Tag Archives: Finger Lakes

Finger Lakes wine

Cabernet Franc and Lemberger: Red Wines of the Finger Lakes

Riesling is the undisputed signature white wine grape of the Finger Lakes. But as for the signature red wine grape of this region in upstate New York, should it be Cabernet Franc or Lemberger? The answer isn’t as clear.

The question was posed to a panel of winemakers and winery representatives during a virtual tasting of Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc and Lemberger, organized by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance.

I joined other wine writers and bloggers in tasting, talking and tweeting about the red wines.

First up was the Cabernet Franc.

Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc

The wines tasted were:

Heron Hill Winery 2012 Cabernet Franc
Vineyards located on the west side of Seneca and Cayuga Lakes.
Aged for 20 months in French, Eastern European and American oak barrels. Aromas of clove and toasted wood with flavors of jammy cherry and plum with a subtle hint of eucalyptus.
heronhill.com

McGregor Vineyard 2012 Cabernet Franc Reserve
Vineyards located on the east side of Cayuga Lake.
Aged for 13 months in oak barrels. Berry aromas and flavors, with notes of sweet oak and black tea and smooth tannins.
mcgregorwinery.com

Damiani Wine Cellars 2012 Cabernet Franc
Vineyards located on the west side of Cayuga Lake and east side of Seneca Lake.
Aged for 8 months in French and American oak barrels (16% new American oak). Aromas of stewed berries and wood spice, with flavors of dark plum, blackberry, cocoa and cigarbox.
damianiwinecellars.com

So why should Cabernet Franc be considered for the signature red wine grape of the Finger Lakes?

As the panel explained, Cabernet Franc is well suited to the Finger Lakes climate. Wines produced there have good acidity and are very food friendly. They are more fruit driven, with crisp, clear flavors. In the Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc is also excellent as a rosé.

The panel recommended pairing Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc with grilled steak, anything with mushrooms, or a dish that is earthy and charred. One winemaker suggested enjoying a glass with a beet and goat cheese salad.

Next it was time to taste Lemberger. Also known as Blaufrankisch, this grape is grown across Central Europe. Most wineries in the Finger Lakes have chosen to use Lemberger, not Blaufrankisch, on their labels.

Finger Lakes Lemberger

The wines tasted were:

Lakewood Vineyards 2012 Lemberger
Vineyards located on the west side of Seneca Lake.
Aged for 10 months in 50% New York oak, 40% other American oak and 10% French oak barrels. Aromas of raspberry and blueberry with black pepper, cocoa, toast and a touch of spice.
lakewoodvineyards.com

Fulkerson Winery 2012 Lemberger
Vineyards located on the west side of Seneca Lake.
Aged for one year in French oak barrels. Sweet cherry, plum and smoky oak aromas with flavors of ripe berries and a silky finish.
fulkersonwinery.com

Fox Run Vineyards 2012 Lemberger
Vineyards located on the west side of Seneca Lake.
Aged for 18 months in French and American oak barrels. Aromas of blackberry, raspberry and freshly ground black pepper with flavors of black cherry, plum, sweet vanilla and spice.
foxrunvineyards.com

So why should Lemberger be considered for the signature red wine grape of the Finger Lakes? The first and most obvious reason is that there aren’t a lot of other wine regions in the United States that are focusing on growing Lemberger. In addition to doing well in the Finger Lakes climate, it is an easier grape to grow. It consistently ripens, and neither the deer nor the turkeys like it (apparently turkeys love Pinot Noir).

Wine produced from Lemberger grapes has a rustic and wild character to it, and really benefits from oak. Without oak, the wine lacks a persistence of flavor and length. In the Finger Lakes Lemberger blends the fruit-forward New World style with the food-friendly nature of an Old World wine. The wines are lower in alcohol and have good acidity.

The panel suggested pairing Finger Lakes Lemberger with beef and hearty pasta dishes like lasagna or spaghetti and meatballs.

At the end of the tasting the vote on which should be the signature red wine grape of the Finger Lakes was still split.

The verdict that anyone could agree upon – pick up a bottle of Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc or Lemberger and taste them for yourself!

For more information visit fingerlakeswinealliance.com.

Finger Lakes Wine Virtual Tasting

Join @amgastronomer and @FLXwine on Twitter Wednesday, April 29th for a virtual tasting of Finger Lakes Wine.

The tasting will feature Cabernet Franc and Lemberger from this region in upstate New York.

The wines to be tasted are Cabernet Franc from Damiani Wine Cellars, Heron Hill and McGregor Vineyard, and Lemberger from Fox Run Vineyards, Fulkerson Winery and Lakewood Vineyards.

FLX Cab Franc Lemberger

The virtual tasting is from 7pm to 8pm EST. Join us on Twitter with #FLXWineVT and watch the live web stream here.

The Finger Lakes Wine Virtual Tasting Series is organized by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance.

2012 Finger Lakes Riesling Report

Say hello to the class of 2012. With a series of virtual tastings, the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance celebrated the release of the 2012 Rieslings.

From dry to sweet, Riesling comes in a variety of styles – part of the reason why it is the fastest growing white wine in the United States. Riesling is ideally suited for the cool climate of the Finger Lakes. Look to this region in New York for some exciting and delicious wines.

How do the 2012 Finger Lakes Rieslings taste? The Amateur Gastronomer shares a sip of three.

Heron Hill Winery
Classic Dry Riesling 2012

Heron Hill 2012 Dry RieslingOverlooking Keuka Lake, Heron Hill Winery has been producing wines for more than 35 years in the Finger Lakes. The winery uses state-of-the-art equipment combined with Old World expertise — Winemaker Bernard Cannac learned winemaking at his family’s vineyard in southern France and was educated in Bordeaux and Burgundy. This is one of five styles of Riesling that Heron Hill produces each vintage.

Crisp, floral and elegant, the Heron Hill Dry Riesling is a wine to make you a fan of the Finger Lakes. Aromas of pear, golden apple and white flowers introduce a palate of tropical fruit. Delicate flavors of mango, guava, apple and honeysuckle are nicely balanced with flinty minerality and good acidity. There’s subtle sweet honey on the finish, making every sip feel like its ending on an upbeat note.

$14, 12% alcohol by volume

>> Connect:
www.heronhill.com
@HeronHillWinery on Twitter
facebook.com/HeronHillWinery

Standing Stone Vineyards
Old West Block Riesling 2012

Standing Stone Old West Block 2012 RieslingStanding Stone is located on the east side of Seneca Lake. Riesling plantings there date back to 1972; current owners Tom and Marti Macinski purchased the vineyards in 1991. Tom oversees all aspects of grape growing (he jokes he “only sleeps well when nothing is growing.”), and Marti oversees the winemaking. Standing Stone practices sustainable farming, and filters and fines the wines only when necessary.

This single vineyard, medium dry Riesling comes from one of the oldest vinifera vineyards in the Finger Lakes, planted in 1972. The 2012 vintage benefited from lots of sunshine throughout the summer and harvest. The wine opens with aromas of orange blossom, golden pear and sweet lemon. Flavors of white apricot, white peach and lychee mix with slate and a hint of white pepper. The initial sweetness is followed by bright acidity that gives the wine a refreshing finish.

$19, 12.2% alcohol by volume

>> Connect:
www.standingstonewines.com
@ssvny on Twitter
Standing Stone on Facebook

Thirsty Owl Wine Company
Riesling 2012

Thirsty Owl 2012 RieslingLocated on the west side of Cayuga Lake, Thirsty Owl opened in September 2002 on an auspicious date – Friday the 13th. It seems the winery has had good luck; over the past 11 years winemaker and vineyard manager Shawn Kime and the Thirsty Owl team have produced wines that have won numerous Best of Class and Best of Show awards, including the New York State Governor’s Cup.

Grapes for this medium dry Riesling came mainly from the 30 year-old estate vineyard. Apple, tangerine, and honeysuckle are expressed on both the nose and palate, along with flavors of honeydew, white grapefruit and cantaloupe. The wine has a pleasantly round and soft mouthfeel, gentle acidity and a finish with lingering melon.

$15, 11.3% alcohol by volume

>> Connect:
www.thirstyowl.com
@TheThirstyOwl on Twitter
Thirsty Owl on Facebook

For more on the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance visit FingerLakesWineAlliance.com.
Connect with @FLXWine on Twitter or Facebook.com/FingerLakesWine.

Red Wines from the Finger Lakes

Regular readers know that the Amateur Gastronomer is a fan of Riesling from the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York. But how do their red wines taste? We were invited to find out in a virtual tasting, sipping the wines while learning about them via a live online broadcast. As we discovered, French grapes and Bordeaux-style blends fare quite well, and some lesser-known grapes stand out.

Watch the winery representatives talk about the wines below:

The first wine was the 2011 Blackbird from Silver Thread Vineyard. The sustainably farmed vineyard was established in 1982 and purchased by Paul and Shannon Brock in 2011.

The Blackbird is a blend of 70% Cabernet Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot. Each variety was harvested, fermented and aged separately; the wine spent 8 months aging in French and American oak barrels that had an average age of 6 years.

Finger Lakes red winesThough 2011 was a difficult year – it rained 70% of the days in September and October – owner Shannon Brock said they were still able to harvest good quality grapes.

The 2011 Blackbird was light to medium bodied, with flavors of raspberry, tart blackberry and a hint of spice on the smooth finish. Because older oak barrels were used there is not a lot of noticeable oak – a technique winemaker Paul Brock used to emphasize the fruit and vineyard character.
($22, 12.5% alcohol by volume)

Swedish Hill OptimusThe second wine was the 2007 Optimus from Swedish Hill Winery. The Peterson Family began planting grapes in 1969 to sell to other wineries, and started making their own wine in 1985. Today Swedish Hill is one of the largest wineries in the Finger Lakes region.

The 2007 Optimus is a blend of 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc. The wine was aged in small oak barrels for one year.

Unlike 2011, 2007 was a great growing year, which came through in the lush cherry and red currant flavors in the wine. A hint of vanilla and black pepper added finesse, and the finish was soft and satisfying.
($25, 13.2% alcohol by volume)

The third wine was the 2010 Cabernet Franc from Heron Hill Winery. Heron Hill planted its first grapes in 1972 and produced its first vintage in 1977.

The Cabernet Franc contains around 10% percent Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. As winemaker Bernard Cannac explained, it is a field blend, as that is how the vines are planted. The grapes were fermented together and the wine spent 14 months in French, Hungarian and American oak barrels.

Fresh berries abounded on the nose and palate, with flavors of cherry, raspberry and cranberry layered with cedar, tobacco, violet and herbs de Provence. Good acidity and supple tannins gave the wine a silky and upbeat mouthfeel.
($25, 12.5% alcohol by volume)

Damiani Cabernet FrancNext came the 2010 Cabernet Franc Reserve from Damiani Wine Cellars. Winemaker Lou Damiani and grower Phil Davis started the winery in 2004. This wine is a standout for Damiani Wine Cellars, which makes single vineyard and single variety wines only in exceptional years.

This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc from Lou’s home vineyard of one acre. Twenty percent of the wine spent 3 months in new American oak, then 6 months in French oak barrels that were one year old.

The Cabernet Franc had mouth-filling flavors of raspberry, boysenberry and blueberry jam, with gentle notes of spice and an elegant finish with lingering vanilla.
($43, 13.9% alcohol by volume)

The fifth wine was the 2010 Lemberger from Rooster Hill Vineyards. Lemberger is another name for Blaufränkisch, a red wine grape grown throughout Central Europe, most notably in Austria. A number of Finger Lakes wineries produce wine from this grape. Lemberger is similar in taste and in style to Pinot Noir, Gamay or light-bodied Merlot.

Amy and David Hoffman opened Rooster Hill Vineyards ten years ago. Their Lemberger is made from estate-grown fruit, and aged 21 months in 100% French oak barrels. Light bodied and reddish-purple in color, this wine had flavors of red and black cherry, sweet strawberry and freshly-ground black pepper, with a touch of baked fig on the finish.
($25, 12.4% alcohol by volume)

Atwater Pinot NoirThe sixth wine was the 2010 Pinot Noir from Atwater Estate Vineyards. The 80 acre vineyard dates back to the early 1900s and was purchased in 1999 by Ted Marks.

The wine is 100% Pinot Noir, made with grapes that are grown on Dijon and Beaujolais clones. The wine spent 11 months in French oak barrels, of which 10% were new.

From the first sip, the Atwater Pinot Noir was a really lovely wine. It was more Burgundian in style and flavor (rather than Californian), with notes of Bing cherry and raspberry. Subtle cedar and sandalwood flavors emerged as the wine had time in the glass. The texture was velvety smooth, the finish soft and satisfying.
($17, 12.5% alcohol by volume)

The seventh wine was the 2011 Essence from Hector Wine Company. This winery is a little less than three years old, and opened during the 2010 harvest. It is owned and operated by viticulturalist Jason Hazlitt and winemaker Justin Boyette.

The 2011 Essence is a blend of 40% Syrah, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. The wines were aged separately in small oak barrels for 10 to 12 months, then blended and bottled.

After tasting the Bordeaux blends it was interesting to see how Syrah can give a red blend added oomph. Aromas of red berries and black pepper introduced flavors of red cherry, plum, and violet, with a hint of baking spices on the silky smooth finish.
($25, 12.5% alcohol by volume)

McGregor Russian RedThe virtual tasting ended on a high note, with an unusual wine from McGregor Vineyard. Their 2008 Black Russian Red is a blend of Saperavi and Sereksiya Charni. These grapes originate from Eastern Europe; Saperavi is a main grape used to make wine in the country of Georgia, and Sereksiya Charni is an obscure variety from Moldova.

The McGregor family established their vineyard in 1971. They planted what John McGregor called “oddball” vinifera grapes to see what would work; through trial and error they found out which grapes did best in the Finger Lakes’ climate.

The Saperavi and Sereksiya Charni grapes were harvested by hand. After undergoing fermentation and malolactic fermentation the wine spent 26 months in American oak barrels.

In tasting the Black Russian Red you can almost visualize winemaker Jeff Dencenburg taking these rugged Eastern European grapes and taming them through the fermenting and barrel-aging process. The wine was dark purple in color, with aromas of blackberry and plum. These flavors expanded on the palate, with layers of boysenberry, red and black currant and sweet oak. Smooth tannins gave the wine a velvety mouthfeel. The finish was long with a lingering hint of vanilla.
($54, 12.4% alcohol)

Some final conclusions after tasting these red wines from the Finger Lakes:

•  In these light to medium-bodied wines, the flavors of the grapes stand out. Good acidity makes them food friendly, and the moderate alcohol and low oak exposure don’t overwhelm the delicate flavors.
•  There are talented winemakers right now in the Finger Lakes who know when and how to blend multiple grapes to produce the best wines.
•  2010 seems to have been a standout year for Finger Lakes wines, and winemakers say 2012 was a good year as well – look for wines from these vintages.
•  Don’t think that Finger Lakes wines are all white or sweet – the red wines are well worth a taste!

View the wineries on a map:


View Finger Lakes Wineries in a larger map

Winter Whites: White Wines in Season

White wine is in season even when the weather is cool. Here are five white wines to try tonight:

Craggy Range Kidnappers Vineyard Chardonnay 2011
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
13% alcohol
$22

If you think the only white wine that comes from New Zealand is Sauvignon Blanc, you’re missing out. Craggy Range produces delicious single vineyard Chardonnay on the North Island.

This wine comes from Hawkes Bay, New Zealand’s second largest winegrowing region. The grapes were mostly harvested by hand, and the wine spent five months aging in 12% new French oak barrels.

Reminiscent of Chablis, the Craggy Range Kidnappers Vineyard Chardonnay has citrus and white peach aromas. Lemon, grapefruit and tart white apricot flavors mingle with vanilla and a hint of almond, with lively acidity and chalky minerality giving the wine a bright finish. It’s the happy medium for people who can’t decide between a stainless steel or oaked Chardonnay.

 

Vincent Gaudry Le Tournebride Sancerre 2010
Sancerre, France
12.5% alcohol
$25

All wines tell a story, and this French wine has a dynamic – that is, biodynamic – one. Vincent Gaudry’s wines come from the Sancerre AOC in the eastern part of the Loire region, in central France. The domaine has passed from father to son for several generations; they began farming organically in 1993. Today the domaine is not only certified organic, but it is certified biodynamic too —  Gaudry cuts wood for his barrels only on days suggested by the biodynamic calendar, and the wines are bottled according to the lunar calendar. There are no artificial yeasts or additives in the wine, and the wine is not filtered. What you drink is a true expression of the place where the wine came from.

Le Tournebride, named for a small path leading to the domaine, is 100% Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes came from 30 year old vines that grow in limestone and marl soil. The wine was fermented in tanks, then spent eight months on the lees before bottling.

The nose of Le Tournebride Sancerre is a mix of citrus and tropical fruit. Flavors of lemon, peach, pineapple and tart lychee unfold on the palate, with a hint of Marcona almond on the lingering finish. Well balanced acidity and refreshing minerality make this wine a pleasant sip.

 

Barbi Orvieto 2011
Umbria, Italy
12.5% alcohol
$18

Orvieto is both the name of a region in central Italy and the wine produced there. White Orvieto can be a blend of several grapes; the Barbi Orvieto is a blend of Grechetto (40%), Procanico (30%, also known as Trebbiano), Verdello (10%), Malvasia (10%), and Vermentino (10%). These combine to make a wine that is crisp, refreshing and aromatic, with a slight touch of sweetness adding a lift at the end of each sip.

The grapes in the Barbi Orvieto were grown in vineyards that are 960 feet above sea level, in clay and sandy soil that is rich in fossils. Fermentation was stopped early to retain some residual sugar.

Melon and honeysuckle aromas introduce a palate of honeydew, green apple, yellow pear and a hint of white pepper. Vibrant acidity gives the Barbi Orvieto a lively mouthfeel and a clean finish.

 

Halter Ranch Côtes de Paso Blanc 2011
Paso Robles, California
14.2% alcohol
$25

If winter weather has you feeling down, try the Côtes de Paso Blanc from Halter Ranch. Its fragrant floral aromas will make you feel like spring is already in bloom.

Rhône grapes shine in Paso Robles, the Central California region where Halter Ranch Winery is located. This wine is a blend of Grenache Blanc (33%), Roussanne (26%), Picpoul Blanc (20%), Marsanne (12%), and Viognier (9%). After fermentation in French oak barrels, the wine spent four months aging on the lees in 100% neutral French oak barrels.

Aromas of white flowers and peach expand on the palate, along with flavors of white apricot, jasmine, orange blossom and toasted hazelnut. Elegant with refreshing minerality and a satisfying finish, the Côtes de Paso Blanc is a white wine that is sure to cheer you up on a cold day.

 

Standing Stone Vineyards Riesling 2011
Finger Lakes, New York
11.7% alcohol
$14

The Finger Lakes region in upstate New York is becoming the go-to spot for new and exciting Riesling. Even the president is a fan – on Monday a Finger Lakes Riesling was served at President Obama’s inaugural luncheon.

Standing Stone Vineyards is located on the east side of Seneca Lake. The grapes for the 2011 Riesling were fermented in stainless steel tanks using three different yeasts. The final wine is a blend from the lots, which brings together the most desirable characteristic of each.

This off-dry Riesling is wonderfully aromatic with notes of ripe citrus, tropical fruits and wildflower honey. On the palate are flavors of tangerine, sweet grapefruit, guava and mango. Gentle acidity balances out the sweetness, and flinty minerality makes for a clean finish.

More White Wines | Red Wines | More Under $20

A Taste of Finger Lakes Riesling

With its cool climate and the influence of lakes and hills, the Finger Lakes region in New York is well suited for Riesling. This AVA (American Viticultural Area) is located in the western part of the state, about a five hour drive from New York City.

The 2010 Finger Lakes Rieslings are available now and are examples of the high quality wines being produced in New York state.

According to the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance, the 2010 harvest was the warmest growing season in nearly 40 years and the wettest since 1973.

Join the Amateur Gastronomer in the video below for a tasting of four 2010 Finger Lakes Rieslings.

Wines tasted:

Anthony Road Wine Company 2010 Dry Riesling

Anthony Road Wine Company opened in 1990 and is located on the west side of Seneca Lake.
Tasting notes: Crisp flavors of apple, honeydew and lemon with a clean finish that has a hint of lemongrass.
alcohol 12.1% by volume
$16

Lucas Vineyards 2010 Dry Riesling

Lucas Vineyards was established in 1980 and is located on the west side of Cayuga Lake.
Tasting notes: A refreshing mix of floral and citrus with notes of white flowers, jasmine, apricot and ripe lemon.
alcohol 11.7% by volume
$14

Keuka Spring Vineyards 2010 Riesling

Keuka Spring Vineyards was founded in 1985 and is located on the east side of Keuka Lake.
Tasting Notes: This off-dry Riesling is a nice balance between dry and sweet. Flavors of Meyer lemon, tangerine and orange blossom with good acidity and a smooth finish.
alcohol 11.5% by volume
$14

Rooster Hill Vineyards 2010 Medium Sweet Riesling

Rooster Hill Vineyards was founded in 2002 and is located on the east side of Keuka Lake.
Tasting notes: Ripe flavors of peach, apricot and lemon culminate in a tangy finish with a hint of tangerine.
alcohol 12.1% volume
$15

If you can’t find Finger Lakes Riesling in your local wine shop you can order directly from the wineries via their websites. Shipping varies by state.

AG Pick: Heron Hill Riesling

I’m really excited about the wines that are coming from my home state, New York.  There are some impressive Rieslings being produced in the Finger Lakes region.

That’s where Heron Hill Winery is located.  It’s in a town called Hammondsport, about a 5 hour drive from New York City.  The scenic route will take you through New Jersey and Pennsylvania before crossing back into the Empire State.

I normally select a specific wine for my AG Pick but with Heron Hill I couldn’t pick just one.  I tried the Ingle Vineyard Riesling, the Semi-Dry Riesling and Semi-Sweet Riesling and liked all of them for different reasons.

The 2005 Ingle Vineyard Riesling is a nicely structured wine that goes well with a variety of food or on its own.  Citrus and melon flavors are complemented by a pleasant minerality.  There’s a slight petrol character in the wine like with German Rieslings.  Overall, this is a very pleasant wine to drink and a good introductory Riesling for people who may not be fans of or familiar with the grape.  Serve this with seafood, sushi, pasta or cheese.  The Ingle Vineyard Riesling retails for $15.99.

The 2007 Semi-Dry Riesling is a delicate mix of ripe peach, apricot and mango.  It’s sweet and yet crisp at the same time, with good acidity.  This is a versatile white wine that pairs nicely with Asian cuisine.  Try it with stir-fry or Thai coconut curry.  The 2007 Semi-Dry Riesling retails for $12.99.

The 2007 Semi-Sweet Riesling has a gentle floral aroma and flavors of juicy peach and apricot.  The finish is soft and lingering.  Sweetness-wise it’s similar to a German Spätlese Riesling, the lightest of the late harvest wines.  It’s great for wine drinkers who want a hint of the sweetness that the Riesling grape can offer.  My husband who is not generally a fan of Riesling really enjoyed this wine.  This pairs nicely with fruit, cheese and spicy Asian dishes like an Indian curry.  It’s also great for an afternoon picnic.  The 2007 Semi-Sweet Riesling retails for $12.99.

At one of the wine stores I most often visit, the wines from New York State are given a small shelf in the “Atlantic Wines” section, hidden between Kosher wine and specialty beer.  I rarely pass by it when I go to the store — though that’s going to change.  Heron Hill may be hard to find in your local wine store, but it’s definitely worth searching for.

For more information on Heron Hill visit www.heronhill.com.