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!!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent! I always like Finger Lakes wines.
Thank you for the report!
I will visit this area when my life gets better... :)