Friday, May 23, 2008

Finger Lakes News & Notes

- A couple of Finger Lakes Weekend Wino announcements:

Yours truly is featured in the Spring issue of Canandaigua magazine in the Wavelength section. Thank You to Nancy O'Donnell for writing a nice article about me and Thank You to Lisa Hughes for the nice photo that was taken for the article.

The Finger Lakes Weekend Wino Acoustic Duo featuring myself and Mr. Tom start our whirlwind Spring and Summer tour next weekend with upcoming gigs on:

May 31 - Golden Nose Event.

June 7 & 8- Dr. Frank Wine Cellars

June 28 & 29- Dr. Frank Wine Cellars

July 12- Torrey Ridge Winery

July 19- Finger Lakes Wine Festival

August 2- Torrey Ridge Winery

August 16- Artizanns

More dates to be anounced. If you are in the area when we are playing, be sure to come on out and party with the Weekend Winos.

- Don't forget the Golden Nose Event is only 1 week away. They tell me that there are still some Dinner Tickets available for the Dinner & Awards Presentation on next Saturday, May 31 at 7pm. If you can't make it to the Judging part of the event during the day, the dinner and awards on Saturday night is a great event to attend. It is held at the beautiful Corning Museum of Glass and the food is amazing. Some of the items on the menu are - Grilled beef tenderloin with red demi glace, roasted roma tomatoes and crisp pancetta; Seared duck breast with red currant glaze; French green lentil soup with feta cheese and mint; Pan seared sea bass with lemon butter on a bed of wild rice pilaf. And you get to taste whatever you like from several hundred Finger Lakes wines on hand. Plus, there is musical entertainment and you also get to mingle and talk with Finger Lakes winery owners and winemakers. This is a great event! For ticket information, click here.

- I was guiding a wine tasting tour last weekend around Seneca Lake and we stopped in at Glenora Wine Cellars and Chef Lerman, Executive Chef at The Village Tavern Restaurant & Inn, was there with his amazing sauces. These sauces feature unique and intense flavor combinations. The sauces are Black Strap Yankee Bar-B-Q with Chipotle Peppers, Strawberry Dijon, Horseradish French, Cuke-A-Dilly, & my personal favorite Pumpkin Grape, which sounds like it won't work together but believe me it does. To find out more about Chef Lerman Sauces, click here.

- Speaking of Glenora Wine Cellars, they are offering 25% off of all their Rieslings through the end of May to celebrate Riesling Month. Also, today they are releasing their new 2007 Barrel Fermented Pinot Blanc, 2007 Chardonnay, 2007 Dry Riesling, & 2007 Riesling. And if you are a Jazz Enthusiast, Glenora is bringing some jazz giants to The Finger Lakes with Spyro Gyra performing on Sunday, July 27th and Jazz Guitarist Ken Navarro appears on Sunday, August 17th and ticket prices are a bargain at $25!

- More Gold for Finger Lakes wineries was awarded at the Tasters Guild Wine Judging this month with 7 Double Golds and a whopping 28 Gold medals earned by Finger Lakes wineries. The following are the Double Golds:
Heron Hill Winery 2006 Vidal Blanc L.H.
Lakewood Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Franc
Lamoreaux Landing 2006 Chardonnay Resv.
Six Mile Creek Vyd. 2006 Riesling
Torrey Ridge Winery 2006 Traminette (Torrey Ridge just keeps winning the top medals at these competitions. I keep telling you they are one of the most underrated wineries in the Finger Lakes).
Torrey Ridge Winery Blue Sapphire
Wagner Vineyards 2006 Vidal Blanc
For all of the results by state, click here.

- Jason Feulner reports on the Rendezvous With Riesling event

- Adirondack Scenic Railroad features Finger Lakes wine

- Another new winery , Young Sommer Winery in Wayne County, opens up in The Finger Lakes region

- reports that Patrick Dempsey, also known as Dr. McDreamy on the Grey's Anatomy television show will race at Watkins Glen Race Track on
June 7th in the Grand Am event.

- A nice 40th birthday celebration in the Finger Lakes

- The Finger Lakes Love Photographer captures love in beautiful Sonnenberg Gardens

- Sometimes I like to check out what Finger Lakes photographs have been posted on flickr

- Is there gold in Finger Lakes' streams?

- Peggy Haine's new blog reviews Finger Lakes' eateries

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Finger Lakes Riesling Summit

I attended this year's Riesling Summit at the Astor Center in New York City several weeks ago and it was a great learning experience. This event is aimed at promoting Finger Lakes Riesling to the New York City market by inviting wine writers (somehow I got invited) to attend educational seminars and tastings. Finger Lakes wine has been slow to penetrate this lucrative and influential market and advocate groups such as Finger Lakes Wine Alliance and New York Wine and Grape Foundation are working hard to expand the marketing of New York wine.
The Riesling Summit event began with an informative presentation by Josh Green, editor and publisher of Wine and Spirits magazine followed by a lake by lake tasting of Finger Lakes Riesling. Josh outlined many of the factors that affect the growth and taste of Riesling in the Finger Lakes including soils, air currents, lake effects, yeast used, and root stocks utilized.
The lake by lake tasting proved very interesting to me not because of any conclusive qualities that could be attributed to each lake, but by the lack of similarities between wineries of the same lake. I believe that it was difficult to find similarites, in some part, due to the diversity of "styles" presented, including differing residual sugar and alcohol levels. On an anecdotal level, based on my own tastings over the years, I have found that the Rieslings from each lake and even from each side of each lake have a somewhat distinctive minerality. Cayuga Lake Rieslings generally present a bolder "spicier" minerality, Seneca Lake Rieslings give a smoother lemon type mineral quality, and Keuka Lake Rieslings pour out more lime. But of course, generalities are just that. It does interest me and many others to see this issue of finding common characteristics from lake to lake explored, but perhaps it is an exploration that will yield little of real value. Each wine expresses itself differently and I for one do not want conformity for the sake of marketing.
Riesling's greatest charm and greatest curse seems to be the same thing. That being its dramatic ability to reflect the "terroir" (soil, climate, etc.) of where it is grown. I find this difference in Rieslings from region to region (even from winery to winery only a few miles apart) and from year to year one of the great pleasures of Riesling. But the casual wine drinker may find the constant variation of this varietal to be somewhat frustrating (especially in cold climate regions such as the Finger Lakes where climatic conditions can vary greatly from one vintage to the next). Add to that the many styles (dry to ice) that winemakers can craft Riesling and it is no wonder that consumers are confused, at the very least, by this enigmatic grape.
So maybe a comparison of Finger Lakes Rieslings is not practical or fruitful. I do applaud the NYWGF & FLWC's efforts to promote Riesling as the Finger Lake's Signature Grape which, of course, it is. However, perhaps a general promotion of Riesling may actually be counterproductive if we are insisting that ALL Finger Lakes Rieslings from ALL Finger Lakes wineries are equal in quality. Once again, the sheer number and diversity of Finger Lakes wineries presents a conundrum because, logically, not ALL Finger Lakes Rieslings are of equal quality. And the problem presents itself when visitors come to the Finger Lakes and visit the wineries for Riesling or other types of wine for that matter that may not match their palate. Maybe promoting the Quality Riesling Producers would be more productive for increasing the Finger Lakes quality image with consumers and media.
When you think about it, the plight of Riesling's diversity being its promise and its curse is the same plight that faces The Finger Lakes wine region in general. A diverse layout of over 100 wineries creates an amazing wine adventure for visitors, but it also creates an amazing dilemma as to which wineries to visit and it really is a crap shoot on whether you will randomly hit the wineries that match your particular palate. And if visitors do not get that perfect match, do they go back home with negative feelings about Finger Lakes wine, which may be hard to overcome.
But I have digressed. Back to the Riesling Summit. The FingerLakes Riesling production for '07 was approximately 100,000 cases and it was noted that some large producers in other wine regions make that much on their own. The famed "Banana Belt" effect of the east side of Seneca Lake was discussed. This effect of air currents coming from the northwest, being warmed on their way across the lake, and blanketing a particular area of the east side of Seneca Lake with temperatures up to 5 degrees warmer in winter and up to 2 degrees cooler in summer than the rest of the region creates a very evident and positive effect on the grapes grown there.
Then we tasted twelve 2006 Rieslings from Cayuga Lake, Seneca Lake, and Keuka Lake (but only Dr. Frank from Keuka). A lot of information was given for each wine including Residual Sugar, Titratable Acid, pH, Alcohol, VineAge(s), Root Stock, Elevation, Soil type and depth, subsoil type, vines per acre, yield per vine, harvest date, brix, yeast used, and fermentation temperature. It was very interesting to see the comparison of all of the data.
We tasted Treleaven 2006 Dry Riesling (Cayuga, .8% RS, nice aromatics, abundant effervescent lime and smooth mineral), Buttonwood Grove 2006 Dry Riesling (Cayuga, .5% RS, lighter lime and mineral),
Sheldrake Point 2006 Reserve (Cayuga, .6% RS, lots of bold citrus), Standing Stone 2006 Riesling (Seneca, 2.1% RS, very ripe peach and lime), Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2006 Johannisberg Riesling (Seneca, 2.5% RS, tropical tones and some petrol), Red Newt 2006 Reserve Riesling (Seneca, .5% RS, unique lime and peach with a little delicate pear), White Springs 2006 Red Label Riesling (Seneca, 4.5% RS, nice aromatics, peach, pear, light honey and lime, very complex), Hermann Wiemer 2006 Dry Riesling (Seneca, 1.1% RS, very aromatic, beautiful color, peach, pear, and lime with some nice mild petrol), Fox Run 2006 Reserve Riesling (Seneca, 2.6% RS, concentrated apricot and lime), Dr. Frank 2006 Dry Riesling (Keuka, .8% RS, extremely aromatic, mouthwatering lime and peach).

Although these are all top-notch Rieslings, there were two that stood out to me, the Standing Stone (2.1% RS) and the Dr. Frank (.8% RS). In my unscientific analysis of all the data listed, these two wines had 1 factor that seemed to seperate them from the rest. These two had the oldest vines with Standing Stone's vines being 35 years and Dr. Frank using vines as old as 49 years. The others averaged about 10 years old. Fred Frank, owner of Dr. Frank Wine Cellars noted that, at about 30 years of age, his Riesling vines started to produce less yield but also started to produce better more concentrated flavors. So I can't wait for the vines of the other wineries to reach their 30th birthdays!

It was very interesting to compare these wines with all of the data available for each wine. It sure shows the amount of science that is involved in winemaking. Me, I think I'll still just depend on my nose and my tastebuds. I didn't reach any earthshattering conclusions at the Riesling Summit, but I sure had a great time!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Finger Lakes Winery Report - Shaw Vineyard

I had given high praise to the red wines at Shaw Vineyard when the new winery opened last summer. Little did I know that owner Steve Shaw and winemaker Morten Hallgren (who is also owner of Ravines Wine Cellars on Keuka Lake) were also working on a line of white wines. I visited Shaw Vineyards last weekend as they unveiled these new whites and they are very impressive. Don’t let the slightly disheveled look of the winery's finishing touches being completed keep you away because, when you get past the rough exterior, inside you will find truly inspired wines. In fact, you may pass right by without seeing it. But passing by would be a big mistake. If you are near Hermann Wiemer Winery, then you are close.

Steve is a vineyard man with decades of experience growing top-notch Finger Lakes grapes for some of the top Finger Lakes wineries. Steve is obsessed with growing great grapes. Morten is obsessed with crafting great wines. This is a match made in winemaking heaven. They both use some innovative techniques in the vineyard and in the cellar. Steve’s theory is that traditional vineyard techniques have their limitations in the Finger Lakes and he has developed his own techniques specifically for the unique growing challenges of the Finger Lakes. All I can say is that they must be working very well. These are wines with character, with finesse, and with grace! I highly recommend stopping in to taste. Here are my tasting notes:

> 2005 Semi-dry Riesling, 1.2% RS, Like I said, I thought Steve & Morten were concentrating mainly on reds when I visited last year and here he goes making an excellent Riesling, $16.99, soft lemon, lemon rind, and a mouthwatering mineral finish.
> 2005 Dry Riesling, .2% RS, $18.99, This is a Riesling some people will love and some people will not. I just don’t think there is a middle ground for this wine. The people that will love it are those that like those deep petro/kero German Rieslings. Steve says these grapes come from a part of the vineyard that is all clay soil and at the top side of the vineyard. Many people feel that petrol is the sign of quality aged Rieslings. But normally I do not taste it in Finger Lakes Rieslings. If you do not care for that taste, then you will not like this wine. This wine is not for the squeamish. But be brave, fellow winos, and you shall be rewarded, very soft with lots of petrol.
> 2006 Gewurztraminer, .8% RS, $18.99, lots of soft light citrus fruit on the front into Classic Gewurz spice on the finish.
> 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, .3% RS, $17.99, In my book this wine is the star of the Shaw white wine lineup, very aromatic, citrus and orange peel tones into layered mineral tones, layers and layers of flavor, very complex, Excellent! As an unnamed poet once said, Now I know what rainbows taste like.
> Rose', $9.99, 3.5% RS, a unique blend of Cabernet Franc & Cayuga, a nice value sipper.
> 2006 Cayuga, $10.99, 3% RS, layers of lemon, honey, and candied citrus, an excellent Cayuga.
> 2002 Pinot Noir, $23.99, abundant cherry with leather undertones, heavy tannins, this shows the potential of Finger Lakes Pinot Noir.
> 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, $19.99, layers of cherry and plum, heavy tannins, lay it down and await the inevitable pleasures.

I really can't say enough about this winery and the wines showing so well right out of the gate. Steve Shaw says that he will do everything necessary to put out nothing but the highest quality product. In my book, he has already succeeded in doing just that!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Finger Lakes does "Sweet" at Riverside Wine Competition

-Finger Lakes Wineries did very well last week among over 2600 wines from around the world judged at the 2008 Riverside International Wine Competition with White Springs Winery (Seneca Lake) winning a Prestigious Sweepstakes Award (Best of Show) for their 2006 Rose' ($9.99). This is a Semi-sweet Cabernet Franc at 3.5% Residual Sugar, which makes this win all the more surprising coming from professional wine judges whose palates usually swing more to the dry side. This is a fairly new release that I have not tasted yet (but will very soon!), but winemaker Derek Wilber always does an excellent job, with his Red Label Riesling being one of my favorite Finger Lakes Rieslings.
Also winning Double Gold (Chairman's Award) once again in an international competition and continuing to prove that sweeter wines can also be excellent wines is Weekend Wino favorite Torrey Ridge Winery (Seneca Lake) with their Sweet Catawba ($9.99) at 6% Residual Sugar. This wine is sweet but balanced with appropriate acidity and refreshing grape and strawberry tones. The once mighty but now maligned Catawba grape is back! Are the palates of Professional wine judges getting sweeter? Or are sweet wines becoming more balanced and complex?
And 2 more great Finger Lakes sweet wines (and grape types normally underappreciated by the "professionals"), Hunt Country's (Keuka Lake) 2007 Late Harvest Vignoles and Goose Watch (Cayuga Lake) Diamond ($9) also won Chairmans Award Double Golds. The thing is that all of these sweet wines are extremely well balanced with complex flavor profiles and well deserving of being judged among the best in the world. They also represent amazing values. I certainly love a great full-bodied complex dry red wine, but today's winemakers (especially in the Finger Lakes) are taking sweeter wines from lesser known and less respected grape varieties to another level. No, I'm not discounting Finger Lakes dry reds and whites (because many of them are or have the potential to become world class), but I'm tired of hearing from "wine professionals" that the Finger Lakes is not a world class wine destination just because they also make sweeter wines.
Montezuma Winery (Cayuga Lake), which does a great job on another type of wines maligned by the wine professionals- fruit wines other than grape-, won Gold for their Pear wine (and pear wine is a very difficult wine to make well). Another Weekend Wino favorite, Lakewood (Seneca Lake)2006 Chardonnay ($12.99) won Gold, with Golds also going to Rooster Hill's 2007 Silver Pencil (which I will taste very soon) as well as Chateau Lafayette Reneau's (Seneca Lake) 2005 Chardonnay ($14.99), Sheldrake Point's (Cayuga Lake) 2006 Dry Riesling ($23.99), Swedish Hill's (Cayuga Lake) Viking White ($7.99), 2006 Marechal Foch ($10.99), & Svenska Red ($7.49), Dr Frank's (Keuka Lake) 2006 Rkatsitelli ($19.99), & Red Tail Ridge (Seneca Lake) 2006 Semi-dry Riesling ($22). A very impressive showing indeed. Congratulations to all of these wineries!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Finger Lakes News & Notes

- New "I Love NY" campaign includes all of NY including The Finger Lakes

- I'm looking forward to attending the Finger Lakes Riesling Summit in New York City this Thursday where the new wine column that I will be writing will be revealed. All of the heavy hitters of Finger Lakes Riesling will be there, along with some of the best wine writers. I'll give you a complete recap when I get back.

- Also on Thursday is another Riesling event that I wish I could also attend. The Rendezvous with Riesling event will take place at The New York Wine & Culinary Center.

- Click here for Finger Lakes events happening in May

- Lenn Thompson posts about Ravines Wine Cellars and Hunt Country Vineyards

- Bibliochef posts on a new Finger Lakes Food Magazine

- New York State Canal System opens for season

- The Finger Lakes gets lots of "invisible dollars"

- A little bit of Hollywood in the Finger Lakes

- The Growth versus Green dilemma in The Finger Lakes

- NY Daily News touts the treasures of The Finger Lakes

- Finger Lakes wineries practice Sustainable Farming techniques

- The Finger Lakes' Steuben County is profiled