Tag Archives: New York

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.

rose wines

Five Rosé Wines to Enjoy this Summer

The summer of rosé is in full swing! It’s an international love affair, with rosé wine being made around the world from a variety of different grapes.

Try one of these AG picks tonight:

Cune RosadoCune Rosado Rioja 2013
Rioja Alta, Spain

From CVNE (pronounced Coo-nay), a family owned and operated winery founded in 1879 in Haro, Rioja, this dry rosé is 100% Tempranillo. Produced using the saignée or bleeding method, the juice was removed from the grape skins and seeds after around 24 to 48 hours, resulting in a magenta-pink color. Floral aromas introduce flavors of strawberry, tart cherry and red currant.
$14, 14% alcohol by volume

Esporao Defesa RoséEsporão Vinha da Defesa Rosé 2013
Alentejo, Portugal

Established in 1973, Herdade do Esporão is a family-owned estate and winery that takes its name from the tower on the property that is thought to have been built between 1457 and 1490. This rosé is a blend of Aragonez and Syrah. The grapes underwent pneumatic pressing after a short period of skin contact. Bright pink in color with berry aromas, the wine has flavors of raspberry, cherry and Victoria plum, with a hint of mint on the refreshing finish.
$15, 13.5% alcohol by volume

Bridge Lane RoséBridge Lane Rosé 2013
North Fork of Long Island, New York

This wine comes from Lieb Cellars, founded in 1992 on Long Island’s North Fork. Lieb was the first winery on Long Island to plant Pinot Blanc, which has become their signature wine and makes up part of the blend in the Bridge Lane rosé. The 2013 wine is 63% Cabernet Franc, 21% Merlot, 8% Pinot Blanc, 5% Riesling and 3% Gewurztraminer. Light and easy to drink with a pretty pale pink color, the wine has flavors of wild strawberry, raspberry and rose petal.
$18, 11.9% alcohol by volume

Cape Bleue RoséJean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rosé 2013
Provence, France

The grapes for this wine from the noted French winemaker come from hilly vineyards near Salon de Provence, an area influenced by the nearby Mediterranean Sea.  It is a blend of 67% Syrah and 33% Mourvedre, and was made using the saignée method. Salmon-pink in color,  the aromatic wine will transport you to the South of France. Flavors of ripe strawberry, red cherry and rose are layered with subtle fennel and white pepper notes.
$14, 12.5% alcohol by volume

Houchart RoséDomaine Houchart Rosé 2013
Provence, France

Bought in 1890 by Aurélien Houchart, the 90 hectare estate near Aix-en-Provence and the foot of Mont Sainte Victoire has been consistently farmed since Roman times. Today it is owned by the Quiot Family and run by Geneviève Quiot, Aurélien’s great granddaughter. This Côtes de Provence rosé is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. This crowd-pleaser is pale peachy-pink in color, with delicate flavors of strawberry, loganberry and watermelon that culminate in a crisp finish.
$11, 12% alcohol by volume

 

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 Chardonnay 2009

Need a break from overly oaked California Chardonnay? Head across the country to upstate New York for Heron Hill Winery’s elegant and satisfying 2009 unoaked Chardonnay.

Heron Hill has been producing cool-climate Chardonnay and Riesling for more than 30 years in the Finger Lakes region. The vineyards’ location near Keuka Lake helps protect the vines against damaging frost in the early spring and before harvest.

Click here to read my 2009 article on Heron Hill’s Rieslings

The 2009 Chardonnay is made with grapes from two vineyards on the west side of Lake Seneca. It is delicate and refreshing, due in part to the exclusive use of stainless steel during fermentation. The lively flavors of the grapes are allowed to shine, instead of being overpowered by oak.

Very pale straw in color, the Chardonnay has soft aromas of citrus and white flowers. Along with the citrus, stone fruit notes emerge on the palate, with flavors of grapefruit, white peach and apricot. The finish is crisp and clean with a lingering hint of lemon zest.

With a slightly lower alcohol content than other wines, this Chardonnay is great during the hot summer months.

Pair the Heron Hill Chardonnay with chicken, seafood, shellfish or salad, or enjoy it outdoors on a warm day.

The 2009 Heron Hill Chardonnay costs $14 a bottle.

If you can’t find Heron Hill wines in your preferred wine shop, the winery ships to most states via their website.

12% alcohol by volume

More White Wines | Red Wines | Under $20

New York City Wine & Food Festival: Meatpacking Uncorked

Food and wine fans flocked to New York City’s Meatpacking District over the Columbus Day holiday weekend for the 2010 New York City Wine & Food Festival presented by Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure magazines.

Kicking off three days of tastings, seminars and parties was Cooking Channel’s Meatpacking Uncorked.  More than 40 restaurants, boutiques and food trucks offered an assortment of wine and food.  While sipping and shopping in the hip neighborhood, guests got to meet and mingle with Cooking Channel personalities including actress Debi Mazar whose show Extra Virgin is set to premiere in January 2011.

Highlights from the food stops included steak tartare from 10 Downing, meatballs from Gaslight Pizzeria, three cheese riceballs from Papa Perrone’s food truck and a trio of Apple Hills Creamery ice creams from Basis.  Also quite tasty were the parmesan truffle fries from STK, though it was a bit disappointing the restaurant wasn’t serving any of its namesake meat.

Here are snapshots from Meatpacking Uncorked.  click to enlarge photos








An Interview with Chef Eric Ripert

Chef Eric Ripert needs no introduction. A French native and world-renowned chef, Ripert is truly a master in the kitchen.  Just one visit to Manhattan’s Le Bernardin where Ripert is executive chef will turn you into a passionate and devoted fan. You may not need an entire meal — I was hooked after a few bites of my first course.

Chef Ripert has won many awards, published several books and made numerous television appearances, including his show Avec Eric on PBS. This February he’ll be participating in the Tribute Dinner honoring Daniel Boulud at the 2010 Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

I had the opportunity to interview Chef Ripert and found out he’s just as passionate about enjoying good food as he is about creating it.

The Amateur Gastronomer: I have been a huge fan of yours since dining at Le Bernardin years ago and have really enjoyed watching Avec Eric. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions!

Chef Eric Ripert: Thank you!

AG: What is the food experience or dish that inspired you to become a chef?

ER: Since a very young age I spent time in the kitchen with my mother and grandmothers. I always loved eating and thought about becoming a chef since I was a child.

AG: Do you have a favorite dish to cook for yourself and your family?

ER: Since I eat fish during the week at Le Bernardin, I love to cook steak for the family on the weekends.

AG: What are your favorite and/or must-have ingredients?

ER: A good set of sharp knives, fine sea salt and black truffles.

AG: What is your most expensive yet best value ingredient in your kitchen, either at home or in your restaurant?

ER: I would say Kobe beef. While it is a very expensive product, a small amount goes a long way and can be the foundation of a great meal.

AG: What seasonal ingredients do you most look forward to using over the next few months?

ER: I always enjoy the black truffle season. It’s probably my favorite seasonal ingredient, favorite ingredient, period.

AG: Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to food?

ER: I have no guilt! I eat everything in moderation. I love dark chocolate.

AG: What food could you eat forever and never get sick of? Is there any food that you detest?

ER: Black truffle — I could eat it forever. And I must admit, tofu I tend to detest.

AG: Great food deserves great wine. Do you have a favorite bottle, varietal or pairing?

ER: I drink only Bordeaux!

AG: I know you’re a fan of tequila. Do you have a favorite style or brand?

ER: Lately I’m really enjoying Casa Dragones, really wonderful for sipping.

AG: How has your business been affected by the economy?

ER:
No question, the economic slump has been rough on restaurants but back in January 2009 when things were quite bleak, my partner and I decided to announce that we would donate $1 to City Harvest (a local food rescue organization) for every guest who dined with us throughout the year. We wanted to combat all the negative news we kept hearing about and try to do something positive. We ended up very close to our goal of raising $100,000 during 2009.

AG: What do you see as being the new dining trends?

ER: I think interest in Asian food is continuing to grow and in particular Korean cuisine.

AG: How do you feel about the movement to eat more locally grown and produced foods?

ER: I think it is critical that we continue to move in this direction.

AG: Is American cooking and are American diners getting more sophisticated?

ER: Absolutely, I think the interest in food in our country is continuing to grow and I love that American diners are really willing to try many things and aren’t tied to one culinary tradition.

AG: What are the differences between American and French diners?

ER: I’d say French diners may be slightly more traditional than Americans. Americans are very adventurous and there is so much diversity in food here.

AG: How has your profession changed with the popularity of the Food Network and shows like Top Chef?

ER: TV coverage of food is great, it gets people talking about food and ingredients and I think can only be a good thing for our industry.

AG: What has it been like to go from chef to celebrity?

ER: I always say, it doesn’t help in the kitchen!

AG: What other chefs do you most respect? Whose restaurants would you always want to dine in?

ER: A tough question. The list is endless — I’m constantly inspired by what other chefs do and create.

AG: At the South Beach Wine & Food Festival you will be participating in the Tribute Dinner honoring Daniel Boulud. Why did you want to get involved?

ER: Daniel is an amazing chef and a dear friend. When I got the invitation to be a part of the celebration there was no question I’d be there!

AG: Do you have any favorite restaurants in Miami or South Florida?

ER: I love Casa Tua in South Beach for its great food and beautiful ambiance.

AG: Do you think you will consider opening a restaurant in South Florida?

ER:
You never know, but right now I’m really focusing my energies on Le Bernardin and the three restaurants we operate with the Ritz-Carlton (Westend Bistro in Washington, D.C., 10 Arts Bistro & Lounge in Philadelphia and Blue in the Grand Cayman Islands).

AG: What advice do you have for home cooks and aspiring chefs?

ER: For home cooks, I always suggest investing in good knives (a chef’s knife and a pairing knife as a basis), and good quality cookware. And try to work with the best quality ingredients you can. If you start with good product, you are more likely to end up with something good.

For aspiring chefs, I recommend spending some time in a professional kitchen and thinking very carefully about whether it’s a life you want to lead. It’s very demanding physically and mentally and you have to be ready for it.

AG: I cook often at home but want to make a special meal for my husband’s upcoming birthday. Do you have any advice on ingredients or dishes?

ER: There is a recipe in my latest cookbook, On the Line, which is I think is quite simple but very luxurious and delicious. We call it for shorthand “pasta caviar” — kind of like a carbonara pasta topped with caviar, perfect for a celebration.

AG: Avec Eric is a great show for anyone who enjoys traveling or good food. Are you planning another season?

ER: We are locking in details for season two now and we hope to travel to Japan, Louisiana and the Grand Cayman Islands.

AG: How do your travels affect your cooking?

ER: Travel is one of the ways I find inspiration. It is a very important part of my life and influences my cooking heavily.

AG: Where in the world would you like to travel to, where you haven’t already been?

ER: I would love to spend more time in Asia, maybe Vietnam, Thailand, Bhutan and Japan.

AG: What projects are you working on next?

ER: Continuing to evolve the menu at Le Bernardin and season two of Avec Eric.

AG: When you’re not working or cooking what do you enjoy to do?

ER: Smoke cigars!

Visit Chef Eric Ripert’s official site at aveceric.com.

For details on the 2010 Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival visit sobefest.com.