Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Working on a New Finger Lakes Venture

Sorry for not posting lately, but I have been busy working on a new Finger Lakes venture that is pretty exciting. Trademarks are still pending, so I can't say much right now. It is an innovative new wine concept. I will tell more as soon as I can.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Finger Lakes Wine News 11/21/15 THANKSGIVING EDITION


- Finger Lakes Dessert wines for Thanksgiving 

- A look at the Finger Lakes wine industry 

- Finger Lakes Community College students design wine labels 

- Best Finger Lakes wine types for Thanksgiving 

- Finger Lakes Wine Festival Poster Contest 

- Are the Finger Lakes on your Bucket List? 

- Finger Lakes wineries shine with solar power 

- Finger Lakes winery protests with wine 

- Dr. Frank Riesling gets nod for Thanksgiving meal 

- New Six Mile Creek owners plan new products 

- Ravines winery owner affected by Paris tragedy 

- Lamoreaux Landing wine listed in best wines to go with James Bond movies 

- Lakewood Vineyards continues to grow 

- Stylecaster's guide to the Finger Lakes 

- Writer discusses Finger Lakes waterfalls 

- Group seeks to preserve Seneca's white deer 

- Good article on pairing wine with Thanksgiving dinner 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all of my fellow Finger Lakes wine enthusiasts!!! Drink Well!
From the Finger Lakes Weekend Wino

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Favorite Finger Lakes Wines from Recent Tastings

Favorite Finger Lakes Wines from Recent Tastings around Seneca Lake

As the leaves are about midway through their beautiful color changes in the Finger Lakes (although very uneven color changes, depending on the area; visit for details), here are some of my favorite wines from recent Finger Lakes wine tastings:

- Unfortunately, Pinot Grigio in the Finger Lakes (and in many areas of the world) can be rather one dimensional, but now and then I come across an exceptional one like Belhurst 2014 Pinot Grigio (0% Residual Sugar, 12.5% alc.), with aromatics of vanilla and banana, with multi-layered apple notes with ample full-bodied acidity, a little expensive at $21.95 but it's the best Finger Lakes P.G. I have tasted in the last several years.

- 2014 Belhurst Dry Riesling, (.09% Residual Sugar, 12% alc.), Very tropical with kiwi, subtle lime, peach and mango notes, $18.95.

- Damiani 2013 Bollicini (1.85% Residual Sugar, 11.2% alc.), their version of a Prosecco with a blend of Cayuga, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier; apple, melon and citrus highlights with a touch of sweetness in the bubbly finish. This is one of my go-to Sparklers and is a Good Value at $15.99. This will be on my table at Thanksgiving!

- Wagner 2013 Dry Gewurztraminer (.2% Residueal Sugar, 12% alc.), This wine is peaking beautifully right now with lavender and dried herb tones folded into a long focused mid-palate steely streak into a crisp finish, a Good Value at $13.99.

- Leidenfrost 2011 Gewurztraminer (2.5% Residual Sugar), I know it's 4+ years old but it is holding at its peak now (Drink Now) with extremely complex aromatics of anise, mint, cinnamon, and orange peel into soft classic lychee fruit, Good Value at $12.00.

- Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2013 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay; I preferred this over the more expensive Proprietors Reserve Chardonnay (French oak) and was shocked to learn that it was aged in American Oak (8 months); I would stand this up against the best of California Chard's; Impeccably balanced and full-bodied with well-defined but completely integrated oak, vanilla, butter, apple and citrus components and a nice value at $16.99.

- Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2014 Dry Riesling; Lemon cake aromatics lead into mouthwatering juicy Riesling fruit character and a nice value at $14.99.

- Hazlitt 2013 Gruvee (.5% Residual Sugar), Hazlitt is well-known for its sweet wines Red Cat, White Cat, etc., but they also make very good dry wines. This wine was a first for me, I have never heard of a Sparkling Gruner Veltliner ( I researched and found a couple of Austrian versions, but none that I could find made in the U.S.), This wine features fresh aromatics with nuanced apple, pear and melon finishing in a dry sparkling style, Unique interesting and delicious, $18.00.

- Hazlitt 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling, They still have some of this multi-awarded Riesling available featuring beautiful soft apple with exquisite mineral undertones and a Good Value at only $13.00.

- Hector Wine Co., I had not stopped here in a while, but I'm sure glad I did. I had heard about the joint venture that co-owner/winemaker Justin Boyette had started with Louis Barruol, the well-known owner/winemaker at Chateau Saint Cosme in Gigondas (Rhone Valley) France (his family has owned this estate in France for over 500 years). Barruol was looking to partner on a project in another winemaking region and finally found the right fit with Boyette in the Finger Lakes.  They formed Forge Cellars, along with Trumansburg native Rick Rainey, using the facilities at Hector to produce only Riesling and Pinot Noir for this long-distance project. I tasted the 2013 Rieslings and, wow, they are impressive.
       2013 Forge Riesling, slow-pressed handpicked/hand sorted whole clusters fermented with both native and cultured yeasts, then 70% aged in neutral barrels and 30% in stainless tanks. The result is naturally, a European style Riesling, soft yet full-bodied with a nuanced style that doesn't hit you over the head with acidity or minerality. All of the components are fully balanced, soft and ample but with a restraint only veteran winemakers really know how to deliver. A steal at $24.
       2013 Les Allies Riesling, same processes as the Forge Riesling but 100% aged in neutral barrels. Soft but amazingly expressive fruit with the mineral, acidity and fruit components minutely defined but perfectly integrated. An excellent value at $26.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Finger Lakes Wine News 9/28/15

FINGER LAKES WINE (and beer) NEWS 9/28/15

- Finger Lakes wineries adopt solar energy

- Washington Post Writer Dave McIntyre praises the variety and experimentation of Finger Lakes wineries and features Red Tail Ridge's Sparkling Teroldego and Billsboro's skin-fermented Chardonnay

- More Craft Breweries opening in the Finger Lakes

- Finger Lakes wine served for Pope visit

- A list of Fall events in Finger Lakes wine country

- NY Wine and Culinary Center October events

- Huffington Post writer Malerie Yolen-Cohen wrote a very nice piece on 12 Hot Spots in the Finger Lakes, including Watkins Glen State Park pictured above

Monday, September 21, 2015

Two Finger Lakes Wineries Named in Wine & Spirits Magazine's Top 100 Wineries of 2015

Two Finger Lakes Wineries Named in Wine & Spirits Magazine's Top 100 Wineries of 2015

Wine & Spirits Magazine has just announced its Top 100 Wineries of 2015 and we are proud to say that 2 Finger Lakes wineries are included in the list, Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard and Sheldrake Point.

Owner and winemaker Fred Merwarth, whom Hermann Wiemer transferred ownership of the winery to in 2003, has certainly kept the tradition of high-quality wines intact. In the October 2015 issue of Wine & Spirits, five of Wiemer's wines scored 91 points or higher, helping to cement their spot in the Top 100 this year, with their 2011 Cuvee Brut scoring a stellar 94 points. Congratulations to Fred, Maressa, Oskar and the entire Hermann Wiemer team!

The Sheldrake Point team of Tauck/Madill/Breeden/Weiman add another accolade to their belts, with a 95 point rating in Wine & Spirits magazine this year for their 2014 Wild Ferment Ice Wine Riesling solidifying their spot in the Top 100 this year. Congratulations to the Sheldrake Point team.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Recent Finger Lakes Wine Scores from Wine Enthusiast Magazine

Recent Finger Lakes Wine Scores from Wine Enthusiast. Go to for more details (Subscription required for some content):

90 points, Lamoreaux Landing 2013 Unoaked Chardonnay, $15

90 points, Shaw 2013 Reserve Unoaked Cabernet Franc, $25

90 points, Lucas 2012 Limited Reserve Cabernet Franc, $20

90 points, Lucas 2010 Limited Reserve Cabernet Franc, $20

89 points, Sheldrake Point 2014 Pinot Gris, $16

89 points, Ventosa 2011 Cabernet Franc, $26

88 points, Lucas 2013 Cabernet Franc, $15

87 points, Atwater NV Bubble Pinot Noir Rose, $16

87 points, Atwater 2014 Dry Rose of Merlot, $25

87 points, Fox Run 2014 Rose of Pinot Noir, $15

87 points, Sheldrake Point 2014 Dry Rose, $14

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Finger Lakes Wine News 9/2/15

- Patrick Comiskey of Wine and Spirits Magazine writes about "Finger Lakes Riesling Thoroughbreds" and features Hermann Wiemers' Fred Merwarth

- Other states want to be the next "Finger Lakes". Articles from Minnesota and Texas.

- Burglars target Finger Lakes wineries

- NYWGF unveils new interactive Finger Lakes wineries website

- Wine bloggers post about their experiences at the Finger Lakes Wine Bloggers Conference: Winedom, Dallas Wine Chick, Wine for Normal People, Corks and Cuvee.  I'll highlight more thoughts on the conference in future posts.

- Damiani Wine Cellars on the east side of Seneca Lake sent out their Pre-Harvest thoughts today:

A Glimpse into the 2015 Vintage
& Upcoming Harvest
Bins are clean, Muck Boots are laid out, trailers have been hitched to their tractor counterparts, and most importantly, grapes are soaking up their final days and weeks in their natural habitat before being whisked away to their fermented future.

On Tuesday night at 8:37PM, winemaker, Phil Arras sent out a text message to our harvest crew with the simple note, "Harvest starts Saturday! Get pumped! I ordered a keg!" We know what you're thinking, you drink beer during harvest!? Why not wine? At Damiani Wine Cellars we have a tradition of sampling through various locally-crafted brews after those long days (and nights) on the press deck and in the vineyard. We're interested in supporting our fellow breweries and enjoying the bounty of the region in our glasses! The more important piece of information from that message is that harvest is coming in just 3 short days.

Pinot Meunier will kick-off harvest this coming Saturday, being the first load of grapes we bring into the winery as well as the first component to our sparkling wine program. Following closely will be Pinot Noir on Wednesday or Thursday of next week, accompanied by Chardonnay shortly thereafter. Grapes used for sparkling wine production are typically harvested early in the season (around the first week or two of September) in order to capture natural, vibrant acidity in the grapes.

Remember the vineyard that we planted a few miles north in Valois in 2013? We are thrilled to bring in our first crop from this site during harvest this year! A small block of Chardonnay is planted on the lowest end (closest to the lake) of this steep vineyard site, all of which will be hand-harvested and undergo a natural fermentation (using native rather than commercial yeasts) at the winery.

It would be unfair to comment much on the 2015 vintage since the most important weeks of the season are still ahead of us. Phil Davis, co-owner and grape-grower, maintains that the last 6-7 weeks of the vintage are crucial in the development of grapes, and how they respond to the given weather will speak truthfully about the outcome of the growing season. Overall we have seen clean and healthy fruit with low yields and great flavor profiles. A combination of winter damage and April's late frost resulted in a slightly lower Riesling crop than we had expected, but thankfully the remaining fruit is showing great promise. Davis cited his rigorous leaf-pulling program as the chief reason for healthy and expressive Pinot Noir fruit so far this year.
You can follow Damiani's Harvest on their FaceBook page at

Monday, August 17, 2015

Wine Bloggers Conference Highlights

After returning from a wonderful and educational experience at the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference in the Finger Lakes with over 200 wine writers, here are my thoughts and highlights from the event:

- First and foremost, the term itself "Blogger" is not the correct term for the attendees of this conference. The attendees that I met from all over the United States and from around the world are not mere "bloggers". They are passionate wine writers who have built a substantial knowledge base of their respective wine regions and though, for the most part, they may only be part-time unpaid wine writers on their blogs and need to work another job to pay the bills, they still deserve to be respected as skilled professionals at their craft. When blogging was first born on the internet, it referred to a new way of keeping a "web log" of one's experiences and thoughts, but many blogs today have transformed into well-respected forms of media on many topics. I don't know what the perfect term is for what we do, but I like the term Short-format Wine Writer for what I do here. I am very thankful to have met so many of my fellow wine writers at this conference and they inspire me to become better at my craft.

- The conference was extremely well run and I especially thank everyone at the Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association for their hospitality.  Organizing a conference like this that has multiple excursions and a jam-packed agenda is extremely complex, but the organizers pulled it off beautifully. As a Finger Lakes writer, other writers asked me a lot of questions about the region and its wines, and most commented to me how beautiful the area is and how close-knit the Finger Lakes wine community (winery owners, winemakers, tourism, restaurants,etc.) is and how they appear to work so well together, and that certainly is one of the special things about the Finger Lakes wine community. The Finger Lakes has a small-town feel which is a large part of its charm it and I for one hope that never goes away.

- Thursday night reception: What impressed me about this reception and about the entire event is that the Finger Lakes wineries brought out their top level folks to present their wines. For the most part, the winery owners and winemakers were the ones pouring the wines and answering questions throughout the conference, which made a great impression on the attendees.  Highlights of this night were Len and Judy Wiltberger, owners of Keuka Spring Winery, pouring their fabulous Gewurtztraminer's and being their charming selves, and also the wonderful food provided by local Corning eateries in beautiful Corning Riverfront Centennial Park.

- The Friday morning seminar focused on the climate and soils of the Finger Lakes highlighting the complexity of soil types and diversity of climate with which Finger Lakes grape growers must contend. Within just hundreds of feet, the soil type and microclimate of a vineyard may be totally different, which makes grape growing in the Finger Lakes highly complex. Cornell University crop physiologist Alan Lakso commented that growers in the Finger Lakes have gained vast knowledge of what types of grapes do best in what areas and that knowledge will continue to improve the quality of wine in the region. The discussion also turned into a somewhat heated debate about Vinifera (European type grapes such as Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc.) versus Hybrid (Cayuga, DeChaunac, Vignoles, etc.)  grape production in the Finger Lakes, with the Vinifera side postulating the theory that Hybrid wines muddle the reputation of Finger Lakes wine and the Hybrid side stating that hybrid wines are essential in the product mix of many wineries for economic reasons. Frankly, I believe that there is room for both types and I have tasted both poor and excellent examples of both.

- Friday afternoon tasting sessions:  Since Finger Lakes Riesling is my passion, I attended the Riesling seminar which included Finger Lakes Rieslings from top producers such as Red Newt, Knapp, Lamoreaux Landing, Sheldrake Point, Fox Run and Lakewood. The quality was outstanding across the board. After this, the next event was what we eventually called Speed Dating for Wineries where, for an hour, Finger Lakes wineries have 5 minutes to present and explain one of their white wines to a table of attendees and then must quickly go to the next table and do the same thing. I felt a little sorry for the wineries as 5 minutes was much too little time to adequately present the wines. But, as an attendee, it did give us a chance to review quite a few wines in a short period of time. I would suggest to the event producer that 8 to 10 minutes for perhaps 75 minutes would make this event seem less rushed for both the wineries and attendees.

- Friday evening excursions to Finger Lakes wineries:  20 buses lined up to take attendees to a surprise winery location. This was probably my favorite event of the conference. My group went to Lakewood Vineyards on Seneca Lake, where hosts Chris and Liz Stamp, owners of Lakewood, and their family made us feel right at home with wine and dinner in their vineyards overlooking the lake. We had time to chat with them and other nearby winery owners and winemakers and it was a very enjoyable and relaxing evening.

- Saturday included seminars on the age-ability of Finger Lakes wines with a sampling of library wines that were at least 8 years old. To me, the question of age-ability comes down to the question "Is the wine as good or better at some aging point that is longer than normal aging than it was when it was released", and not "Is the wine still drinkable at some aging point that is longer than normal aging than it was when it was released". Only one of the wines (an Ice wine) presented perhaps met the criteria of the first question, although all were still drinkable. But age-ability may be a moot point as one of the attendees pointed out a study that stated that only 1% of all wines actually improve after 5 years of age.

- Next I attended the red wine version of Speed Dating for Finger Lakes Wineries where again Finger Lakes wineries had 5 minutes to present and explain one of their red wines to a table of attendees and then must quickly go to the next table and do the same thing. Again, the quality of the reds presented was very high with a Hosmer Cabernet Franc and a Lucas Cabernet Franc rated highly in my notes.

- Next we had a tasting outside (the weather was beautiful for the entire event) of wines from around the world including Spain, Chile, Argentina, Germany, South Africa, Italy and Brazil. Of course I loved the German Rieslings, but I also fell in love with a white wine from Argentina. Kaiken Wines presented a Torrontes wine that was extremely aromatic and reminded me of an exquisite blend of Riesling, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. I will be searching for more of these in my local wine store. For info on Torrentes visit

- There was much more planned for the evening and the next day, but I had to return home and I admit I was a bit wined-out. Overall it was a wonderful conference and I learned quite a bit and met a lot of great people that I hope to contact and work with in the future. I have to say that the most impressive Finger Lakes wine that I tasted during the conference was Boundary Breaks Riesling. I stated in a previous post that Boundary Breaks is a relatively new winery on the east side of Seneca Lake that produces only Riesling and has been winning a lot of awards. I will be getting there soon and post more about them. Next years conference will be in Lodi CA, not sure if I will make that one, but if you are a short-format wine writer like me, I highly recommend the Wine Bloggers Conference.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Things I Learned About Dr. Frank from Tom Russ' new book

If you've read my Blog in the past, you know that Dr. Konstantin Frank is one of my wine heroes because he is majorly responsible for the wonderful Rieslings (my favorite) that are produced in the Finger Lakes. I even wrote a song about him, which after reading Tom Russ' new biography of Dr. Frank, I know that the song contains inaccuracies and I will rewrite and re-record it. You can listen to the old song here:

Tom Russ' new book titled Finger Lakes Wine and the Legacy of Dr. Konstantin Frank is well-written, well-researched and filled with wonderful stories and information on the life of Dr. Frank. I highly recommend it. It can be purchased here:

Here are Some Things I Learned About the Life of Dr. Konstantin Frank:

He was born in 1899 on July 4th, into a well-respected ethnic German family in Ukraine, had his first glass of wine at age 7, and as a young boy, he watched his father's vinifera vines (European varieties) wiped out by phylloxera.

In 1917, he fought in the Czars army during the Russian Revolutions and his family was stripped of their property during this time.

After earning his PhD in Agricultural Science in 1930, he worked to restore the phylloxera-infested vineyards at the Troubetsky Experimental Grape & Wine Station by grafting phylloxera-resistant and cold-resistant rootstock to vinifera vines and conducting extensive testing on rootstock pairings. He also invented an innovative plowing system to plant vines.  But because he never joined the Communist Party, he was never formally recognized for his innovative work in Ukraine.

In WWII in 1944, with the Russian army was approaching then German-held Ukraine, he and his wife and children were able to get on a coal car on a German army train and escape to Austria. The Russian government then removed his family's name from all public records. One of his sisters was shot during the war and another sent to Siberia.

During WWII, his son Willy was conscripted into the German Home army in Austria and Willy was captured by the Russians and escaped, captured by the British and escaped and then captured by the Americans.

When the Russians attacked Vienna,  Austria, where He and his family were living, they left all their possessions behind and fled to Bavaria, Germany. After the war, he was hired by the Americans to restore agricultural properties in Germany.

In December 1951, Konstantin and his wife Eugenia and his 3 children arrived in New York harbor. He got a job as a dishwasher and they lived in a squalid apartment in NYC and lived off his meager earnings and some money that they had sewn into the linings of they clothing when they had left Germany.

In 1952, despite discouraging replies to his job inquiries, he took a bus to Geneva NY to try and get a position at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. He ended up being hired for a temporary lower-level field nursery position.

When he arrived in Geneva, the Agricultural Experiment Station felt that the answer to the phylloxera and cold hardiness problem was to develop French hybrid grapes. Konstantin tried to explain that he knew how to grow vinifera in this climate, but the research there was already heavily invested in French hybrids.

He researched the Geneva Expeiment Station's own records and found that they had actually achieved some success in growing Vinifera grapes in 1902 and 1911 and some of these vines were still growing over 40 years later. But most growers felt that it was too risky to invest in Vinifera and besides, there was not much of a market for fine wine in America at the time.

In 1953, he met Charles Fournier, President of Gold Seal Winery in Hammondsport NY. who realized Konstantin's vast experience and hired him as Director of Vineyard Research. Fournier and Frank drove throughout the northeast and Canada collecting native rootstocks with which to do grafting experiments. Konstantin did hundreds of thousands of grafting combinations in various soil types until he arrived at optimal combinations.

In 1957, he became a U.S. citizen and bought 118 acres of land on the west side of Keuka Lake for $6000. and in 1961 at the age of 62, he retired from Gold Seal to continue educating and promoting Vinifera wines at his own facility.  He had only been in the U.S. 10 years, yet he had done what most said could not be done, grow Vinifiera wine commercially in the Northeast.

Konstantin Frank was truly a driven and focused man who persevered through the horrors of war and  the tragedy of displacement and developed vineyard techniques that are used throughout the United States today to make fine wine in areas that were never thought possible. Was he a perfect person, no, but who of us is? But his single-minded focus to develop fine wine where they said it couldn't be done is worth praise. But he didn't do it alone, so praise also to all of those who contributed to the effort to make vinifera wine in the U.S.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Finger Lakes Wines Scoring 90+ in Wine Enthusiast

Finger Lakes Wines Scoring 90+ recently in Wine Enthusiast. Go to for more details (Subscription required for some content).

92 Points: Shaw 2012 Road Block Reserve Riesling $25.  Steve Shaw continues to impress. For a detailed article on his winemaking style, see my article on him at

92 Points: Shaw 2009 Reserve Pinot Noir $30. If you enjoy dry red wines and are visiting the Finger Lakes, I recommend taking some time to visit Shaw.

91 Points: Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards 2013 Ice Wine Vidal Blanc $43. Hazlitt is much more than just Red Cat. They make many exceptional wines, as is the case here.

91 Points: Shaw 2007 Reserve Merlot $30. 4 years aging on the lees, classic Shaw.

90 Points: Kelby James Russell 2014 Nutt Road Vineyard Dry Ros├ę $16. This is a joint project from Red Newt Cellars and its winemaker Kelby James Russell that allows Kelby to showcase his own small batch wines.

90 Points: Dr. Konstantin Frank 2013 Semi Dry Riesling $15. Dr. Frank is the most consistent top Riesling producer in the region and still reasonably priced. I can't wait to read the new biography by Tom Russ on Konstantin Frank, one of my wine heroes. You can hear my song about him here
And read more about Dr. Frank Riesling in Holly Howell's new article at

90 Points:  Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards 2013 Riesling $13. What a value!

90 Points: Boundary Breaks 2013 No. 239 Dry Riesling $20. This newer appointment-only and Riesling-only winery has been getting a lot of great press. One of the few I have not been to yet, but will soon.

90 Points: Castel Grisch 2013 Ice Riesling $30.

90 Points: Dr. Konstantin Frank 2013 Reserve Riesling $25.

90 Points:Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards 2013 Pinot Gris $18.

90 Points: Shaw 2013 Vin Rustique Gewurztraminer $35.

90 Points: Bloomer Creek 2012 Tanzen Dame Auten Vineyard 2nd Harvest Riesling $60

90 Points:Bloomer Creek 2012 Tanzen Dame Second Harvest Gew├╝rztraminer $60

90 Points: Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards 2012 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $20.

90 Points: Bloomer Creek 2010 White Horse Red Unfined & Unfiltered Cabernet Franc-Merlot $30.

90 Points: Shaw 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $35.

Finger Lakes Riesling Challenge Announces Winners

The Finger Lakes Riesling Challenge is a competition of only Finger Lakes Riesling, judged by Finger Lakes winemakers, so this is truly a peer-reviewed competition. These wines must be sourced only from vineyards in the Finger Lakes American Viticultural Area (AVA). 38 wineries submitted 123 wines for the competition. Wagner Vineyards and Sheldrake Point Winery both garnered 2 Best of Show awards, with Silver Thread Vineyard, Lakewood Vineyards and Lucas Vineyards each awarded 2 gold medals. Here are the Best of Show and Gold Medal winners:
Best in Class Trophy Winners
Dry Riesling: Wagner Vineyards, Dry Riesling 2013
Medium Dry Riesling:  Chateau LaFayette Reneau, Dry Riesling 2014
Medium Sweet Riesling: Wagner Vineyards, Riesling Semi Dry 2012
Sweet Riesling:  Sheldrake Point Winery, Luckystone Riesling 2014
Dessert Riesling:  Sheldrake Point Winery, Wild Ferment Riesling Ice Wine 2014

Gold Medal Winners
Dry Riesling:
Barnstormer Winery, Dry Riesling 2014
Hosmer Winery, Dry Riesling 2013
Lakewood Vineyards, 3Generations Riesling 2013
Lucas Vineyards, Dry Riesling 2012
Keuka Spring Vineyards, Humphreys Vineyard Riesling 2014
Penguin Bay Winery, Dry Riesling 2014
Thirsty Owl Wine Co., Dry Riesling 2014

Medium Dry Riesling: 
Damiani Wine Cellars, Davis Vineyard Dry Riesling 2012
Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars, LLC, Red Oak Vineyard Riesling 2013
Lucas Vineyards, Dry Riesling 2013
Silver Thread Vineyard, Doyle Fournier Riesling 2014

Medium Sweet Riesling 
Anthony Road Wine Company, Semi-Dry Riesling 2013
Billsboro Winery, Sawmill Creek Vineyard Riesling 2013
Lakewood Vineyards, Riesling 2014
Silver Thread Vineyard, Semi-dry Riesling 2013

Sweet Riesling
Dr. Konstantin Frank, Riesling Reserve 2013
Rooster Hill Winery, Reserve Riesling 2013

Dessert Riesling 
Boundary Breaks Riesling, Late Harvest 90 2013
Glenora Wine Cellars, Riesling Ice Wine 2014
Sheldrake Point Winery, Riesling Ice Wine 2014
White Springs Winery, Late Harvest Riesling 2013

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Damiani Vertical Riesling Tasting 6-6-15

Damiani Wine Cellars Winemaker Phil Arras and Owner Lou Damiani discuss Damiani Rieslings
   I attended the Damiani Vertical Riesling Tasting last weekend, where 6 years of Damiani Rieslings were poured from 2008 to 2012, along with a barrel sample of the current 2014 vintage. Owners Lou Damiani and Glenn Allen were on hand, joined by winemaker Phil Arras to discuss the vintages and answer a wide range of questions presented by the attendees from optimal temperature for serving Riesling (slightly chilled) to optimal fermentation temperature for Riesling (I knew cooler slow fermentations were best, but I was surprised that some of these Rieslings were fermented at extremely low temperatures).
   Damiani opened in 2004 focusing on red wines and have won many accolades for their red wines. But as I always say, the best red wine producers are often some of the best white wine producers, producing whites that are nuanced and ageworthy. Thus was my quest to find out if these Rieslings could withstand the test of time.

2008 (Semi-dry) Riesling: Powerful slate mineral with a hint of vanilla on the nose, a touch of oxidation in the aromatics (not unexpected for a 7 year old white) but none on the palate; abundant lemon/lime acidity on the front, still structured and not flabby, and sufficient mineral on the finish. It has peaked, but still very drinkable.

2009 (Semi-dry) Riesling: Fresh lime aromatics, with the structure softening nicely; more lemon zest than lime on the front, into juicy stone fruits in a long finish, showing beautifully right now and it still has some years left. This one and the next one were my favorites.

2010 Dry Riesling: Balanced citrus and mineral aromatics, austere structure and very dry (but that was after 2 semi-dry's), more floral elements than fruit elements on the palate, with a touch of that signature Riesling kero-aging. This was the only dry Riesling among the bunch and it stands up there with the best of the Dry Rieslings in the Finger Lakes. This has some years left.

2011 (Semi-dry) Riesling: Damp stone on the nose, a touch of tannin on the superstructure, less RS showing with pure smooth lime from start to finish, holding up very well.

2012 ( Semi-dry) Riesling: Beautiful nose with floral, lime, and layered minerality; Juicy peach palate but of shorter duration on the finish, maybe this one will build with age.

2014 Semi Dry Riesling (Tank sample): This wine had a great story to go with it. Winemaker Phil Arras told of how a hale storm severely bruised the grapes used for this wine and they really did not know if the grapes would be worth using, but they went ahead and used them anyway and it turned out to be very good. So when he went to name this wine, he thought of his son who had been born with a heart defect and needed open heart surgery at 5 months old, but recovered wonderfully, as did the grapes for this Riesling. So they will name this wine Rhysling in honor of his son. Some other humorous hale-inspired names that were considered were "What the Hale", "Go to Hale" and "Hale of a Riesling".
They opted for natural fermentation and whole cluster pressing for this one with extended lees contact. This wine is currently showing huge peach aromatics; on the palate I get beautiful lavender, lime and dried peach skin tones. It will be interesting to see how this turns out in the bottle. A portion of the proceeds from this wine will go to a childrens cardiac charity.

So as I've experienced before, Finger Lakes Rieslings can be very age-worthy and very expressive as they age. I know it's hard to do (mine disappear quickly), but try to put a few of your favorite Finger Lakes Rieslings in the cellar for a while and see how they age.  -Rob Lane


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Weekend Tastings 5/23/15 - Dr. Frank Champagne

Weekend Tastings 5/23/15 - Dr. Frank Champagne

   I always enjoy the trip from my house on Seneca over to Keuka Lake. Just outside of Dundee, I pick up Route 230 and on to 87 in Wayne and sometimes the only vehicles I pass for miles are farm tractors. That is the beauty of the Finger Lakes. It's still very rural and unspoiled for the most part. As I come to the end of 87, I look for the old barn right where the road starts to descend. There is a clearing there that provides a stunning panoramic view of the south end of Keuka Lake below, giving a preview of what lies ahead. 

   Driving through Hammondsport, where signs make you aware that it was one of Budget Travel Magazines 2012 Coolest Small Towns, you get a sense that this is truly a cool small town and it beckons you to stop and browse its shops or get an ice cream or even have a leisurely glass of wine at the local taverns. Once out of town, you start the climb up Greyton H. Taylor Memorial Drive, rising high above the lake until you level off right below Bully Hill.

   My destination today is Dr. Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars, not for their excellent Riesling, but for their Champagne (yes, I said it; Sue me France!). Chateau Frank is the Sparkling Wine part of the business. According to the Dr. Frank's website "Willy Frank purchased an old stone winery (in the 1980's) just down the road from Dr. Frank's and called it Chateau Frank. When Willy purchased it, the owners had been restoring it as a champagne cellar, which made it the perfect investment. The champagne cellars at Chateau Frank went very deep into the earth providing the same year round cool temperatures one might find in a champagne cave in the limestone hills of France. With a champagne cellar in place and a climate in the Finger Lakes similar to the French Champagne region, Willy then planted Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meuner, the three classic French Champagne varieties." See more about the history of Chateau Frank at

My main reason for stopping here is that Chateau Frank sparkling wines have been tearing up the wine competition circuit, with Best of Class awards in several recent competitions. I have been enjoying Chateau Frank sparklers for many years and the main reason I like them is that the fruit is always front and center, not buried in a dusty dryness like many Champagnes. But it's been a long cold winter since I've been here and time to sample the current fare. I spotted my old friend Alan behind a tasting bar and he beckoned me over. Alan poured me the 2008 Brut, 2009 Blanc de Noirs and Celebre.

2008 Brut: Methode Champenoise. A blend of 60% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, 5% Pinot Meunier from the first pressing free run juice, five years in bottle in their underground cellar in contact with lees. What pleases me is the definition of the fruit and the subdued yeastiness. It's easy for the fruit in sparkling wines to get lost in the other components, especially the yeast flavors, but not here. Well defined components of acidity, lemon curd, that distinctive Dr. Frank lime, and low key sourdough toast, but all integrate seamlessly on the palate for a powerful flavor consensus. And a bargain at $24.99. Ready to drink now for your favorite celebration.

2009 Blanc de Noirs:  Methode Champenoise. 100% Pinot Noir whole cluster pressing, four years in bottle in their underground cellar in contact with lees. The acidity here is still a little hot, this could age well. The flavor profile for me is a bit more lemon peel, apple skin and lime zest than the '08 Brut, but still very approachable and again, the fruit does not take a back seat, with a strong finish. $29.99

Celebre NV: Cremant method. 100% Riesling whole cluster pressing. Very bright on the front palate with pear and apple battling it out, while the 3% residual sugar brings out the honeyed lemon, with a very long smooth classic Dr. Frank lime and mineral finish. It's well-structured, but this sparkler doesn't take itself too seriously and just wants to have fun with you. A good go-to sparkler for mixed company. $20.99

See you on the Trail!  Rob Lane

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Finger Lakes Wine News 4/17/15


- A nice article in the Toronto Star on Finger Lakes Riesling

- Information on this years Finger Lakes Wine Symposium Aug. 21-22

- The June 2015 issue of Decanter magazine features an article by Howard Goldberg on the Finger Lakes area, highlighting many Finger Lakes wineries, lodging and dining choices. The issue is available for purchase here

- Finger Lakes wineries earn more awards at Dan Berger's Riverside International Wine Competition
See the complete competition results here

Monday, April 27, 2015

Finger Lakes Wine News Roundup for April 2015


The Finger Lakes Wine Auction Dinner to benefit Camp Good Days 
and Special Times is coming up on Saturday, May 2nd at the 
Rochester Plaza Hotel.

Over 3,700 wines were entered in the 2015 Finger Lakes International 
Wine Competition in March.  The winners will be featured at this event. 
For ticket info, visit the event website. See complete medal 
winner results here
- A nice article on the collaborative atmosphere of winemaking
in the Finger Lakes
Winter vine damage not too bad in the Finger Lakes
- NYCR explores Ravines Meritage with a vertical tasting
- Finger Lakes wineries contribute to new Finger Lakes Community
 College Viticulture and Wine Center
- Syracuse University professor develops wine futures pricing model
- Finger Lakes Winery Anniversaries: Chateau Lafayette Reneau celebrates
their 30th Anniversary this year; Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards celebrates their
 30th Anniversary; Fox Run Vineyards celebrates their 25th Anniversary
- The May 2015 Wine Enthusiast magazine gives 90+ ratings to Finger
Lakes wines

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Tips for Wine Tasting in the Finger Lakes


After a more snowy and bitter cold winter than the Finger lakes has experienced in quite some time, Spring is finally in the air around the Lakes and it is time to take a trip to this beautiful wine oasis called the Finger Lakes. Traveling to visit a new area is always a little stressful because you want to see as much as possible in the time you have allotted. From my house overlooking Seneca Lake, there are now over 80 wineries on Cayuga, Seneca, and Keuka Lakes that I can visit within a 30 minute drive of my house. But with that many wineries, wine visitors for the weekend or even for a week have to make some choices.  Here are my tips for making your visit to the Fingers Lakes less stressful:

1. Try to plan at least one weekday into your trip. The wineries can be crowded on the weekends, especially during wine trail events, fall foliage and the holiday season from October to December. However, if you visit the wineries on a week day, the wineries are a lot less crowded.

2. Plan which wineries or which lakes that you want to visit. There are more than 80 wineries on Cayuga, Seneca, and Keuka Lakes. There are around 50 on Seneca, and around 15-20 each on Keuka and Cayuga, plus there are now a good number of breweries and distilleries on those 3 lakes. It is impossible to visit them all on just a weekend or even a week. In my experience, a reasonable goal is 4 or 5 wineries maximum per day. After that, your palate starts to weaken and you may end up buying wine, that when you open it up when you get home, you question why you bought it. If you know what your taste in wine is, I would suggest researching the wineries and the wines they offer by going to their websites. The Finger Lakes Wine Country website has a good winery directory with website links. This way, you can eliminate the wineries that do not have wines that appeal to you and get more information on the wineries that interest you. Or you can email me with your wine taste preferences and I can suggest wineries that I feel would match your palate. To email me, just fill out the form at the bottom of this page.

Once you figure out which wineries you would like to visit, then start researching hotels and other accomodations. Knowing which wineries you want to see before you book a hotel will help you better locate a lodging choice that will be in the same vicinity of your preferred wineries and save you travel time. One of the best things about the Finger Lakes is that it is not overdeveloped with chain hotels, restaurants, etc, but the downside of that is that lodging choices, especially low-priced lodging choices can be limited. For this reason, it is best to research and book your lodging well in advance of your trip.

3. Once you have narrowed down your winery visit list, plan your route. Finger Lakes Wine  website has some good maps of the wineries on each lake. The roads in the area are very good, but if you have never driven in this area before, you will definitely want a good map because it is a rural area and it is easy to take a wrong turn. But the area is very safe and the people are very friendly and will point you in the right direction if you ask. The lakes are within a 20-30 minute drive of each other, so if you want to choose a few wineries on one lake and a few on another, it is reasonably easy to do. Keep in mind that most of the wineries are open from approximately 11am to 5pm, but some open earlier and some stay open later, so schedule your time accordingly. Also, since there are not a lot of restaurants along parts of some of the wine trails, plan where and when you want to stop for lunch. Most wineries have a nice picnic area where you can sit and enjoy your own picnic lunch that you packed.

As far as driving yourself as you taste wines, please use good judgement. Most of the wineries offer 5 to 8 tastings resulting in perhaps up to a glass of wine being consumed at each stop. Take water with you to hydrate and take a meal break at some point and don't overindulge and you should be fine. The police in the area do not target winery visitors, but if you are driving erratically, you will be stopped. If you want someone else to do the driving so that you can taste wine safely and enjoy the trip without the hassles of driving, there are many good tour operators in the area, such as those listed here.

If you have a group of more than 6 persons, it may be wise to check with the wineries that you intend to visit and see if they require reservations for groups.

4. Allot at least 30 minutes at each winery for tastings; more than that if the winery has additional features to see, such as gift shops, entertainment, etc. Some tastings are still free at a few wineries, but most of the wineries now charge two to five dollars for 5 to 8 tastings; sometimes an additional dollar or two to taste their premium wines, so bring along some cash for tasting fees. And bring your credit card to buy the wine that you like, as well as all those neat gifts that the wineries have for sale.

5. Please be polite and respectful to your fellow wine tasters, especially when the wineries are crowded. The wineries are used to serving large crowds and they will serve you as quickly as possible. A little bit of patience goes a long way. Besides, what could be better- you are in a winery, tasting wine with other wine lovers. And wine people are some of the friendliest people around. You are sure to make some friends as you see the same people traveling from winery to winery on your wine tasting day.

6. Dress for the weather. The Finger Lakes can be very cool in spring and fall, very hot in mid-summer, and downright brutal in winter. There is almost always a breeze blowing off the lakes, which can make it feel even cooler if it's a cool day, so it is wise to take a jacket with you in spring and fall. You will be standing a lot at wine tasting bars & walking a lot from the car to the wineries so wear comfortable shoes.

7. Ask questions about the wines that are being served. The winery staffs are very knowledgable and ready to answer any questions. Take good notes about the wines, so that you can remember what you like and don't like. A lot of people like to taste on one day and then go back around and buy based on their tasting notes on another day. Bring your camera. The wineries and tasting rooms are beautiful and the views around the lakes are spectacular.

8. Take a look through the Archives here at Finger Lakes Weekend Wino. There are posts on things to do and see in the Finger Lakes. Have Fun on your trip to The Finger Lakes. If you would like an experienced Finger Lakes tour guide to guide you, I am available to guide visitors to the area.  If you are in need of a guide or have any questions about the Finger Lakes, please send me a comment at the bottom of the post.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wine Bloggers Conference in the Finger Lakes this year

The Wine Bloggers Conference is in the Finger Lakes this year from August 12-16. I'm excited for bloggers from around the world to see and taste what makes the Finger Lakes so special. I'll be reporting from the conference, so stay tuned for more. For info on the conference, visit

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stalking the Shaw ’07 Pinot Noir

Stalking the Shaw ’07 Pinot Noir
by Rob Lane
(Finger Lakes Weekend Wino)

When the 2007 harvest was complete in the Finger Lakes region, I was particularly excited about one red varietal from the barrel tastings that I was experiencing. It was a grape that many experts said could never produce excellent wine in the Finger Lakes – Pinot Noir. And one ’07 Pinot Noir in particular piqued my curiosity – the ’07 Pinot Noir from Shaw Vineyard. Since I know that Steve Shaw, vineyardist/winemaker/owner of Shaw Vineyards on the west side of Seneca Lake, likes to take his time when releasing his reds, I made it a goal of mine to follow this particular wine through its entire journey from harvest to release.

So for the last 3 years, I have stalked this wine (with Steve’s permission, of course) and Steve has given me unprecedented access to tasting the wine at regular intervals over the last 3 years and all along the way I have been convinced that it was going to be a special wine. But let’s return to the birth of the Shaw ’07 Pinot Noir.

The climate in 2007 created good growing conditions with very hot and dry conditions for Shaw’s vines. As Shaw relates, “I like the Pinot vines to be stressed. But since my Pinot is grown in clay soil types, the vines are less susceptible to shutting down from lack of water, even in the almost droughtlike conditions over the summer of 2007”. Shaw has two 1-acre blocks of Pinot, located .6 miles and .8 miles from the lake shore. The Pinot Noir clones planted are Clones 7, 667, 115, and 777. Shaw uses the German-developed trellis system called Pendlebogen on a large portion of the vines. This trellising is essentially a system where the canes are allowed to arch and it gives a somewhat “wild vine” appearance. Shaw says that, in warm years like 2007, this system allows him to take full advantage of the ground heat. Steve relates that bunches closer to the ground can yield sugars up to 1 brix higher.

The vines are spaced 6 feet apart with 9 foot row spacing. Asked if shorter spacing would give any advantage, Shaw replies “The soils are so fertile here that closer spacing does not provide any additional stressing advantages and in my opinion, creates other airflow and disease issues.” He does not however mind some weed growth around the plants to make the vines struggle. Shaw believes wholeheartedly that the Pinot vines must be stressed to produce the best fruit. The theory is that when the vines are stressed, they will produce smaller but more flavorful fruit.

Shaw has been growing grapes in this region for many decades and he seems to have a sixth sense when it comes to timing the harvest. In late September of 2007, Steve called in his crew to pick the Pinot Noir. The Brix varied from 22 to 23.5, with yields of 2.5 to 3 tons per acre and all of the grapes were hand-picked and destemmed whole with no crushing, and with a very light pressing regimen. Shaw emphasizes, “I believe in gentle extraction, lots of patience, being mindful of the living product, and only interfering when necessary”.

Steve uses several European Burgundy variety yeasts with extended contact with the fine lees. 16 barrels of the ’07 Pinot Noir then spent the next 2 years of their lives lounging in 20% new French oak barrels and 80% 2 & 3 year old French oak barrels, with much of the third year spent in neutral oak barrels for micro-oxygenation and softening the tannins. When it came time to bottle, all 16 barrels were evaluated but only 13 were deemed to meet Steve's standards. 300 cases of the '07 Pinot Noir was bottled in June of 2010, allowed to age in the bottle for 5 months and released this month.

I barrel tasted this wine about twice a year for the last 3 years, my anticipation for the final product growing with each experience. But actually, the best part of these tastings (as any wine geek will say) was the wide-ranging wine discussions with Steve, where I got a glimpse inside the mind of someone with Steve’s vast experience. Steve has amazing patience with his wines. I know I wanted it in the bottle 2 years ago. The flavors and mouthfeel were exceptional from the start and became better at each tasting, with beautiful tannic structure that showed this wine’s stellar aging potential.

When Steve announced that he was releasing this wine in November, I was giddy with excitement. After all, I felt like I was, in some small way, a part of this wine. I had spent 3 years tasting it, discussing it, and experiencing it behind the scenes. The moment was at hand where I would finally taste the final product, and it did not disappoint.

First we tasted a new bottle. Right away, I smelled that familiar aroma of candied cherry that I experience in many excellent red wines, along with that classic Pinot earthiness. On the tongue, the rich berry flavors filled the front of the palate leading into deep notes of cassis and plum, with underlyng tones of anise, deep-roasted coffee, and a complex earthiness that made me smile. The tannic structure was still tight in this young wine, but not overly so, with a long complex finish featuring the positive oak elements.

But the real stunner came when Steve poured a glass from a bottle that he had opened the day before and corked overnight to give me an idea of what this wine will be like with several years of aging. Those tannins had unwound and opened up soft, ripe, and juicy berry flavors, with beautiful toasted vanilla from the oak integrating perfectly with the now deepened layers of cassis (with some raspberry undertones on the deep palate), earthiness, and roasted coffee flavors that lingered on longer than an Alaska Senatorial ballot count.

Was it worth the 3 year wait? You bet it was, and it will be worth another 3 year wait to see how this young wine develops. I will need the patience of Steve Shaw, though, to resist the temptation to open my prized ’07 Shaw Pinot Noir’s now snuggled in my wine cellar.

I thank Steve Shaw so much for allowing me into the world of a passionate and talented vineyardist and winemaker. When you talk with Steve, you can sense the intensity at which he pursues excellence in every aspect of his viticulture and winemaking. Shaw Vineyards is located on the west side of Seneca Lake, 14 miles north of Watkins Glen.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

FLWW Update

Yes, I'm still here. Many projects going now. Not a lot of time for blogging.

See my February article in Mountain Home magazine at

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Finger Lakes Wine Industry 2009 Recap

Wow. 2009 passed by in a flash. Welcome to 2010! Only a couple more years left (according to the Mayan calendar), so we better get busy enjoying all the Finger Lakes wine that we can. To recap 2009 for the Finger Lakes wine industry, I believe the operative word is “Relief”. Going into 2009, recession worries were rampant and many wineries were bracing for the worst. But happily, consumers shrugged off the bad economic news and continued to visit Finger Lakes wineries. Many wineries reported that even though the total visitor count was down a bit, sales held up fairly well. So that was very good news for the Finger Lakes wine industry.

The news about the wine was just as good, as award after award was earned by Finger Lakes wineries in 2009 with Sheldrake Point Vineyard (Cayuga Lake) and Hermann Wiemer Vineyard (Seneca Lake) being named in the Top 100 wineries of the world by Wine & Spirits magazine. The quality of Finger Lakes wine could be seen across the board with special note being given to the 2007 reds that were released in 2009, especially some of the 2007 Pinot Noirs.

The optimal weather in 2007, along with the increasing experience and knowledge of Finger Lakes vineyardists and winemakers in this relatively young winemaking region, combined to prove that yes, Pinot Noir can be grown here and can be made into outstanding wine. Red Tail Ridge, Billsboro, Fox Run, Belhurst, Heart & Hand, and Ravines all stood out with fine 2007 Pinot Noir’s.

Of course, Riesling continued to lead the way in the Finger Lakes with critics from around the world finally comprehending what I have been shouting to the world for many years now – that the Finger Lakes region can make first-class world renown wine! But two of my top favorite white wines of 2009 were not Rieslings, but Gewurztraminers. The complex and delicious Dr. Frank ’08 Reserve Gewurztraminer ($24.99) shows layers of tangerine, floral, and spice flavors and the Silver Springs Winery (Seneca Lake) ‘04 Gewurztraminer Ice Wine ($42) continues to develop year after year and is now revealing luscious honey and citrus flavors.

Expansion continues in the Finger Lakes with several more wineries opening in 2009, along with several distilleries making fine small-batch artisan spirits. I made visits to 88 of those wineries in 2009 and tasted over 700 Finger Lakes wines. 2009 harvest reports give a mixed view of the ’09 vintage with the weather not cooperating for much of the year. Rieslings and whites in general are looking good, but the verdict on ’09 reds is still up in the air.

I wish everyone a Great 2010 and I’ll see you on the Wine Trails!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Have A Great Holiday Season & A Great 2010

I wish you all a Great Holiday Season & A Great 2010!!! I hope to get back to blogging in 2010. My newest Finger Lakes wine column is out now in the December issue of Mountain Home Magazine.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Seneca Lake's Newest Winery

For all of you fruit wine (non-grape) lovers out there, Seneca Lake's newest winery, Fruit Yard Winery, may be right up your alley. Since it is located only a half-mile from my house on Route 14, about 10 miles north of Watkins Glen on the west side of the lake, I have been watching the construction with some curiosity and, with it's roadside farm stand look, I thought I would be buying fresh produce there. On its recent opening, alas, it was a winery.

Fruit Yard Winery is the brain child of Dave Dimarco, who also owns Seneca Shore Winery a few miles to the north, and Dave Shope, an experienced Finger Lakes winemaker with a love of making quality fruit wines. Along with wines such as Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Traminette, etc. (some from Seneca Shore's stock), they produce 7 sweet fruit wines - Pear, Peach, Cranberry, Cherry, Strawberry, Plum, & Blueberry (all in 375ml bottles), with more to come.

The highlights of my tasting were the Strawberry wine ($7.99, 375ml) with strawberry jam flavors and the Plum wine ($7.99, 375 ml), a very complex fruit wine with layers of plum, cherry, strawberry, and apricot into a nice long well-structured finish.
If you are looking for something a little different while you are tasting around Seneca Lake, stop in to the Fruit Yard.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Finger Lakes Wine Festival

It's time again for the Finger Lakes Wine Festival this weekend and Tommy the Wino and me, The Finger Lakes Weekend Winos Duo, will be performing at the Wine Festival at Watkins Glen Speedway this Sunday from 10am to 1pm in The Brewers Garden. Stop by for some Rock, Blues, & Wino Originals. We'll see you there!!! FLWW

Friday, July 03, 2009

Finger Lakes News & Notes - July 3, 2009

- Finger Lakes Wine Country has started the Painted Barrels event. The barrel pictured is from Hearts & Hands Winery, whose owner Tom Higgins suggested the idea of Painted Barrels as a way to promote Finger Lakes artists and wineries. Its barrel is beautifully painted by Finger Lakes artist, Melissa Littlejohn, of the famed pottery company. MacKenzie-Childs of Aurora, New York. For more info on Painted Barrels, click here.
- Check out July events in the Finger Lakes

- Holly Howell writes on wine blends

- Naples store showcases Finger Lakes artists

- Wine Spectators James Molesworth enjoys Anthony Road Riesling at Red Newt Bistro

- Also read Molesworths’ blog of his recent Finger Lakes visit here

- Jeff Richards writes on the new Finger Lakes Distillery

- Enjoy wine and racing this weekend at Watkins Glen Speedway

- Proposals for Finger Lakes Museum considered

- Baltimore's Terry Sullivan writes about his Finger Lakes travels

- The Wine Trail Traveler website has some nice info on Finger Lakes wineries

- Enjoy Music and Finger Lakes Wine at Taughannock Falls State Park

- If you are looking for ideas of things to do in the Finger Lakes, check out "100 Things To Do in Finger Lakes Wine Country This Summer"

- Finger Lakes wines do well in Los Angeles International Wine Competition, with Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2008 Dry Riesling and 2008 Late Harvest Riesling winning Best of Class awards. Congrats to CLR!!! See complete results here

- The Why Wine Blog visits the Finger Lakes

- The Professor writes about Finger Lakes wine
- If you are interested in making wine at home, Fulkerson Winery's Steve Fulkerson gives you good advice on his youtube videos

I hope your summer is going great & Happy 4th of July to all my fellow Weekend Winos!!!