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.


Jason Feulner said...

Great tasting reports. I couldn't agree more about the Ravines offerings and you've made me very, very curious about the Hazlitt riesling. Is the riesling you tasted going to be available beyond their tasting room or mail order? It doesn't sound like a wine that's destined for the local wine shop.

Finger Lakes Weekend Wino said...

Jason, The winemaker Tim Benedict told me that they made 900 cases, but I don't know if any will get beyond the tasting room. I'll try and get that info.

Lenn said...

Gentlemen...I really dug the Hazlitt...also picked up some of their sauvignon blanc.

That was a funny winery for me...those two wines really didn't seem to belong with the rest of the stuff on the tasting menu!

Finger Lakes Weekend Wino said...

I just did an interview with Doug Hazlitt, Wine maker Tim Benedict, and Director of Sales Steve Cruty focusing on that dichotomy between Hazlitt's "fun wines" like Red Cat and their "serious wines" like their excellent Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. I'll be posting it soon.