape and honey tones, good value.

I just have to say that, while I am writing this report, I am enjoying a Dr. Frank 2006 Semi-dry Riesling and it is just spectacular. To me, the amazing thing about Dr. Frank’s Rieslings are how aromatic they are and how the flavors expand in your mouth. Mineral, juicy ripe peach, and smooth lime grow in intensity through the middle and into a mouthwatering finish. There is good reason why Dr. Frank is the standard-bearer for Finger Lakes Riesling. But there are others catching up.

I visited Cayuga Lake over the last few weekends and one thing that I always enjoy when I taste Cayuga Lake wines is the spicy Cayuga mineral finish that I get in a lot of the wines. It’s more intense than Seneca or Keuka mineral and some may find it a bit too intense, but I enjoy it.

Also, one thing to remember as you taste new releases is a concept called "bottle shock". When a wine is newly bottled, it can exhibit imbalances such as being overly acidic. In my experience, within a few months for whites especially, the wine will settle down and become more balanced. So I try not to judge brand new releases at this time of year from the most current vintage too harshly. If I find them unbalanced, I will attempt to go back and try them a few months later.

-Goose Watch Winery, > 2007 Pinot Grigio, new release, I’m seeing a lot more Pinot Grigio/Gris being released in the Finger Lakes, $16.00, .5% RS, light peach and pear up front with a very spicy mineral finish, may need some bottle aging to smooth the edges, but not bad right now.
> 2006 Vidal Blanc Barrel Reserve, $15.00 , .2% RS, sweet oak, vanilla, and spicy Cayuga mineral into a long finish (that goes on much longer then Kristy Lee Cook lasted on American Idol, right Kevin?).
> 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, $15.00, well integrated cherry, tobacco, leather, pepper, and oak into a nice long finish. This wine shows that when you let Finger Lakes reds age a while, they show beautiful complexity.

-Buttonwood Grove Winery, > 2005 Reserve Chardonnay, $15.99, vanilla, sweet oak, and spice and mineral on the finish.

> 2005 Riesling, $14.99, lots of mead-like honey with balanced mineral, very nice.

> Trillium Gold, $9.99, blend of Cayuga White/Vidal Blanc/& Vignoles, citrus, honey, with honeyed spice on the finish.

> Buttonwood Blush, 10.99, unique blend of Delaware/Golden Muscat/& Vincent, aromatic grape with flavors of strawberry and light citrus, nice sipper, excellent value.

- Swedish Hill, > 2006 Vidal Blanc, $10.99, 2.5% RS, abundant pear with a crisp mineral finish.
> Blanc de Blanc Champagne, $13.99, 2.5% RS, made from Cayuga White, fruity with bubbly citrus.
> Niagara Frost, $12.49 for 1.5L bottle, 6.1% RS, sweet but balanced, light and grapey, excellent value for this sweet sipper.

> 2005 Cabernet Franc, $16.99, cherry and tobacco with deep leather undertones, nice.
> Raspberry Infusion, $25 for 375ml bottle, 11% RS, raspberries soaked in grape brandy, powerful raspberry aroma and taste, very unique, Wow!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Finger Lakes News & Notes - April 18, 2008

- Jeff Richards reviews Finger Lakes newest grape sensation

- has released their new 2008 Finger Lakes Travel Guide

- One of our favorite wine educators, Lorraine Hems, wins award

- Widmer Wine Cellars cuts staff

- Jason Feulner reviews Savor Syracuse

- Motor Home magazine features the Finger Lakes

- Cathy Millspaugh participates in Cayuga Ridge Estate's Vigneron Program (I wanted to do this program this year, but I just didn't have the time, maybe next year).

- Hazlitt's Tasting Room named in America's Top 25

- Cornell University to build an on campus Teaching Winery (I wish my college would have had one of those back when I was going to college)

- Finger Lakes Wine Retrievers review Hunt Country wines and spot Gus (you gotta love Gus)

- Kens Wine Guide reviews Standing Stone Chardonnay

- The 2006 Tierce Riesling will be released May 3rd at special event

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Finger Lakes Winery Tasting Reports - April 2008

The 2008 tasting season has begun for me in the Finger Lakes and here are my first tasting recaps from the last few weeks. Most of the new wines have not been released yet, but it's good to be out at the wineries after the long winter. Last weekend was just gorgeous in the Finger Lakes. After the clouds lifted on Saturday, the sun came out and temperatures reached the high 50's. Finally, it appears that Spring is on the way.

-Ravines Wine Cellars, Owners Morten & Lisa Hallgren were on their way to France to hire a new vineyard manager when I visited Ravines, but the wines were there and I was ready to taste. I was told that the new Gewurz and Pinot Gris will be out soon and I can't wait to try them. Tasting highlights for me were the 2006 Chardonnay, $18.95, Beautiful layers of fruit and well-integrated oak with a long nutty finish, Fantastic!. > 2006 Cerise, $14.95, PinotNoir/Lemberger blend, (Lemberger production is rapidly growing in the Finger Lakes), smooth light cherry flavor with overtones of tobacco and leather, very good light dry red.
> 2005 Meritage, $24.95, this was listed in my Favorites of 2007, a Classic Bordeaux blend, this is a big bold wine for a Finger Lakes red , cherry and blackberry flavors with perfectly balanced oak with medium tannins, this wine will age well. >2006 Sauvignon Blanc, $17.95, classic grassy earthy aromas, layers of green apple, lemongrass, and light citrus into a long herbaceous finish. > 2006 Pinot Noir, soft cherry, tobacco, and smooth spice fight for your tastebuds' affection and my tastebuds wanted to take them all home! A note on Finger Lakes Pinot Noir, As I have said before, if you are looking for big bold fruit bursting California-style Pinot Noir, you are not going to find it in the Finger Lakes. I guide tasting tours sometimes for folks who drink California Pinot's and that's what they expect here. I tell them that they have to readjust their expectations and be ready for a lighter style of Pinot. It's not better or worse than CA Pinot, it's just different. I find it more interesting and better with lighter dishes and just nice to sip.

Billsboro Winery, I wanted to check in on new owner Vinny Aliperti and see how the new/old winery was doing. Vinny also continues to be winemaker at Atwater across the lake. I asked Vinny how hard it was to be both an owner of his own winery and winemaker at another. He answered that the transition had gone very smoothly and that Ted (his boss at Atwater) had given him a lot of flexibility in his schedule to be able to attend to the new winery. Vinny has rearranged the tasting room a bit with beautiful custom wood bars. Vinny decided to keep the Billsboro name that former owner, the late Bob Pool, created and he is sourcing most of his grapes from Finger Lakes growers. He produced 200 cases from estate grown grapes in 2007 and he expects to steadily increase that as new vines are readied. Highlights from my tasting included > 2005 Chardonnay, $11.00, a lighter style Chard with light pear and apple and lightly oaked (3 months in oak), with a smooth finish, an excellent value. > 2006 Chardonnay (barrel fermented), $18.00, 9 months in oak, very nice chard fruit and sweet oak impeccably balanced, excellent. > 2006 Pinot Noir, as stated in the Ravines post above, Finger Lakes Pinot is a lighter style and this one is an excellent FL Pinot with light cherry flavors and lite peppery undertones, the winery suggests pairing with barbequed pork or hearty pasta, sounds great to me.

Lakewood Vineyards, No new releases since I last visited, but they said the new 2007 Vignoles is coming soon and I can't wait for that. Also, ,after selling out of their incredible Port, a new Port should be out in June. Lakewood is finishing up a large expansion of their production facilities which will increase their capacity from 70,000 gallons to 110,000 gallons.

Torrey Ridge Winery, Torrey Ridge continues to win many awards, proving that sweeter wines can be award-worthy. > 2006 Gewurztraminer, $14.99, beautiful nose and intense floral and spice with a long smooth spice finish, intense. > 2006 Lemberger, $14.99, amazing fruit with bold cherry and very light tannin, smooth, ready to drink now, extremely high yum factor! >2006 Baco Noir, $10.99, up front berry fruit with solid acidity, a smooth drinking Baco. > Cayuga White, $9.49, 4% RS, candied lemon and pineapple balanced with nice acidity, excellent sweet sipper, Torrey Ridge has just released 2 new sweet wines playfully named RedneckWhite (Niagara) and Redneck Red (Concord), both retailing for $9.99

In my travelings, I also tasted Hazlitt's 2007 Homestead Reserve Riesling, which needed to bring a lot to the table to live up to the multi-award-winning '06 version. And it does keep up, but in a very different way. This '07 is a mineral powerhouse. If you love that 'banana belt' mineral like I do, then this wine is for you. It's actually a bit overwhelming at first. I drank it over 2 days and the 2nd day, I finally got the hang of this powerhouse. Wave after wave of mouthwatering clean slate mineral with a touch of spice and solid acidity on the finish. Very clean but bold mineral, excellent.

Other Finger Lakes Wine News:
Four Chimneys Organic Winery is celebrating their new wine labels with an additional 15% off of their normal volume discounts.

King Ferry/Treleaven Winery has just released their new 2007 Dry and Semi-Dry Rieslings.

Upcoming events include 'The World Tour of Food and Wine" event on The Keuka Lake Wine Trail April 19 & 20, 'The Wine & Herb Festival" on The Cayuga Wine Trail April 26 & 27, and
"The Spring Wine and Cheese Weekend" on The Seneca Lake Wine Trail April 26 & 27. For a complete listing of Finger Lakes Events, click here.

And don't forget The Finger Lakes Weekend Winos Acoustic Duo, myself and Mr. Tom, perform at Stonecutters Lounge in beautiful Belhurst Castle on Saturday, April 19th from 7-11pm.

And Finally, a few pictures of the last remnants (hopefully) of winter in The Finger Lakes:

The Aliperti children crafted these 2 snow people enjoying some Billsboro wine on the deck at Billsboro winery. Hey, that one looks like Vinny!

The last of the winter ice melts from the south end of Canandaigua Lake.

The early Spring clouds move across Seneca Lake

The vines await the Spring thaw.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Finger Lakes News & Notes - April 3, 2008

- The Finger Lakes International Wine Competition was judged last weekend and the results are out. Finger Lakes wineries did well on their home turf. Chateau Lafayette Reneau won Best Chardonnay for their 2006 Chardonnay (one of my favorite picks from last year). Double Gold went to Casa Larga for their Fiori Delle Stelle Vidal Ice Wine (another of my favorite picks from last year), Torrey Ridge 2006 Lemberger, Swedish Hill 2006 Dry Riesling, Penguin Bay semi-sweet Riesling & 2006 Valvin-Muscat (one of the new Cornell grapes).

Gold went to Anthony Road 2006 Cabernet Franc/Lemberger, Imagine Moore 2006 Cayuga, Casa Larga Chardonnay, Sheldrake Point 2007 Riesling Ice wine, King Ferry 2006 Late Harvest Riesling, Widmer 2005 Late Harvest Vidal Blanc & 2006 Riesling, Chateau Frank 2000 Blanc de Noirs, Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2006 Dry Riesling, Red Newt 2006 Dry Riesling Reserve, Miles 2006 semi-dry Riesling, Fox Run 2006 semi-sweet Riesling, Hosmer 2007 semi-sweet Riesling, & Goose Watch Pinot Noir Brut Rose'. See the complete results here.

- Congratulations to one of me and Mrs. Wino's favorite people, Liz Stamp of Lakewood Vineyards, for receiving the Unity Award at this years NYWGF Unity Banquet. Liz was honored for her tireless work to promote cooperation and collaboration among industry members through her participation and leadership in various groups. She has served as president and treasurer of the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, created the concept of the Deck the Halls holiday weekend that has been copied by other wine trails throughout the state and country and has shared her knowledge and experiences with others as a speaker and a judge in various wine competitions. Plus, she's just a really nice person! We'll be seeing you soon Liz.

- A firestorm of debate has erupted since Wine Spectator's Finger Lakes Riesling ratings came out. Lenn Thompson at LennDevours blog takes issue with the ratings and Jason Feulner adds fuel to the fire. And Carlo Devito also chimes in on the debate about Wine Spectator's Finger Lakes Riesling ratings. My own feelings are that there are some amazing Finger Lakes Rieslings that are not even listed in the Wine Spectator ratings and certainly some of those listed should be rated higher. But any way you look at it, it's pretty good publicity for the Finger Lakes.

- Finger Lakes tourism counting on more daytrippers this year

- Dan Berger recommends Finger Lakes Riesling for spring

- Blogger Bibliochef writes an excellent article about Red Tail Ridge Winery

- Blogger Water Into Wino reviews Anthony Road Cabernet Franc/ Lemberger

- Myself and Mr. Tom, "The Finger Lakes Weekend Winos" Acoustic Duo, will be performing at Belhurst Castle's Stonecutters Lounge on Saturday, April 19th from 7pm to 11pm. Come on out for some good tunes and great atmosphere at Belhurst Castle.