Sunday, March 29, 2009

Finger Lakes Winery Visit Reports - March 2009

Here are some highlights from my March winery visits:

Dr. Frank Wine Cellars, west side of Keuka Lake, This well-known winery always produces a quality product and I've been tasting here for many years, but I have to say that this year, I am struck by the consistency of Dr. Frank's '07 vintage white wine lineup. Right down the line, these whites from the '07 vintage are just beautiful!!! And because of the slowing economy, they have actually lowered the prices on some of their wines!
> 2007 Dry Riesling, $16.99, soft floral/citrus aromatics, a little different than recent vintages of this wine (but just as excellent) with softer mineral tones and more rounded lime tones with mild apple undertones and, as always impeccably balanced and integrated flavors.
> 2007 Semi-Dry Riesling, $14.99, citrus blossom aromatics, Expressive ripe peach and soft citrus with subdued but sufficient minerality and just the right touch of Residual Sugar.
> 2007 Gewurztraminer, $17.99, If you've read my posts for the last 6 months, you know that I believe that many of the '07 Gewurz's in the Finger Lakes have established a new level for Finger Lakes Gewurz and these two '07 Dr. Frank Gewurz's are at that top level, beautifully perfumed complex aromatics, with plush spice and honey tones.
> 2007 Reserve Gewuztraminer, $24.99, All I can say is Wow!!! Extremely aromatic multi-toned floral and spice, layers and layers of plush tangerine, honey, ripe peach, apricot, with complex spice tones including deep palate hints of cinnamon and sweet basil. An amazingly complex Gewurztraminer!!! One of my top favorites right now.
> 2007 Salmon Run Riesling, $11.99, Dr. Frank's value Riesling, nice layers of juicy peach and crisp apple, Very Nice and an Excellent Value.
> Chateau Frank Celebre, $19.99, Sparkling Riesling, smooth soft-toned lemon/lime citrus and peach with nice toast elements in an excellent bubbler.
Also, some noteworthy '07 reds from Dr. Frank
> 2007 Lemberger, $24.99, deep plum and bing cherry tones with slight hints of peppery spice, medium tannins should age well.
> 2007 Cabernet Franc, $19.99, Well defined cherry tones with an expressive earthiness and a hint of anise into a long finish.

Glenora Wine Cellars (west side of Seneca Lake), Glenora also has a quality white wine lineup on the shelves, Some highlights are:
> 2006 Signature, $17.99, Pinot Blanc/Chardonnay/Riesling blend, beautifully layered tones of vanilla, citrus, melon, and toast from the French Oak aging.
> 2007 Golden Glen Chardonnay, $13.99, a full-bodied stainless steel aged Chardonnay, soft melon on the intake into juicy Chard fruit with a solid crisp finish.
> 2007 Pinot Blanc, $13.99, Delicate pear and peach tones lead to pleasant undertones of petrol and Frenck oak. Very Nice!
> 2007 Riesling, $15.99, 3.2% RS, very soft mouthfeel with honeyed melon and peach/pear highlights. The Beverage Tasting Institute named this Riesling as The Best Riesling in the U.S., but I must beg to differ. It's Very Good, but the best???
> Cayuga White, 3.3% RS, $8.99 750ml, $13.99 1.5L, focused layers of honeyed grapefruit, melon and apple, a great example of how Finger Lakes winemakers turn the much aligned hybrids into complex multi-faceted wines.
Red Newt Wine Cellars, east side of Seneca Lake, always a top producer of whites AND reds.
> 2007 Semi-Dry Riesling, $13.99, 2.5% RS, multi-layered citrus of orange/tangerine/apricot into a solid crisp finish.
> 2007 Saw Mill Creek Gewurztraminer, $35.99, Owner Dave Whiting is crafting some single vineyard wines in order to define the profiles of the specific locations and Jim Hazlitt's Saw Mill Creek vineyard is one of them. This can lead to higher-priced wines as evidenced here, but it also lead to wines that define wine regions. Another exceptional '07 Gewurz with unbelievable aromatics from this wine with complex perfumed floral and spice, outlined by more subtle and delicate tropical notes (melon, kiwi) into a solid spicy mineral finish.
> 2007 Cabernet Franc, $19.99, plum, earth and leather on the nose, with luscious juicy fruit with more plum and berry tones and less of the usual cherry, Loving it!!!
Fulkerson Winery, west side of Seneca Lake, here are some highlights for this 20th Anniversary year for Fulkerson
> 2007 Dry Riesling Reserve, $16.49, If you are a dry Riesling fan, this one is for you. This was made for food with an almost Stainless-aged Chardonnay feel to it. Nice framework of crisp lime and some interesting pear undertones into a classic mineral finish. Only 124 cases made.
> 2007 Traminette, 1.6 RS, $11.99, just released a few weeks ago, lightly perfumed nose with exotic spice, opens with delicate honey spice flavors into a long juicy ripe pear finish, even better than the acclaimed previous Tram vintages! And a Great Value at 11.99.
> 2007 Riesling-Traminette, $12.49, 1.2% RS, subtle but very effective describes this unique blend of 55% Riesling and 45% Traminette, full aromatics of floral blossoms, honeysuckle, citrus and mild spices, soft and subtle but still fully detailed pear flavors into a mild spice finish.
> 2007 Ravat 51 (Vignoles), $9.99, 6.3% RS, lots of residual sugar but balanced with perfect acidity, a different tasting Vignoles than normal with interesting apple cider aromas with more peach and apple flavors than the normal pineapple/grapefruit, different but I like it!
>2008 Matinee, $13.99, 7% RS, One of THE most unique wines in the Finger Lakes. Normally Fulkerson makes this with the seldom-used Lakemont and Himrod grapes but this year just Himrod. Lightly perfumed citrus peel and mint on the nose, less of that unique mint flavor this year but it's more than made up for with delicate peach and tangerine. This is a nuanced wine and a nice light apertif that will go perfectly with light desserts.
In wine competition news, a Finger Lakes wine made from Niagara and Diamond grapes - Penguin Bay Tuxedo White - won Best of Class this month at Jerry Mead’s New World International Wine Competition. I can just visualize all of the stodgy old wine snob judges grimacing : )
That's all for now. I'll see you on the Trails!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Finger Lakes News & Notes - March 22, 2009

- Finger Lakes Spring events and happenings listed at Finger Lakes Wine Country

- Record number of wines entered for Finger Lakes Wine Competition

- Tours offer rare opportunity to see the famed white deer of Seneca Army Depot

- features Imagine Moore Winery

- Ron Reals profiles Walter Taylor

- Senator George Winner's website poll currently shows 79% against eliminating funding for the New York Wine & Grape Foundation; Cast your vote here

- Richard Leahy writes VWM's Cover Story on the Finger Lakes Wine Evolution

- Montezuma Winery receives 91 points from BTI for its delicious Cranberry Bog (one of my favorites)

- Evan Dawson reports on the outstanding '07 Finger Lakes Reds

- Thomas Pellechia recaps the Finger Lakes vs. Germany Riesling showdown. I was there and it was very interesting.

- Abby Nash offers premium tour option for Finger Lakes visitors

- Some wine buyers opting for less expensive wines

- Finger Lakes Community College to offer 2 year viticulture/enology degree program and
Tompkins Cortland Community College to start new Wine Marketing 2 year degree program

- New exhibit at Handwerker Gallery portrays water in innovative ways

- Kens Wine Guide offer reviews on Finger Lakes wine

- Cellar Tracker is another place to look for Finger Lakes wine opinions

- Robert Whitley writes on finding value wines

- Evan Dawson's article at LennDevours on Finger Lakes Single Vineyard Wines produces an interesting discussion

- Ithacork reviews Sheldrake Point ice wines

- Finger Lakes Museum seeking county proposals soon

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Argument Against Allowing Wine Sales in NY Grocery Stores

In order to present both sides of the issue of whether New York should allow wine sales in grocery stores, I have posted views from different sides of this issue. As I've said before, I am not endorsing either side mainly because this is not a political website and I also am not clear about the impacts of this proposal intended or unintended, but it is an important issue and if you feel passionately one way or the other, please let your legislator know how you feel.

The following is a press release from "The Last Store On Main Street" that summarizes the position against this proposal. The previous post summarized the position for this proposal.

Wineries from Around New York Say ‘No’ to Governor’s Plan
ALBANY, NY February 23, 2009 – Wineries from Long Island to Western New York, and from the Hudson Valley to the Thousand Islands, have joined the fight to defeat Governor Paterson’s misguided plan to legalize the sale of wine in grocery stores, delis, mini-marts, gas stations, bodegas, and anywhere else beer is now sold.

"Winery owners know a bad deal when they see one, and we know this plan will hurt our businesses and hurt our partners in the wine and liquor stores," said William Ouweleen of Eagle Crest Vineyards in the Finger Lakes Region. "Big Box stores like Walmart and Whole Foods will stock the most popular, lowest priced brands on their shelves, leaving little space for New York wines. At the same time, wine stores around the state will be forced out of business – severely curtailing our ability to reach our customers. We urge the Legislature to reject this job-killing plan."

Wineries from every region of New York -- 75 to date and growing every day -- have joined forces with the Coalition for the Last Store on Main Street, which includes small business owners, independent wine sellers, and wholesalers from around the state fighting to stop the Governor’s proposal to legalize the sale of wine wherever beer is now sold. If implemented, this change would devastate many small businesses and cost the state thousands of valuable jobs.

"Wineries in New York have grown tremendously over the last 20 years, in large part to the wonderful partnership we have with wine sellers and liquor stores," said Bill Merritt from Merritt Estate Winery in the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Region. "We need to look for ways to build on this partnership so wineries and wine sellers alike can continue to thrive, not tear down a successful system just to benefit a few Big Box stores."

Rich Olsen-Harbich, winemaker of Raphael on Long Island, said, "This plan would not only hurt wine sellers, but hurt wineries as well. Wine sellers know our product and can provide a level of customer service that grocery stores can never match. We know that times are tough for the state, but this is a terrible idea that will only cost jobs for the wine stores and ultimately, the wineries."

Jeff Saunders, head of the Retailers Alliance Foundation and a leader of the Last Store Coalition, said, "New York retailers deeply appreciate the support we have received from the wineries in this battle. New York wineries make great wines, and we are proud to promote them in our stores. We look forward to continuing this partnership and making it even stronger in the years ahead."

In addition to the wineries, the Governor’s proposal has sparked strong opposition from the law enforcement community, which fears that providing teenagers with greater access to alcohol will heighten the risk of underage drinking and fatal drunk driving accidents.

Massachusetts voters rejected a similar idea just last year because of the devastating impact it would have had on teenagers, no state has passed this kind of measure in 23 years. In Florida, California and Texas, three states where wine is sold everywhere, the number of alcohol related fatalities per 100,000 is more than double that of New York State. Even worse, alcohol related fatalities of those under age 21 are three times higher in these states where wine is sold everywhere, as compared to New York which has independently owned licensees, legally responsible for preventing youth from purchasing alcohol.

The list of wineries opposing the Governor’s dangerous plan includes:
Long IslandBedell Cellars Bridge Vineyards Castello Di Borghese Vineyards & Winery Corey Creek Vineyards Duckwalk Vineyards Jamesport Vineyards Laurel Lake Vineyards Lieb Family Cellars The Lenz Cellars Martha Clara Vineyards
Macari Vineyards and Winery Osprey’s Dominion Palmer Vineyards Paumanok Vineyards Pugliese Vineyards Pindar Vineyards Raphael Shinn Estate Vineyards Vineyard 48 Wolffer Estate Pellegrini Vineyards
Onabay Winery
Also, Louisa Thomas Hargrave, Stony Brook Center for Wine, Food and Culture.
Hudson Valley Brotherhood Baldwin Benmarl Whitecliff Clinton Millbrook Warwick
Glorie Farm
Adair Applewood
Also, Hudson Valley Wine and Grape Growers
Finger Lakes Hermann Wiemer Ravines Winery Chateau Lafayette Casa Larga Keuka Spring Vineyards Willow Creek Dr. Frank Chateau Frank Bully Hill Hunt Country
Torrey Ridge Earl Estates Glenora Knapp Wine Cellars Imagine Moore Vineyards Eagle Crest Vineyards Rooster Hill Vineyards
Swedish Hill
Goose Watch Penquin Bay Thirsty Owl Montezuma Fulkerson Winery Hazlitt Winery Standing Stone Crooked Lake Heron Hill Lucas Winery
LaMoreaux Landing Winery
Niagara Wine Trail
Arrowhead Springs
Niagara Landing
Honeymoon Winery
Lake Erie
Johnson Estates
Merritt Estates
Thousand Islands
Yellow Barn Winery
Otter Creek
Thousand Islands Winery
Seaway Cold Hardy Grapes & Vineyard

The Last Store on Main Street is a coalition of small business owners, independent wine sellers, wholesalers and wineries from around the state fighting to stop the Governor’s proposal to legalize the sale of wine in grocery stores, mini-marts, delis, gas stations and bodegas in every neighborhood in New York. If implemented, this change would devastate many small businesses and cost the state thousands of valuable jobs. Additionally, the sale of wine in every store where beer is now available would give teenagers greater access to alcohol – resulting in a heightened risk of underage drinking and fatal drunk driving accidents.
# # #

Scott Osborn Speaks Out about Wine Sales in NY Grocery Stores

I received an email from Scott Osborn, President of Fox Run Vineyards, expressing his support for the proposal that wine sales be allowed in grocery stores in New York, which is in direct opposition to the stance taken by many other New York wineries. This is an important issue for New York wineries. Some may call it copping out, but I have not taken a position in this debate because I just do not get a good sense of what the "real" outcome of the proposal will be. But I do believe the reasons for and against should be aired. Make no mistake, there will be winners and losers when this issue is decided.

I do support the mom and pop liquor stores that are toiling to survive in a challenging economy and I also support the farm wineries that are looking for new markets in which to sell the products. And perhaps most importantly and the group that sometimes gets lost in these debates, I support the wine consumer who deserves both the personal service and knowledgeable advice they get from the smaller liquor stores and the wide range of choice and perhaps lower prices they might get from larger grocery stores. The problem is that no one can know for sure what consequences, intended or unintended, will actually result from enacting this proposal.
We can all speculate and the lobbyists for each group can shout the doomsday scenarios from every side of the issue, but in my small brain, I just wonder why we can't come up with a way where everybody wins. I guess I am naive to think that way. So I am posting Scott Osborn's case for support of wine sales in NY grocery stores today and I will also present the opposing view in another post.

President: Scott Osborn

A Statement to fellow New York winery owners:

Many of you are aware that I have spoken out publicly in support of the Governor’s proposal to allow wine sales in grocery stores in New York State .

During the last month, I have heard from many individuals in the trade who have had a negative reaction to this position and I suspect there are many others who are wondering why I would take this stance publicly and put my business at risk with the liquor stores, so I would like to explain my position to my fellow winery owners because I believe in your heart of hearts, you will agree with me.

Most importantly, I want to be clear that I do not believe I am trying to “put liquor stores out of business” by exercising my right as an American to advocate for what I believe will be helpful to my business. If the liquor store associations have the right to speak their mind, why shouldn’t I? My position does not mean that I do not value the business relationships that I have with liquor stores that sell my wine. I consider the owners of NYS wine shops that have supported the sales of my wines for many years to be business partners and I am deeply appreciative of the sales and support they have provided for Fox Run wines the past few years.

However, we have all been struggling in this industry for several years now. I honestly believe that the Governor’s proposal is a necessary step in the right direction.

Let’s take a look at how the liquor store industry and the NY wine industry have progressed over the past 25 years. Back in the early 90’s there were only about 125+ wineries in the state and almost 5,000 liquor stores! Now we have over 250 wineries and approximately 2600 liquor stores. This trend is continuing and at the current rate in 10 years there will only be 1500 liquor stores in NY. SO let me ask you this…how much shelf space do you think NY wines will have then? We have to look at where we are going to sell our wines not only as individual wineries but as a wine industry made up of small, medium, and large producers. What is good for our industry’s growth?

Here is the way I see it.

If we as an industry allow this proposal to be defeated we will be committing economic suicide and this why.

Here in the Finger Lakes , the amount of new wine visitors to our tasting rooms is flattening out (which started before the recession), but we are seeing about a 10% a year increase in the number of new wineries opening. Our industry cannot sustain these increases in wineries with out a major loss of income to the existing wineries because now we are sharing customers with out attracting enough new ones to our tasting rooms. In the near future when you can’t sell your entire inventory at your own tasting room, what are you going to do? How many liquor stores are going to carry more NYS wines?

The newer wineries who have opened in the last 3 years or so have not had the challenge yet of trying to get a liquor store to carry their wines. It is not easy and one gets far more, not interested, than any that will even consider it. It took me 2 years to get any of my products into a liquor store. All of you folks that have been around a while know exactly what I’m talking about. There simply is not enough interest from the liquor stores to sustain all of us now, let alone a growing industry.

Don’t misunderstand! I want all these new wineries to open because it brings diversity and enhances our regions as wine producing areas. But…We need new outlets! Think about this! Do you want to still be struggling 5 years from now! 10? Those of you who have been in this for longer then 10 years remember when the liquor stores wouldn’t carry your wines because, as the liquor stores always reminded us, there was no demand for New York wines. Remember that? Remember how we spent tons of money marketing our wine trails in order to get visitors to our tasting rooms and create interest in NY wines. The only reason any liquor store carries our product is because the customers we created went into those stores and started asking for our wines. Why? It is called consumer pull through. Our tasting rooms were the driver to get these stores to take our wines and then support us.

The amount of shelf space is not going to increase. With the exception of a few stores the vast majority of liquor stores are not going to expand their New York wines section at the expense of their Australian, Californian or Chilean sections. What I find the most frustrating about the big Liquor Store Lobby is that they claim local wineries will be put out of business because grocers will only carry the popular wines from out of state. What I say to them is; show me a store in NYC that carries my wine or has a good selection of NY wines! I’ve tried they won’t take me. It doesn’t matter how good my product is or that I’m from NY. They have no pride in the wines from their own state and yet they point the finger at others. Shame on them. I know my wines can compete. There are grocery stores that sell my wines outside this state and yet the liquor stores have the audacity to say my wine can’t compete at grocery stores in my own state.

We will never have access to the NYC market; the largest wine market in the world unless we have more outlets and can do business with others that have an interest in supporting NY product. We don’t need to fill every shelf and some of us are still growing and not ready yet. But when you are, you deserve to have options.

For me, the bottom line is simple: We need the Governors proposal to happen so we will have more outlets to sell our wines, so our industry can grow and sustain itself. I know better then anyone the risks of publicly supporting this controversial measure, but I am willing to take those risks in order to build a better future for my family, my beloved winery and our New York wine industry.

I invite and encourage you to join me by contacting your local Assemblyman and Senator. Tell them you support the Governor’s proposal to sell wine in grocery stores. We need you to do this today!


Scott Osborn
Fox Run Vineyards, Inc.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Lakewood Vineyards 20th Anniversary Kickoff Celebration

Over 200 of us made a pilgrimage last night to pay tribute to a family and winery that personifies the best of what makes the Finger Lakes a great place to be, those attributes being family, friendship, community, and great wine. That family is the Stamps and the winery is Lakewood Vineyards and 20 years ago Monty and Bev Stamp started their winery on the west side of Seneca Lake.

Lakewood fans from near and far gathered for Lakewood Vineyard’s 20th Anniversary Celebration and tasted our way through 20 years of wine with the Stamp family. Library wines from 1989 forward were on hand to taste and to purchase at the original prices, many in very limited quantities. For some of the wines, time has not been an ally but many have aged very well especially the Meads and I was able to procure several bottles of 1996 Mystic Mead that have developed luscious ice wine like qualities.
On a personal level, when I first started writing about Finger Lakes wine, Liz and Chris Stamp were one of the first to welcome me, and everyone at Lakewood Vineyards portrays that welcoming attitude to all of their customers on every visit. A large part of their success is built on customer service at a personal level and, when you visit, you become more than a customer - you become a friend. I raise a glass and toast Lakewood Vineyards and wish them many more decades of great wine and great friendships! See photos of the event below.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Finger Lakes Wineries Do Well at Grand Harvest Wine Competition

The Grand Harvest Wine Competition took place in California last week and Finger Lakes wineries did well. According to the Grand Harvest website, it is the only wine-judging event in North America that is based on terroir - a group of vineyards (or even vines) from the same region, belonging to a specific appellation, and sharing the same type of soil, weather conditions, grapes and wine making savoir-faire, which contribute to give its specific personality to the wine. In other competitions, this factor is ignored. At the Grand Harvest, judges taste wines with other wines of the same appellation. Thus, with cross-regional competition removed, the inherent quality of wines can be seen without the influences that sometimes eclipse even a wine of very high quality. Heron Hill, Anthony Road, & Hazlitt were multiple Gold medal winners. Here are the top Finger Lakes award winners:

New York
Heron Hill , Heron Hill Winery, 06 Riesling, Dry , 1.7% rs, 1600 cases produced, $12.99
Heron Hill , Heron Hill Winery, 07 Riesling, Semi Dry , 2.5% rs, 3900 cases produced, $12.99
Anthony Road , Anthony Road Wine Company, 07 Riesling, Martini Vineyards, Dry , 0.6% rs, 715 cases produced, $15.99
Anthony Road , Anthony Road Wine Company, 07 Riesling, Martini Vineyards, Martini-Reinhardt, 2.1% rs, 102 cases produced, $22
Anthony Road , Anthony Road Wine Company, 07 Cabernet Franc Dry Rose, Martini Vineyards, 0.6% rs, 233 cases produced, $12.99
Damiani Wine Cellars, 07 Merlot, Barrel Select , 0% rs, 108 cases produced, $35
Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, 07 Riesling, Semi Dry , 2% rs, 2345 cases produced, $12.99
Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, 07 Chardonnay, 0% rs, 994 cases produced, $9.99
Ventosa Vineyards, 07 Toca ice, 16.5% rs, 90 cases produced, $28.95

Belhurst Estate Winery, Belhurst Estate Winery, 07 Chardonnay, New York State, 0% rs, 125 cases produced, $18.95
Heron Hill , Heron Hill Winery, 07 Riesling, Semi Sweet , 3.4% rs, 1050 cases produced, $11.99
Damiani Wine Cellars, 07 Cabernet Franc, 0% rs, 110 cases produced, $23
Dr. Kostantin Frank, 07 Riesling, Dry , 0.7% rs, 3100 cases produced, $16.99
Dr. Kostantin Frank, 07 Riesling, Semi Dry , 2% rs, 3300 cases produced, $14.99
Dr. Kostantin Frank, 07 Rhatsiteli, 0.7% rs, 2001 cases produced, $17.99
Fulkerson Winery, 07 Riesling , Reserve, 0% rs, 124 cases produced, $16.49
Glenora Wine Cellars, 07 Merlot, 0% rs, 258 cases produced, $18.99
Glenora Wine Cellars, 07 Riesling, Dry , 0.95% rs, 1500 cases produced, $17.99
Glenora Wine Cellars, 07 Riesling, 3.1% rs, 2000 cases produced, $15.99
Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, 07 Cabernet Franc, 0.2% rs, 475 cases produced, $19
Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, 07 Riesling, Homestead, 0.8% rs, 839 cases produced, $17.99
Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, Red Cat, 7.5% rs, 76526 cases produced, $7.79
Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, 06 Syrah, 0% rs, 318 cases produced, $18.99
Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, White Stag, 4.4% rs, 2342 cases produced, $8.99
Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, White Cat, 5.3% rs, 11298 cases produced, $7.79
Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, Brambleberry, 5.8% rs, 2092 cases produced, $8.99
Knapp Winery, 07 Chardonnay, 0.3% rs, 196 cases produced, $11.95
Treleaven, King Ferry Winery, 07 Gewurztraminer, 0.4% rs, 182 cases produced, $19.99

For complete results, click here.