Wednesday, June 17, 2015

New Finds in the Finger Lakes

- In our travels in the past week, we came across a new winery, a new distillery and a new brewery. The growth of the Finger Lakes beverage industry continues unabated with new places opening up monthly:

O'Begley Distillery is not really new (they opened their main distillery near Rochester in 2011), but they have just opened a new place on the west side of Seneca Lake, right beside Starkeys Lookout Winery and just across from Glenora Winery. I had just finished performing at Starkeys Lookout when I noticed that cars were parking in what was a closed convenience store. Further investigation led to a tasting of O'Begley liquors.
   Per the O'Begley website "O’Begley produces Traditional Irish Style Whiskey, using a small-batch pot still process. Our grain is locally grown and each batch is carefully crafted from grain milling to bottling at our distillery in Pittsford, New York".  I am much more within my comfort zone tasting wine, but I had the pleasure of being led through a tasting by their master distiller Andy Walker:

 Poitin, 100 proof, 375ml, $35. I had never heard of Poitin but Andy explained that it was  basically Irish moonshine that home distillers would traditionally make in Ireland. This one garnered 93 points from Tasting Panel magazine and had a mild sweetness to it.

 Old Kilfountain Poitin, 86 proof, 750ml, $45, aged 14 to 18 months in reused bourbon barrels.

 Pioneer Green Single Malt, 100 proof, $35. Andy explained that this was made using a rare process where the barley sprouts and is heated. This adds an herbaceous quality to the liquor.

Dubh Reserve, 121 proof, 375ml, $40, aged 14 months in new charred oak. This was my favorite, with nutty overtones and the smoothest finish of them all.

Young Single Malt, 123.6 proof, 750ml, $90. This had the highest alcohol content, but it had nice citrus overtones that offset the strength of the alcohol.

- On the east side of Seneca Lake, just north of Finger Lakes Distillery, we came upon a new brewery Grist Iron Brewing Co., which has a beautiful new tasting room and restaurant overlooking the lake. Their website tells of the genesis of this project: "What happens when a contractor, a funeral home director, innkeeper, CT tech/home-brewer, grantmaker, and a nurse get together over a pint? They decide to build a brewery! And that folks is how Grist Iron Brewing Company was born."

This looks like a cool place to come and have a pint and a bite to eat when you are on the east side of Seneca, and it is one of the few places that is open fairly late in that area: Monday 11am-10pm, closed Tuesday, open Wed. and Thurs. 11am-10pm, Fri. and Sat. 11am-11pm, and Sun. 12-10. I tried a flight of their beers (four 5oz beers in a flight for $10):

Cream of the Crop Ale, 5.25% alc., made with local honey. Nice integrated hops and honey, with a nice balanced structure.

Front Porch Citra Imperial IPA, 8% alc., Citrus aromas lead to an incredibly intense hopfest of flavors. I admit I am not an IPA fan, way too hoppy for me, but the man sitting next to me just raved about this beer. That's why there's variety.

Chapter 28 Table Beer, 2.89% alcohol, This was my favorite and a very interesting beer, with table beer having its roots in medieval Europe and also known as small beer or mild beer. It looks dark and deep, but it has the body structure of a lite beer, but with beautiful tones of coffee and chocolate that go on forever! Grist Iron claims a pint has under 100 calories and, at only 2.89% alcohol, you don't have to worry about putting a few pints down.  Now this is my kind of lite beer.

Peach Orchard Pale Ale, 4.2% alcohol, Another nicely balanced beer with the peach providing a nice counterpoint to the hops, with juicy peach fruit on the finish.

Hand tossed Artisan Pizzas are available from $11 to $13 and Grinders for for $11 to $14, with a variety of Appetizers available.  It looks like they also bought the next door Seneca Springs Resort, which they have renamed The Inn at Grist Iron, so they have rooms available also. And they have a lot of Live Entertainment. Cool Place, I'll be back.

- Also, in our travels over on Keuka Lake, we came across a new winery just north of Dr. Frank Wine Cellars on the west side of the lake. Like O'Begleys, it's not an entirely new place, but is a new retail sales and tasting location for Point of the Bluff Winery. Point of the Bluff was started on the bluff in Keuka Lake in 2007 by local businessman John Rodenhouse, who called upon Mike Countryman, the former award-winning winemaker at Casa Larga (he was responsible for the perennial award-winning Casa Larga ice wine Fiori Vidal Ice Wine) to help him get the project moving.

Initially, they were just going to sell the grapes from the bluff vineyard to area wineries, but Countryman decided to produce an ice wine. The project grew from there and they now have just opened their tasting room just up from Dr. Frank. I tasted 3 Rieslings, but they also have a Rose' coming soon, all sourced from the bluff vineyard with 6 acres of Riesling and 1 acre of Pinot Noir planted on the very steep slopes of the bluff.

2013 Dry Riesling, .2 RS, $18.99, Steely almost tannic intense minerality that drives the structure the whole way through to the finish with fresh classic Keuka lime on the palate. Probably too intense for the casual Riesling drinker, but, for mineral-lovers like me, this may be one of the most structured and ageworthy Finger Lakes Riesling I have tasted.

2012 Semi-dry Riesling, 1% RS, $16.99, Not as intense as the Dry Riesling and with a shorter finish, but more accessible.

2012 Ice Riesling, 16% RS, $64.99, This is what Countryman is famous for, making multi-layered Ice wines. This starts with aromas of candied pineapple and then the flavor profile expands exponentially to reveal layers of apricot, honey, tangerine, even licorice on the sub-palate, A little sugary on the finish, but filled with flavor.

- Rob Lane

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