Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Posted on http://www.winespectator.com/ by James Molesworth: Friday, January 16, 2009
Going forward, the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York will likely stake its vinous reputation on Riesling, which handles the area's typically cool, humid climate well. But as winemakers continue to experiment, other white varieties, including Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris, are also increasingly in the mix.
"Gewürztraminer develops all its flavors right at the end of the growing cycle," explained Red Newt Cellars winemaker David Whiting. "So with our short growing season, that can get a bit tricky."
But the 2007 season was hot and dry in the Finger Lakes, and while some Rieslings show a slightly blowsy side, Gewürztraminer, in contrast, seems to have picked up the slack, ripening fully in the warmer 2007 season without losing any freshness. As always, vineyard location proved key in balancing the effects of the warm season.
"Our higher elevation vineyards on Keuka Lake were less affected by the hot, dry '07 season," noted Dr. Konstantin Frank owner and winemaker Frederick Frank, whose Reserve Gewürztraminer bottling earns an outstanding review for its combination of concentration and freshness.
In addition to the bottlings from the established Dr. Frank and Red Newt, there are some relatively new faces here as well, including Miles Wine Cellars, a separate label owned by Doug and Susan Hayes, grapegrowers in the region for 30 years who began to bottle their own wines in 1997. Their wines are made by winemaker Peter Bell at the Fox Run facility.
While most of the offerings here are from vinifera grape varieties, the Vignoles and Vidal Blanc hybrids are represented as well. Both grapes produce extremely high acidity, so dry versions can be a bit severe in profile. But when left on the vine late into the harvest season to either develop botrytis or shrivel naturally, these hybrid grapes can produce some excellent dessert wines. Standing Stone's Vidal is perennially outstanding, a rare track record that makes it arguably the best wine made in the Finger Lakes, while bottlings from Anthony Road and King Ferry are also worth tracking down.
DR. KONSTANTIN FRANK Gewürztraminer Finger Lakes Reserve 2007 Score: 90 $25
Very juicy and forward, with enticing apple, anise, fennel seed, fig and spice notes that stay fresh and lovely through the finish. Mouthwatering acidity brings you back for more. Delicious. Drink now through 2010. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 387 cases made. —J.M.
RED NEWT CELLARS Gewürztraminer Finger Lakes Sawmill Creek Vineyards 2007 Score: 90 $36
Very tight still, this mouthwatering version offers racy acidity that keeps the watermelon, kiwi, green apple and fig notes rippling through the long, bright finish. Textbook bitter almond and bitter orange notes frame it all nicely. Drink now through 2010. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. A new bottling sourced from longtime grower Jim Hazlitt's vineyard. 250 cases made. —J.M.
STANDING STONE Vidal Finger Lakes Ice 2007 Score: 90 $25 / 375ml
Ripe and sweet, with lots of maple, honey, ginger, persimmon and spice notes that are nicely rounded. Shows length on the finish, with hints of golden raisin and white chocolate. Delicious. This wine has a terrific track record. Drink now through 2012. 832 cases made. —J.M.
ANTHONY ROAD Riesling Finger Lakes Martini Reinhardt Selection 2007 Score: 89 $22
Very fresh, with a nice mouthwatering slate and green apple driven core that picks up fennel, anise and star fruit notes through the lengthy, vibrant finish. Delicious. Drink now through 2010. 105 cases made. —J.M.
ANTHONY ROAD Vignoles Finger Lakes Berry Selection Martini Reinhardt Selection 2006 Score: 89 $45 / 375ml
Frankly sweet, but focused, with maple, persimmon, blood orange and clove notes offset by a tangy green tea streak. Nice lengthy, juicy finish. Really solid. Drink now. 197 cases made. —J.M.
DR. KONSTANTIN FRANK Gewürztraminer Finger Lakes 2007 Score: 89 $18
Spicy, with an almost crunchy edge to the bright acidity, which carries delicious apple, fig, almond and orange zest notes. Stays delineated and mouthwatering on the finish. Drink now. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 1,330 cases made. —J.M.
RED NEWT CELLARS Gewürztraminer Finger Lakes Curry Creek Vineyards 2007 Score: 89 $42
Open-knit, with a tender feel to green apple, melon and pear flavors offset by a hint of lychee on the medium-weight, juicy finish. Very solid, with a nice twinge of bitter almond keeping it all honest. Drink now through 2010. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 230 cases made. —J.M.
BLOOMER CREEK Gewürztraminer Finger Lakes R 2007 Score: 88 $24
This is juicy and concentrated, with tasty lychee, almond, fig and cardamom notes backed by bitter almond and grapefruit rind hints on the finish. Drink now through 2010. 20 cases made. —J.M.
FOX RUN Riesling Finger Lakes Miles Wine Cellars 2006 Score: 88 $18
Tangy, with nice drive to the slate, pippen apple and green almond notes. Still a touch taut on the finish, with a hint of lanolin in the background. Drink now through 2010. 192 cases made. —J.M.
HAZLITT 1852 Gewürztraminer Finger Lakes 2007 Score: 88 $11
Bold, with spicy lychee, orange zest, rose water and lime notes that stay focused and pure through the bright finish. Nice mouthfeel and focus. Drink now. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 337 cases made. —J.M.
RED NEWT CELLARS Pinot Gris Finger Lakes Curry Creek Vineyards 2007 Score: 88 $24
Light and elegant, but with deceptive concentration to the yellow apple, blanched almond, honeysuckle and mineral notes. Nice length and freshness on the finish. Drink now through 2010. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 200 cases made. —J.M.
BLOOMER CREEK Gewürztraminer Finger Lakes 2007 Score: 87 $18
Solid, with anise, apple, fig and lychee notes that stay juicy through the medium-weight, clove-tinged finish. Drink now. 80 cases made. —J.M.
IMAGINE MOORE Pinot Gris Finger Lakes Peace 2007 Score: 87 $17
Light, but pure and persistent, with nice sleek texture carrying the green almond, lemon and floral notes. Solid length too. Nicely done. Drink now. 200 cases made. —J.M.
KING FERRY Vignoles Finger Lakes Late Harvest Treleaven 2007 Score: 87 $23 / 375ml
Nice mix of sweet and tangy, with candied lemon and grapefruit peel notes weaving through hints of pineapple, yellow apple and chamomile. Clearly sweet but stays refreshing enough. Drink now. 249 cases made. —J.M.
DR. KONSTANTIN FRANK Pinot Gris Finger Lakes 2007 Score: 86 $17
Light and floral but persistent, with green melon and watermelon rind hints that extend through the finish. Drink now. 367 cases made. —J.M.
HAZLITT 1852 Pinot Gris Finger Lakes 2007 Score: 86 $14
Light and fresh, with a spice hint to the honeysuckle, salted butter and white peach notes. Nice firm edge frames the finish. Drink now. 499 cases made. —J.M.
Visit James Molesworth's Blog at http://www.winespectator.com/
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Show Intro: Welcome to the Finger Lakes Weekend Wino Favorite Finger Lakes Wines of 2008 Award Show. (cue the dancing corks and cue the FLWW Band led once again this year by who else – Paul Shaffer of Late Night with David Letterman, because he seems to be the leader every band on every television special).
And cue our first performer, the artist formerly known as Prince and then he was some incomprehensible symbol, singing Purple Rain (wine, purple, he's all we could afford) (we were going to get Don Ho to sing Tiny Bubbles, but then we found out that he was dead, so we decided not to bother him). Prince finishes his song and proceeds to moon the crowd. We can’t afford a 5-second delay so everybody in TV Land got to see Prince’s ass (it’s actually very tiny and almost non-existent, so we don’t think that the fine from the FCC will be that bad – certainly not as much as the Super Bowl fiasco. Gee, why did we hire the same producer that produced that? Note to self…)
And now Ladies & Gentlemen your host for this evenings festivities, the One, the Only Robin Williams (we were lucky Robin was available because our backup was Don Rickles – yes, he’s actually still alive, but we could not afford all the medical personnel that would have been required. Actually we can't afford Robin either. We just hope he doesn't try to cash the check until he gets home).
Robin Williams: What the f@#$ am I doing here? My manager is a dead man, Nanu Nanu (the crowd goes wild). Robin proceeds to do a half hour of the funniest incomprehensible improv comedy I’ve ever seen, laced with at least 276 words of profanity. I am laughing and crying at the same time (and I think I peed myself).
Robin Williams: And now, this is what you poor pathetic people have been waiting for, The Finger Lakes Weekend Wino 2008 Wine Awards (Robin proceeds to give everybody The Finger and storms off the stage spewing profanity in alien languages).
Announcer: These are wines that are rated as Excellent in the Weekend Wino's Tasting Notes for 2008. He visited 92 Finger Lakes wineries in 2008 and sampled over 700 Finger Lakes wines, blah blah blah. The wines listed showed Excellent Balance and Depth of Flavor and could leap small insects in a single bound. Based on the nebulous criteria from some dubious wino, here are the Finger Lakes Weekend Wino Favorite Finger Lake Wines of 2008 in no particular order (the awards scroll on the screen and the announcer gives everybody The Finger and also storms off the stage):
>>> Standing Stone Vineyards, East Seneca Lake, Owners Tom & Marti Macinski produce some of the most consistently well-crafted wines in the Finger Lakes, with excellent balance and expression of fruit. > 2007 Riesling, $13.99, 2.6%RS, Standing Stone Riesling’s are always at the top of my Favorites list. These are some of the oldest Riesling vines in the area and located at one of the prime growing locations on Seneca Lake, This wine is a great expression of Finger Lakes Riesling, with beautiful balance of tropical fruit tones and a nicely structured mineral backbone. > Smokehouse Vidal, $8.99, Semi-Dry, The Macinski’s also craft some of the best Vidal’s. Vidal Blanc doesn’t get the respect it deserves, but in my opinion, that is the fault of the winemaker and not the grape itself. Having made a good many Vidal’s myself, I know that you have to let it tell you where it wants to go (dry, semi-dry, even sweet), there are no formulas for Vidal. This Smokehouse Vidal gives an elegance of structure that belies its price, excellent value. > 2006 Cailloux (pronounced kai-you), $24.99, This is an ice wine that is a blend of Chardonnay (53%), Gewurztraminer (4%), Pinot Blanc (4%), Pinot Gris(4%), Pinot Meunier (4%), Muscat Ottonel (4%), Riesling (7%) and Vidal (20%), I’d love to attend that blending session!, Candied citrus fruits jitterbug across the tongue and the sweet finish does the lindy on your deep palate, Yum. > Vidal Ice, $24.99, the sweet flesh of apricots holds your tastebuds hostage with bonds of sweet tropical juices, but your tongue will refuse to pay the ransom.
>>> Bloomer Creek Vineyard, East Seneca Lake, My 2007 Winery of The Year continues to produce beautifully structured wines. > 2007 Gewurztraminer, BIG with a Capital B.I.G., I love these ’07 Gewurz’s, Bold but Balanced with seamlessly integrated spice tones. > 2007 Gamay Noir, $16, a dry rose’ with soft layers of strawberry, cherry, and raspberry. > 2007 Cabernet Franc, $24, 10 months in oak, smooth deep cherry with vanilla highlights, medium tannins, will age well.
>>> Cascata Winery, Seneca Lake, I was very impressed with Cascata in 2008, with Chris Stamp of Lakewood Vineyards taking on the winemaking duties and as usual, doing impressive work. > Fireside Chardonnay, $18.95, This wine got a well-deserved 87 rating from Wine Enthusiast magazine, Aged in French & American oak with well-integrated vanilla, oak, & butter without overpowering the Chard fruit. > Cascade Riesling, $16.95, a lighter-style Riesling with soft apple highlights and undertones of tangerine/citrus. > Sweet Iris, 2.9%RS, $6.95,Delaware grape, light sweet grape flavors into a solid well-balanced finish. In my opinion, the Delaware grape is underappreciated and this is a nice semi-sweet style and an excellent value.
>>> Villa Bellangelo, Seneca Lake, Owner Michael Litterio specializes in soft rounded lighter style wines that do not compromise on flavor. > Bella Bianca, $9.99, Seyval Blanc/Vidal Blanc, soft pear tones with nice acidity and a tinge of sweetness make this an excellent value sipper or dinner wine. > 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, $23.99, 22 months in French & American oak, nice chocolate undertones with hints of pepper on the finish, a very nice Finger Lakes red. > 2005 Sangiovese, (full disclosure – This is California fruit), $36.99, 22 months in French & American oak. Obviously the Finger Lakes is inhospitable for Sangiovese and this is a bit pricey, but I do love being able to experience Sangiovese in The Finger Lakes. I am Not opposed to importing fruit, but I DO want it to be fully disclosed. This wine reveals ripe smoky cherry that is in complete balance with the oak structure of the wine in a nice expression of “Finger Lakes” Sangiovese.
>>> Rock Stream Vineyards, Seneca Lake, Owner Mark Karasz specializes in crafting some unique port-style wines. One of my predictions for 2009 is a trend toward production of more of these non-traditional port-style wines. > Vignoles Port, $24.99, 18% Alcohol, 10%RS, perfectly sweet without being overbearing with candied citrus overtones and impeccably balanced with the citrus and tropical fruit highlights from the Vignoles grape shining through. > Castel Port, $19.99, 18% Alcohol, 10%RS, from the Castel grape, has a beautiful deep purple color and produces complex and layered flavors of candied plum, raspberry, and strawberry, producing a wonderful apertif or dessert wine.
>>> Lakewood Vineyards, Seneca Lake, Owner & Winemaker Chris Stamp crafts wines with impeccable balance and depth of flavor. > 2006 Chardonnay, $12.99, well balanced and well integrated fruit, vanilla, and oak and did I really taste a hint of cinnamon in this Chardonnay, nicely done. > 2006 Cabernet Franc, $15.99, aging nicely, very smooth with soft cherry highlights. > 2007 Port, $15.99, Baco Noir grapes, A perfectly delicious port! Velvety and warm without the alcohol burn, Get it while you can, it sells out very quickly.
>>> Lucas Vineyards, Cayuga Lake, Winemaker Jeff Houck makes expressive multi-layered wines that make Lucas Vineyards one of the premier wineries in The Finger Lakes. > 2007 Blues, 1.8%RS, $8.00, unique Seyval/Cayuga blend, very clean with bright citrus tones, an excellent value. > 2007 Vignoles, $11.99, 5.5%RS, crisp pink grapefruit flavors into a honeyed apricot finish, lots of flavor in this sweet Vignoles. > Extra Dry Sparkling Wine, $18.99, 1.1%RS, Cayuga grape, Beautiful crisp apple and pear notes, Great for any celebration!
Parts 2,3,4........ to come, if you can stand it!
Saturday, January 03, 2009
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!!!
Thursday, January 01, 2009
- Happy New Year to all of You fellow Finger Lakes Wine Drinkers. 2009 looks like it's already shaping up to be a very interesting year in Finger Lakes (FL)wine. The awaited '07 Reds should start being released and word is that the '08 Whites should be very exciting also. On the down side, though, the economic downturn has already impacted the Finger Lakes and the entire New York wine industry with funding for the New York Wine & Grape Foundation very much in question. Most Finger Lakes wineries seem to have weathered the slowing economy fairly well in 2008, but 2009 could turn out to be very challenging, as consumers cut out luxury spending (although for me and many others that I know, Finger Lakes wine is a necessity).
In 2008, Finger Lakes wines accelerated their award-winning ways, winning Best of Show at some of the top International Wine Competitions and I expect that trend to continue. The main issue that continues to restrict Finger Lakes wines from becoming worldwide players is limited production and I do not foresee any FL wineries ramping up production enough to impact on a global scale in 2009.
Here are a few predictions for 2009: 1) A major slowdown in new wineries opening in the Finger Lakes as the economy and winery saturation make it harder for new wineries to be successful. 2) There will be some wineries closing due to fiscal problems and possibly some consolidation of winery operations in the Finger Lakes 3) New unique port-style wines will become popular, especially with younger wine drinkers and more FL wineries will be crafting traditional-style ports and "ports" from non-traditional grapes. 4) With several new distilleries opening in the Finger Lakes, hand-crafted small-batch artisanal distilled spirits such as flavored vodkas will win major awards for FL distilleries. 5) The "global warming" effect will continue to have a positive effect for FL wines, especially reds, although a major winter freeze may cause problems within the next few months. 6) Finger Lakes reds from the '07 vintage will impress major wine critics and win some major awards. 7) Inevitably, with costs and taxes rising and inflation and high fuel prices returning later in the year, FL wine prices will continue to creep up, but there will still be bargains.
I will do my best to keep you informed with news and reviews again this year. I will be posting my Favorite Finger Lakes Wines of 2008 soon and, also coming soon, will be my 2008 Finger Lakes Winery of the Year post. Please let me know if you have any suggestions for making this blog better and I thank all of you who stopped by in 2008 and I wish you all a Great 2009!!!
If you can weather the cold, there are some great events coming up this month in the Finger Lakes:
Pasta and Wine Weekend
Seneca Lake Wine Trail
Back by popular demand, participating wineries will be serving pasta-themed dishes paired with wine. Friday 1:00 PM–5:00 PM, Saturday & Sunday 10:00 AM-5:00 PM
2300°: Fire & Ice
Date: 1/15/2009 5:30 PM-7:30 PM
The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY
Glass really heats up at 2300° and so do things at The Corning Museum of Glass. Live music, great food and drink and, of course, incredible glassmaking round out a lively evening!
Seneca Lake Wine Trail, This non-ticketed event is a year-end clearance sale, with many wineries providing discounts on a variety of retail items, including wine.
8th Annual Wine On Ice 2009
First Arena, Elmira, NY
Take part in a wonderful way for the Finger Lakes area to take the edge off the chilly evenings. Sample some of the area's premier wines.