Saturday, January 03, 2009

2008 Finger Lakes Winery of The Year

I started naming a Winery of The Year last year to give a pat on the back to the Finger Lakes winery that, in my humble opinion, exemplified the best of what Finger Lakes wines and wineries offer. My selection criteria include overall wine quality, the level of service and education offered in the tasting room, and perhaps most importantly my subjective opinion of the level of passion, commitment, heart and soul of the winery. Obviously, most winery owners and winemakers are committed to producing quality wine, but I'm looking for those intangibles that show through consistently on every visit that elevate a winery to a truly special place to visit. A place where you can sense that something special is going on there. Last years recipient, Bloomer Creek Vineyard, exemplified this passion and commitment. Unfortunately, I do not have a gold statue or platinum globe to give to the winner, but for what it's worth, I do give my sincere appreciation to the winners for embodying the best of the Finger Lakes wine industry.

So after visiting over 90 Finger Lakes wineries and tasting over 700 Finger Lakes wines in 2008, I have selected my Finger Lakes Winery of The Year for 2008. There were many deserving top-quality wineries in 2008, but there could only be one winner. The winner is a truly exceptional combination of great vineyard skills and great winemaking skills. And the winner is (drum roll) >>> Shaw Vineyard <<<. As one of the first writers to write about this winery after it opened in the summer of 2007, I wrote:

"SHAW VINEYARDS, owned by Steve Shaw, has just opened (west side of Seneca Lake, near Hermann Wiemer) but already has impressive credentials. Steve has been growing wine grapes in the Finger Lakes for many years and the wineries that have purchased grapes from him are solid proof of the quality of his grapes (Do Dr. Frank or Hermann Wiemmer ring a bell to anyone?). Steve's meticulous attention to the grapevines has now evolved into his lifelong ambition of owning his own winery finally bearing fruit.
The parking lot and tasting room are still works in progress (you might even miss the turn into the driveway (like me) if you are not paying attention, but the wines are Very Ready and well worth the visit. With Morten Hallgren (owner and winemaker of Ravines) as his mentor, consultant, and winemaking partner, Steve Shaw has hit the ground running and ready to join the ranks of a growing number of Finger Lakes wineries committed to the difficult task (with a short growing season and the potential of harsh winters) of crafting world-class red wines in the Finger Lakes.
Shaw & Hallgren use innovative whole cluster pressing techniques and a commitment to letting the wines age properly before releasing to craft elegant food-friendly wines. "

I visited again in 2008 and was even more impressed as Shaw released impressive whites to go along with those excellent reds. I wrote:

"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!
> 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 still can't believe this is a Finger Lakes Cab Sauv.
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!"

If you are visiting the Finger Lakes and enjoy finely crafted dry and semi-dry wines, both red and white, Shaw Vineyard should be at the top of your “Must Visit” list. They may not have the largest or grandest tasting room (in fact their tasting room is one of the more modest on the trail), but the exceptional quality of the entire product line, a commitment to top-level customer service and consumer education, and a winery team that exudes the desire to produce the best customer experience possible makes Shaw Vineyard this years winner. Congratulations to Shaw Vineyard as the Finger Lakes Weekend Wino 2008 Winery of The Year!!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know the owners of Shaw and they are totally committed to making great wine. I am so excited that people are quickly noticing this small by blossoming winery. They know how to do it right, make great wine.