Thursday, May 28, 2009

Finger Lakes Winery Reports - May 2009

Here are highlights of my May Winery Visits:

Red Tail Ridge Winery, west side of Seneca Lake, They are starting to produce their own estate wines now and I am very excited about the wines here, especially the reds.

> ’08 Estate Semi-dry Riesling, $15.95, 1.8%RS, this Riesling is a bit different (or is it) with lots of green apple flavors instead of peach, leading into rounded lime tones on the finish.

> ’07 Estate Pinot Noir, $19.95, pleasant funky earth and tobacco on the nose, lots of beautiful smoky tobacco tones with deep black cherry undertones and a long mocha finish, an excellent Finger Lakes Pinot Noir!

> ’07 Lemberger, $18.95, from the Martini vineyards, well-defined spicy cherry layers but not much pepper right now, a little heavy on the acidity right now but this has aging potential and should smooth out nicely.

Anthony Road Winery, west side of Seneca Lake, lots to talk about here,

> ’07 Chardonnay-No Oak, $12.99, .6%RS, steely and crisp with spicy pear highlights.

> ’08 Semi-dry Riesling, $14.99, 2.6%RS, nice fresh floral and citrus aromas, bold citrus with underlying honeyed melon and ripe peach, the acidity should smooth out nicely with a little age.

> ’08 Gewurztraminer, $15.99, 1.1%RS, a bit unbalanced to me right now with loads of lychee and spice overwhelming the hints of orange and ginger below the surface, I’ll try again in a few months.

> ’07 Vignoles, $12.99, 1.4%RS, winemaker Johannes Reinhardt always makes a beautifully structured and flavorful Vignoles, nice honeyed grapefruit aromas, expressive melon with smooth citrus and a steely backbone make this a great Vignoles!

> ’06 Martini-Reinhardt Berry Select Vignoles, $45, 14.5%RS, sticking with Vignoles but in a dessert style, Beautiful amber gold color, honeyed lime aromas, sweet but balanced, intense fig, apricot, and honey in this flavor bomb, savor it slowly.

> ’07 Martini Reinhardt Select Riesling, $22, 2.1%RS, structured and steely on the nose, bold but smooth mouthwatering lime on the front with balanced honeyed lychee and spice on the finish, this is a really good value at $22, this is an excellent well-structured and nuanced Semi-dry Riesling that should also age well!

> ’07 Martini Reinhardt Select Cabernet Franc, $30, Correction: .1%RS, At first the 14.3% alcohol overwhelmed me, but after I let it breathe a bit, this wine came to life, a complex wine, very soft with deep plum and coffee tones with hints of anise, tobacco, and leather on the deep palate into a long long cocoa mocha finale, Bravo Johannes!!!

Belhurst Winery, west side of Seneca Lake, After struggling for a few years to find their wine focus, Belhurst has come out with a an impressively solid wine lineup this year; they are still a bit pricey for my wallet but it IS a premium resort with beautiful views and great dining so I guess I can shell out a little extra for excellent wine, although I am not sure where the grapes/juice is from or who the winemaker(s) are. A recent press release from Belhurst president Duane Reeder stated "With a unique winery philosophy, the Belhurst Winery includes a committee of experts who carefully seek fruit, vineyards, wine varieties and winemakers who will contribute to the palette of wines sold by Belhurst. The committee continually collaborates with area winemakers to produce consistently high quality wines which quickly become Belhurst favorites." Hmmmmm??? I assume it's Finger Lakes fruit, but I'm not sure. I will get to the bottom of this!

> ’08 Pinot Grigio, $19.95, Pinot Grigio has disappointed me in the Finger Lakes. The problem is, I have tasted a couple of exceptional Finger Lakes PG’s so I know that it can be done, but for the most part, most Finger Lakes PG’s are flabby and one dimensional, Fortunately Belhurst latest offering is beautifully structured with apple and peach layers into a spicy mineral finish that goes on longer than a Finger Lakes winter! Thank You Belhurst for a nice Finger Lakes PG. Now work on lowering that price for us common folk : ) I guess they need extra $ for that winemaking committee?

> ’08 Chardonnay, $18.95, more lime in this Chardonnay than normal Finger Lakes Chard but I like it, complex with toasted vanilla with a touch of spice with integrated soft lime with melon undertones into a very long finish, Yum.

> ’08 Dry Riesling, $18.95, fresh honeyed citrus aroma, layers of apple and melon with solid mineral finish, Wow, I am impressed! Way to make a comeback, Belhurst. I have only tasted about 10 ‘08’s so far, but this one tops my list right now. It appears that the ’08 Rieslings that I have tasted generally have more apple tones instead of the normal peach tones and there’s nothing wrong with that.

> ’08 Semi-dry Riesling, $17.95, loads of melon and apple but after the excellent Dry version, the finish just can’t compete, still a very good semi-dry Riesling.

> ’07 Pinot Noir, $21.95, the Finger Lakes ’07 Pinot Noirs seem to be coming in to their own now as the Red Tail Ridge Pinot that I reviewed above and this one are revealing, nicely funky earthy cherry on the nose, lots of dried black fruit and juicy black cherry with underlying hints of dried berries, lots of fruit in this very good and perfectly balanced Pinot, Actually this is a good value at this price point.

Fox Run Vineyards, west side of Seneca Lake,

> ’08 Semi-dry Riesling, $13.99, 2.5%RS, My knowledgable server Tim warned me that this had just been bottled, but even with bottle shock, this wine is showing very well already, very soft and smooth layered citrus tones,of orange, nectarine and lime and should continue to get better, Very Nice.

> ’06 Reserve Chardonnay, $14.99, .5%RS, Expressive Chard fruit with nice peach character and a nice long finish. > Artcic Fox, $8.99, a very steely and structured Cayuga even with 2.1%RS, very intriguing apple and citrus layers happening here, a really nice value white.

> ’07 Reserve Pinot Noir, $50, Once again, the Red wine story in the Finger Lakes this year may be the ’07 Pinot Noir, Lush and Velvety, soft smooth cherry with smoky tobacco undertones, this is an excellent wine and may well be worth the $50 price tag, but for a commoner like me, I see better value elsewhere.

Hermann Wiemer Vineyard, west side of Seneca Lake,

> ’07 Dry Riesling, $17.50, .9%RS, Winemaker Fred Merwarth doing what he does so well, the perfect dry Riesling, this is a ménage a trois of perfectly balanced peach, melon, and lime on a bed of smooth mineral and I hope that you are not in the room next door because they could go all night!

> ’07 Dry Riesling Reserve, $23, .7%RS, finely nuanced mineral character with peach layers and honeyed spice undertones, but I actually prefer the Non-reserve this year.

> 2003 Blanc de Noir, Dry Sparkling Wine, 85% Pinot Noir/ 15% Chardonnay, HW doesn’t get enough credit for their sparklers because their Riesling gets all the press, but this one has nicely expressed apple tones with beautifully defined toasty highlights.

> ’07 Estate White, $12, .4%RS, 60% Chardonnay, 20% Riesling, 20% Gewurztraminer, a very complex value blend, I find that winemakers who make the best premium wines also make the best value wines because they strive for the same balance and structure but blends are at lower price points. Sort of the same concept as eating lunch at a fancy restaurant, the chef is going to strive for the same quality as his dinner fare, but you will pay less for that same quality at lunch (yes, I am a cheapskate). This wine exudes layers of peach, apple and melon, with excellent balance and structure, a very good value at this price point.

That's all for now. I'll see you on the wine trails!!! FLWW

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Wine Wins a Medal!!!!!!

Believe it or not, a wine that I helped make has won a medal at a wine competition.

Okay, so it was just a Bronze. But yesssssssss, a wine I helped make won a freaking award!!!! I am psyched! Well, here's how it came about. I have been making wine, starting with kits and progressing to juice, for the past 10 years or so. Well, last year I decided to make wine together with 2 friends who have been making wine for a while and we decided that we were going to go bigger than we ever had. We got ourselves some 50 gallon fermenters, a pump, filtration system and all the equipment we would need to do 4 fifty gallon batches. We decided to get 50 gallons each of Concord, Niagara, Cayuga, & Dechaunac because that's what we could afford.

We read all the new research we could get our hands on about oxidation and SO2 levels and filtration and cold fermentation, etc. We even built a temperature controlled fermentation room. We were serious. For most of 2008, I had been picking the brains of any winemaker who would answer my stupid questions. Thank You to Mark at Rock Stream, Darren at Villa Bellangelo, & Chris & Liz at Lakewood for putting up with my questions and for giving me good advice!!! I have so much respect for all good winemakers after my years of trying to make something respectable.

After fermentation, we knew the Concord was going to be the best out of the four. We did sweetening trials and the flavors just popped. And it kept getting better and better with fine strawberry/citrus aromas and flavors, actually to me it tasted like the best Catawba I've ever had. We thought it might be too un-Concord like for judges. But we decided to enter it into the 2009 Winemaker Magazine Amateur Wine Competition (There were over 4400 total entries and only 7 medal winners in our category).

And they gave it a Bronze. To me, that is like a Gold and verifies that we are doing something right. Lord knows, we were flying blind at times. But I think every winemaker can attest to the fact that you really never know how a wine is going to turn out until it is in the bottle for many months. So now I can actually say that I AM A WINEMAKER. Our expert peers have deemed our skills to be passable. But now the bar has been set. Can we beat that next year? Well, we are certainly going to try! -Finger Lakes Weekend Wino & Award-Winning Winemaker : )

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Rendezvous with Riesling Report & New Finger Lakes Releases

- It was an eventful weekend this past weekend, with me and Mrs. Wino attending the Rendezvous with Riesling event at the New York Wine & Culinary Center (NYWCC) in Canandaigua on Friday night, which showcased Rieslings from over 30 New York wineries. My goal at this event was to try and get an idea of how the ‘08 Finger Lakes Rieslings were shaping up, but there were only six ‘08’s there and many of them were recently bottled and still suffering from some “bottle shock” and not showing their full potential yet. I find that Finger Lakes Rieslings, especially the dry Rieslings, show very bold acidity right after bottling and it takes a while for them to settle down and smooth out. I will try them again in a few months.

The most interesting Riesling to me was the new ‘08 “Value” Semi-dry Riesling from Red Newt, which they are calling Circle Riesling because of the circular label. Red Newt owner Dave Whiting hopes that this Riesling will be Finger Lakes answer to those other out of state produced value-priced Rieslings, and he hopes that this wine will showcase the quality of Finger Lakes Riesling to a broader audience because of its modest $11.99 price point. After tasting it, I think Dave’s theory may prove correct. This wine shows clean aromas with fresh stone fruit and citrus flavors with honeyed overtones, a good introduction to Finger Lakes Riesling for those who have not tried them yet. 2500 cases produced and it is available now. Click here for a good article about this wine from Evan Dawson at LennDevours blog and a lively discussion in the Comments section.

- Actually, what impressed me more than the wines at the Rendezvous with Riesling was the amazing food! NYWCC Executive Chef Carlo Peretti was cooking up a variety of Risotto recipes that would have impressed even Hell’s Kitchens not easily pleased maestro Gordon Ramsey. In fact, Carlo said that he has tried out for that show, so maybe he will get to cook risotto for the hotheaded fellow Brit Ramsey. Also on hand were truly impressive and tasty samples from Hartmann’s Old World Sausage (delicious meats) , Simply Crepes (heavenly apple crepes), Muranda Cheese (veteran milk producer who recently decided to produce cheese and these are very high quality cheeses), The Pierogie Guy (with a unique pulled pork pierogie), and Renee Suzette’s Chocolate (truly decadent chocolates). Mrs. Wino & I were in culinary heaven. I will be writing more about these quality New York state food producers in my Food & Wine column in Mountain Home magazine.

-On Saturday, I visited Fulkerson Winery for 2 reasons. First, they have just released their first Cabernet Franc Ice Wine and I was anxious to try it. This is one of the few Finger Lakes Cab Franc Ice Wines that I know of, but after tasting it, I think other wineries may want to add one of their own to their wine production. I have long thought, after tasting several sweeter Cab Franc’s, that it’s flavors really start to pop at higher residual sugar levels and that is certainly the case here. This wine possesses some of the most bold but still defined flavors of any ice wine that I have encountered. Full flavored but detailed layers of cherry and strawberry pirouette across your tongue like some crazed ballerina on steroids, and the 16.2% Residual Sugar is kept in check by the full flavor profile. At $44.99, this is not an everyday wine, but it is a perfect special occasion treat or for when you really want to impress someone.

The other reason that I was at Fulkerson was because the Finger Lakes own syndicated TV Chef, Chef William, was doing cooking demonstrations and book signings, and I was there to interview him for an article. Chef William’s story is a truly inspiring one and you can tell that he really loves what he does. I’ll let you know when the article comes out.

- Also in my travels this weekend, I stopped at Villa Bellangelo Winery to see what was new and owner Mike Litterio and his crew were very busy with a full tasting room, but they were very excited to have me try their newest wine addition, a sparkling Moscato ($16.99), made from the Cornell-produced hybrid grape Valvin Muscat. There are a few other Valvin Muscat’s being produced in the Finger Lakes, but this is the first sparkling one that I know of. The unique herbal quality of this grape is sometimes a little off-putting for me, but the low alcohol (6%) and sparkling components of Villa Bellangelo’s offering seems to mute that herbal quality and bring out more zingy pineapple and apricot flavors, producing a refreshing and flavorful low alcohol sipper that is going to be a big seller, especially for the summer. In fact, Mike says that only 112 cases were produced and they are going fast, so get it while you can.

- Memorial Day weekend coming up and it’s going to be another busy week. Remember to try and Buy Local when you can and always Drink Well and Be Safe!!!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Finger Lakes News & Notes - May 3, 2009

- It has been a busy last several weeks for The Weekend Wino as I have been tasting wines other than Finger Lakes wines. When I travel to other wine regions or do tastings at International Wine Events, I realize how spoiled I am by the quality and great value that Finger Lakes wine represents. Two examples from the last 2 weeks: I traveled up to Long Island to visit with friends and taste the Long Island wine offerings and, although there were some very nice wines, there was absolutely no good values to speak of. I do understand expenses are higher, but tasting prices and wine prices have increased considerably since I visited Long Island just two years ago, with tastings starting at $6 and going up to $12 to taste premium wines. Maybe the recession has not hit Long Island and NYC as much as other areas, but I believe that people are looking for value right now and I just did not see it on Long Island. I also attended an International Wine event in Pennsylvania, with over 100 of the worlds top wineries presenting tastings. Wines with price tags well over $100 were here and I just was not that impressed. I have tasted wines priced below twenty dollars that compared to some of these overpriced wines. Sure, there were some that lived up to there price tags, but quite a few left me shaking my head and longing for the Finger Lakes. I guess I’ve become a Finger Lakes wine snob, but I’d rather have wine that tastes good than wine with good taste, if you know what I mean : )

- My May column for Mountain Home magazine is available here and my April post for Finger Lakes Wine Country is here

- May is Riesling Month in the Finger Lakes with many events to celebrate the signature grape of the region. Some highlights of Riesling month include:
Rooster Hill Vineyards' Rieslings in Riedel lets anyone who comes in for a Riesling tasting ($3) try the wine in both a regular glass and a Riedel glass that many experts say enhances the flavor.
Ravines Wine Cellars' Ravenous for Rieslings is offering dry Riesling and food pairing each Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. through May. Saturday's pairing features shrimp with beurre blanc and shallots. The pairing costs $6 and no reservations are required.

New York Wine & Culinary Center presents Rendezvous with Riesling, a celebration of Finger Lakes Riesling on May 15th, including a special tasting of six older vintage Rieslings.

Enjoy free Finger Lakes Riesling tastings every Friday in May from 6:30pm to 8:00pm at the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel.

Holly Howell gives a primer on Cabernet Franc

Tom Pellechia highlights some lesser known wines

The New York Wine & Culinary Center makes a big impact

Interesting story on how the recession is affecting a Washington State wine region. From what I see, the Finger Lakes wineries have had pretty good traffic on most weekends so far this Spring, so hopefully the Finger Lakes can weather the recession.

Finger Lakes wineries took home 28 Gold medals at the Pacific Rim International Wine Competition, including Best White Wine award to Dr. Frank ’07 Semi-Dry Riesling (see my review here). See Grand Champion results here

Check out the art of Finger Lakes artist Brenda Sunseri

Rooster Fish Brewery delights with food and beer in Watkins Glen

The Best of Routes 5 & 20

Reviews of Taste Camp East

Interesting discussion at LennDevours about Red Newt’s new “sweeter” Riesling and the economics of wine pricing

John Zuccarino of Silver Springs Winery continues his series of educational wine videos and even plays guitar for us