Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Peterson Wineries Continue to Dominate

I’m going to print this complete article by Mike Dunne at the Sacramento Bee because I think this dramatizes the point that I’ve been preaching for the past several years that Finger Lakes off-dry wines from grapes such as Diamond, Cayuga White, Vignoles, etc. are top-notch and extremely well-balanced wines, with layers of fruit and complexity. The Peterson family’s trio of wineries Swedish Hill, Penguin Bay, and Goose Watch are proving this point with a vengeance this year (click here for more on their winning ways), winning Gold after Gold and Sweepstake after Sweepstake at well-respected International Wine Competitions! And there are many other Finger Lake wines that are just as award-worthy that are never sent to competitions. A great wine is a great wine whether it be dry, sweet, white, or red!!! The Wine Judging community seems to finally be getting it!

Dunne on Wine: White wine honors go to hybrids
By Mike Dunne -
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, July 23, 2008Story appeared in TASTE section, Page F1

A Sacramento-area wine won the best-red sweepstakes at last weekend's 2008 Long Beach Grand Cru, but the white-wine sweepstakes is what left judges buzzing.
First, the local angle: By a surprisingly wide margin, given the diversity and size of the field – 18 nominees – the muscular Mettler Family Vineyards 2005 Lodi Petite Sirah ($25) seized the top honor among red wines.
The white-wine showdown was even more crowded with 20 nominees. They included three sauvignon blancs, two chardonnays, two pinot grigios, two rieslings and a viognier.
When votes were tallied, however, the two wines to tie for sweepstakes honors were varietals largely unknown in the United States, especially in California, though both were American.
The wines were the peachy Wollersheim Winery 2007 American Prairie Fumé Seyval Blanc ($8) and the aromatic, floral and lusciously fruity Goose Watch Winery Finger Lakes Diamond ($9).
Wollersheim Winery is in Prairie du Sac, Wis., in a state better known for milk than wine, while Goose Watch Winery is in Romulus, N.Y.
Both seyval blanc and diamond are hybrid grapes developed to flourish in climates hostile to such traditional vitis vinifera varieties as chardonnay and pinot noir.
While wines from hybrid grapes occasionally shine in competitions – the Goose Watch diamond consistently wins high honors – the Long Beach judging well might be the first where two hybrids tied for sweepstakes.
What's it mean? One of the judges, Jim Trezise, took the floor immediately after the voting to say the results of the white-wine sweepstakes represent no less than a "paradigm shift" in the stature of wines from hybrid grapes.
"It used to be that no one would give any time to hybrids," said Trezise, who as executive director of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation has been at the forefront of efforts to raise the profile of wines from hybrid and native American grapes, which are grown extensively in the Empire State.
He applauded the judges, most of them Californians, for their "open minds" and "open palates" in evaluating wines from grapes and regions that in many instances are only marginally familiar to them.
Trezise also praised the "missionary" efforts of wine writer Dan Berger, chief judge at the Long Beach Grand Cru, who is keen on persuading wineries from beyond California to join the competition.
While most wines in the judging were Californian, an observer wouldn't know it by looking at the 20 wines arranged before each judge during the white-wine sweepstakes. Only eight were from California, though judges didn't know that until after the votes were tabulated. Of the three sauvignon blancs, two were from New Zealand and one was from Chile. Of the two proprietary wines, one was from Missouri, the other from Ohio. Other wines were from Michigan, New York and Washington state.
Trezise is correct in sensing a paradigm shift among wine judges when it comes to wines from hybrid grapes. Part of that could be due to fatigue brought about by the stylistic similarity of such familiar varietals as chardonnay and syrah, coupled with the novelty of the hybrids.
And don't discount the influence of the frequent sweetness of hybrids, which at the end of two days of judging some 1,900 wines in the Long Beach Petroleum Club was refreshing. The seyval blanc has 1 percent residual sugar, the diamond 5.8.
But it wasn't sweetness alone that accounted for the hybrids' strong showing in the sweepstakes round. They are wines of clarity, balance and distinction. Judges had no idea of their price, and the fact that they cost less than $10 each is another sign that exciting things are happening beyond the vineyards of California.
As to the award-winning and other wines from hybrids, Californians won't often find them in wine shops or on restaurant wine lists hereabouts. Compared with such California varietals as chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, they are made in small amounts, and sales mostly are often through tasting rooms and winery Web sites.
Californians lucky enough to come across a marechal foch, seyval blanc, traminette, vignoles, diamond or other obscure hybrid while traveling along the East Coast or through the Midwest will discover a whole new wine world rising among the soybeans and corn.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Finger Lakes Winery Report - Penguin Bay Winery, July 2008

As part of the Peterson family’s trio of wineries, Penguin Bay is the young and upcoming star this year, winning a substantial number of Gold and Double Gold medals, including 2 best white wine of shows at International Wine Competitions with their 2007 Gewurztraminer. Don’t get me wrong, Penguin Bay's sister wineries Swedish Hill and Goose Watch are also winning their share of medals, but Penguin Bay has always seemed to be the ugly duckling of the three. But within the last several years, the name and label have been revamped with the “cute animal” Flying Penguin label and the quality of the wines has improved dramatically. In the past, they have focused primarily on “Champagne” and Sparkling Wines, but their wine list now boasts an array of red and white still wines. Here are my tasting notes:
> Pinot Noir Brut Rose Champagne, $18, very dry but also very fruit forward with abundant sparkling cherry and strawberry flavors. I often find dry champagnes very flavorless, but this one brings the flavor!
> 2006 Rose’ of Chambourcin, $11, Beautiful salmon pink color, This is dry, but again, great fruit extraction with delicate berry flavors mingling with the bubbles into a lingering finish. And a great value at $11.
> 2007 Gewurztraminer, $17, This wine has won 2 best White Wine of Shows in the last several months. Overall, the ’07 Finger Lakes Gewurz’s that I have tasted have been fantastic with BIG aromas and Bold but smooth spice, perhaps even the best year ever for Finger Lakes Gewurz! This Gewurz shows lovely floral and citrus blossom aromas, this is a dry wine, but with delicate honeysuckle flavors on the front end with smooth cinnamon and allspice hints on the finish, this one’s not as big as some I’ve tasted but it is nuanced and elegant.
> Blanc de Blanc Champagne, $13.99, semi-dry with light lemon citrus overtones and good structure, a solid Cayuga White sparkler.
> 2006 Valvin Muscat, $15, one of the newest grapes from Cornell in a sweet dessert wine, tangerine with honeyed nutmeg highlights, finishes with that inherent herbal spice quality that I’m still not quite sure if I’m fond of, But this is my favorite Valvin Muscat out of the ones that I’ve tasted.
> Golden Spumante Champagne, $12, made from my beloved Diamond grape, yes I will bore you one more time with the story of how I accidentally made a Sparkling Diamond wine that (in the bottles that we salvaged that did not explode), tasted very similar to this Golden Spumante, splashes of baked apple and light orange citrus pirouette among the bubbles and dance like frantic Irish clog dancers across your palate!

- On another note, I have an announcement. I am proud to announce that I will be writing a monthly Finger Lakes column for Mountain Home magazine starting with the August issue. Mountain Home is a well-respected regional monthly that features articles about the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania and the Southern Tier of New York. Mountain Home magazine is available free every month in many of the wineries in The Finger Lakes and many other locations in PA & NY.
- I forgot to mention in my last news and notes post that THE PORT IS BACK at Lakewood. And it’s every bit as good as the ’05. Lakewood bottled 750 cases, but it will go fast, so get yours soon.
- Also, Alta B Day at Wagner Vineyards is this Sunday, July 27. It is their annual celebration in memory of Alta Button Wagner featuring entertainment on the brewdeck from 1:30 to 4:30 pm by The One Man Band, Peter Haskell with Door prizes and Wine specials with the lowest pricing of the year on many wines. One day only, 10am - 5pm.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Finger Lakes News & Notes

- Some big shows coming up for Myself and Mr. Tom, The Finger Lakes Weekend Winos Acoustic Duo, this coming Saturday at Torrey Ridge Winery from 1:30 to 4:30pm and then The Winos will appear in a Special Show at The Finger Lakes Wine Festival at Watkins Glen Race Track on Saturday, July 19th from 10am to 1pm in The Cabernet Courtyard. Be sure to stop by and say Hello to us if you are attending. Click here for more information about the Finger Lakes Wine Festival.

- More Medals were awarded to Finger Lakes wineries at the Indy International Wine Competition with Penguin Bay's Gewurztraminer winning Best White Wine of the entire competition!!! Other top winners were:

Double Gold
Torrey Ridge Niagara
Torrey Ridge Traminette
Chateau Frank Celebre (Sparkling Riesling)
Dr. Frank 2007 Semi-Dry Riesling
Long Point 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
Swedish Hill Svenska White
Swedish Hill 2007 Riesling

Lakewood 2007 Catawba
Torrey Ridge Diamond
Fulkerson Red Zeppelin
Lucas 2007 Cayuga White
Torrey Ridge Cayuga
Glenora Alpine White
Hazlitt 2007 Homestead Reserve Riesling
Thirsty Owl 2007 Dry Riesling
White Springs 2005 Riesling
Anthony Road 2006 Cabernet Franc Rosé
Sheldrake Point 2007 Dry Rosé
Torrey Ridge Scarlet Red
Hazlitt Bramble Berry
Goose Watch Golden Spumante
Goose Watch 2007 Traminette
Goose watch 2007 Viogner
Swedish Hill Svenska Red
Swedish Hill 2007 Cayuga White
Swedish Hill Blue Waters Riesling
Swedish Hill 2007 Dry Riesling

The complete results are available here

- Fulkerson Winery has released a white wine companion to their Red Zeppelin. The new sweet Niagara based wine is called Airship White and it is a good summer sipper with tastes of fresh grapes and honeysuckle.

- McGregor Vineyard Winery will host a celebration of locally made cheeses and dairy products from Noon to 6 pm this Saturday and Sunday, July 12&13. The winery has recently released a large number of white wines from the 2007 season as well as a number of reds from the 2006 season. Guests can sample Gewürztraminers, Rieslings, Traminette, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Black Russian Red among many others. The winery is hosting four regional cheese makers- Sunset View Creamery, Finger Lakes Farmstead Cheese Company, Side Hill Acres Dairy Goat Farm, & Cowlick Farms.

- On July 24-27, The Cayuga Wine Trail is hosting its third annual celebration of greyhound adoption, The Grapehound Wine Tour. This unique wine tasting event promotes greyhound adoption in the region and brings together greyhounds and their owners with visitors who have never considered adopting a greyhound. Attendees will receive a commemorative greyhound wine glass and enjoy wine tasting and food pairings at each winery throughout the weekend.

- This Saturday July 12th is Vergennes Day at Arbor Hill Winery from Noon to 3pm. Arbor Hill celebrates their unique Vergennes wine along with paying tribute to its birthplace of Vergenne Vermont.

- New laws help NY wineries and breweries

- Western NY plans own Wine Fest

- Rooster Hill Winery does well at Riesling Championship

- Finger Lakes area to be featured in magazine

- Watkins Glen racetrack to run on wind power (I can just picture the little windmills on the roofs of the race cars :) :)

- Campers staying closer to home

- A Finger Lakes Ice Cream Trail?

- An Alabama writer sings the praises of the Finger Lakes

- 100 years since aviation first in the Finger Lakes

- Art Center features Finger Lakes landscapes

- Finger Lakes winery makes beer from grapes

- Emerson Klees' updated Finger Lakes Winery Guide released

- Chowhound posters give their tips on favorite Finger Lakes wineries

- Lenn Thompson reviews Billsboro Winery Pinot Noir

Monday, July 07, 2008

Finger Lakes Mid Year Wine Report 2008

As we reach the midpoint of 2008, it's time for my Mid-Year Finger Lakes Wine report. I have visited 39 wineries so far this year (some of them multiple times) and tasted well over 300 Finger Lakes wines. As usual, I am behind on writing and posting my winery reports, but I will catch up. Some trends that I am noticing are:

- Gas prices may be affecting the Finger Lakes as visitor traffic seems down in some areas and I'm hearing anecdotal reports of less customers in some wineries, but that sales are still steady. The main tourism season for the Finger Lakes is the Fall Foliage/Grape Harvest/Christmas months of October, November, and December so we probably won't know the true effect of gas prices until then. Let's hope that fuel prices come down a bit by then.

- I don't know if it's an effect of lower visitor traffic in addition to a lot of wineries increasing wine production over the last few years, but it seems that new vintages are taking a bit longer to appear, as wineries must wait for current stock to sell. That's a good thing in a way as the wines get more time in the barrell and bottle, but for those of us who can't wait to taste the new releases, it's grueling.

- I'm seeing more Finger Lakes Pinot Gris (Grigio) than ever before being released as it seems as if just about every winery is releasing one. But, unfortunately, I have been sorely disappointed with most of them. I have tried at least 15 now and, in my humble opinion, only 2 of them (Lakewood and Silver Springs) had any real depth and complexity. I think that this could be a great grape for the Finger Lakes and the best of them have layers of apple and pear tones with solid acidity, but the rest are pretty much one dimensional. Maybe it's me but I want a little more from my Pinot Grigio than just muted flavors with token acidity. But it's a new grape here for a lot of the wineries and I have faith that they will get better.

- Another grape that is appearing more and more, Sauvignon Blanc, is making a big splash in the Finger Lakes. And in contrast to Pinot Gris, I feel that it is showing much greater depth and balance. Perhaps the recent warm years have had a favorable effect on Finger Lakes Sauv Blanc, but I'm liking many of the recent releases.

- The '07 Gewurztraminers have been slow to be released, but the ones that are out and ones that are not out that I have barrel tasted are spectacular - BIG Aromas & BIG Flavors! And proof of that is Penguin Bay's '07 Gewurz winning 2 Best of Shows (that's best wine overall!!!) at 2 recent well-respected International competitions. And, surely not to put the Penguin Bay down because it IS a fantastic wine, BUT there are several that I feel are even better that are coming out soon. In the same vein, the '07 Traminette's are also showing big aromas and flavors.

- As far as Finger Lakes Reds, winemakers are salivating over the '07 reds in the barrel right now. I have barrel tasted some and I agree that these wines have more depth, complexity, and ageworthiness than perhaps even the '05's. I can't wait until next year when they are released.

- Perhaps the most surprising thing that is taking place this year is the amazing amount of Finger Lakes white blends (a lot of them on the sweeter side) that are winning Double Golds and Golds in international competitions. I have been trying to tell people for years now that Finger Lakes winemakers craft extremely balanced and complex off-dry blends and now the wine judging community is finally agreeing. I think that Finger Lakes winemakers are Masters when it comes to blending and I feel that a lot of the reason for that is because the "second string" (first string being your Rieslings, Chardonnay, etc.) grapes that are grown here (Cayuga White, Diamond, Vidal Blanc, etc.) provide distinctive and complex yet integrated flavors when blended.

- One last trend that I am noticing is perhaps a slowing of the new winery boom with only a few new wineries opening this year that I am aware of, the most notable because of its name, being Pompous Ass Winery just north of Watkins Glen. Several new microbreweries are in the works and a Distillery is opening soon on the east side of Seneca Lake.

- Overall it's been a great season so far. I've been surprised, shocked, disappointed, and amazed. I will continue my journey to get through the other 60-some wineries by the end of the year. Even if I don't make it, I'll sure have fun trying. Be sure to come back and visit and as always, I invite your comments. Thank You for reading my ramblings!!!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Happy 4th of July - Drink American Wine!!!

Happy 4th Everyone! Remember to Celebrate with your Favorite wine made in the United States. United States wineries are putting out some great wines these days, so Drink American and visit your local wineries!!!
I'll see you on the Finger Lakes Wine Trails this weekend. FLWW