Sunday, August 30, 2015

Report from ... Finger Lakes Tasting and WBC15 - August 13-18

View from Ventosa Winery patio
I will talk with many people over the next 3-6 months (or so) about my trip to the Wine Bloggers Conference held in the Finger Lakes, New York – and inevitably I will be asked “How were the wines?”

As New York’s neighbor to the North and admittedly more serious wine producing region, Ontario, we have always looked down on New York wines as being too sweet – as someone said to me as explanation (while at the conference) “they’re burgeoning” – but when I was in the Finger Lakes 10-12 years ago and as recently as 7 years ago they held the ‘burgeoning’ moniker at that time too … how long can a region of this size be ‘burgeoning’?

As the second largest producer by volume of wine in the United States, New York has always been seen as inferior to California, Washington and Oregon (all serious wine producing regions) – New York is not to be taken seriously for wine; how can you take a place seriously that creates wines like Hot Tub Red, and uses grapes to make wine that most of us would use in the making of jam?

Well, I’m not about to tell you that New York has shed the “burgeoning” moniker – many of the wines I tried during the conference were on the way to being good – yes sweet still rules – though dry is starting to sink in and make in-roads more and more.  Among the sweet Rieslings are the dry versions. Atop the florally laced and sweet tasting Gewurztraminers there are the dry versions that really claw back on the rose-petal and sugar for a serious finish.  And the reds are showing potential as well (Cabernet Franc being the most promising), as both drink now and for wines that will require some serious ageing.  I also saw things like Lemberger and Gruner Veltliner being produced, with a moniker all their own “The Next Big Thing”.  Only time will tell if that is the case, but while the Lemberger was dry to sweet and at times more Pinot-esque in its make up; the Gruner tasted sweet and not at all like what the Austrian’s had in mind … there is only so long you can say “it is from New York so it is altogether different” – the tension, acidity and austerity in Gruner is what makes it so refreshing, so until they reduce the residual it’s just another white wine.

After the conference I selected half-a-dozen wineries to visit – with the help of some New York knowledgeable pals – specially selected for making “serious in-roads on the Lakes” and known for taking wine seriously – plus I visited a winery I was floored by at one of the dinners.  Below is a sampling of what I tried, was impressed with and the two-stars of my tasting days.

Best Wines at the Conference:

White ...
Keuka Springs 2014 Gewurztraminer
Dynamite Vineyard
Red ... 
Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards
2012 Cabernet Franc
Sparkling ... 
Lamoreaux Landing
2009 Brut

The Best of the Winery Visits:

Inside Domaine LeSeurre and their line-up of wines
Best Wine:  2012 Barrel Select Cabernet Franc
Simple aromas of black cherry are followed on the palate
by smooth vanilla, cherry, hints of tobacco and all touched
by mocha-cherry on the finish.  Rating: *** ½+

Stop at Ravines where the wines were consistently good.
Anthony Road's best wine was this bottle of
2013 Cabernet Franc / Lemberger
14 months in a mix of French and American oak results in a wine
with a more than ample cherry nose followed by cherry, plum,
red currant, anise, cedar and hints of vanilla on the finish.
Rating: ****
Ventosa is a gorgeous and very big place - great pizza smells inside.

Best Wine: 2011 Lemberger
Winner of the 2015 Governor’s Cup at the New York Wine & Food Classic
3 years in second fill Hungarian oak delivers sour cherry and strawberry
to the palate with some weight and a cedary finish.  Rating: *** ½+
Looking up the path at Lamoreaux Landing
Plenty of great wines, including these two:
2010 Chardonnay and 2011 Cabernet Franc ...
but (aside from the Brut) there was one better

Best Wine: 2012 "76 West"
blend is 45% Cabernet Franc, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon and 17% Merlot
with the hallmark of an age-able red (5-7 years): blackberry, black cherry,
cedar, vanilla, smoke mid-palate and a black pepper, cedar-smoke and anise finish.
Rating: ****+
Heart & Hands Winery might be one of the most focused
wineries we visited, making wines from two varieties:
Riesling (white) and Pinot Noir (red)
More wineries in the Finger Lakes should be following this example.

Best Wine: 2012 Pinot Noir, Paul's Legacy
the most delicate of the 2012 Pinot from Heart and Hands is also the most juicy:
earthy, cherry and floral with a cranberry/strawberry cocktail on the mid-palate
leading to a fine tannin finish.  Rating: ****+


Dean Tudor said...

Washington State for the past few years has claimed second place in volume, which, if correct, puts New York State into third place.

Wino-fred said...

Finger Lakes wines always get a bad rap from wine drinkers from Ontario who think they are wine experts. The problem is they don't source out the right wines and wineries. Sure there is a truckload of sweet, nondescript wines in NY with funny labels but they are what sells in the US and gives the winery the money so they can make some serious wines from varietals. We've followed the NY wine industry for 30 years. There was a time when we were the only ones in the tasting room that would even try "dry" wines. We didn't mind because the four of us had the whole bottle to ourselves!

Many wineries progressed to the stage where a lot of them were making some really good wines but there was a problem marketing them in both the US and Canada. The price was high and it seems the people weren't buying. So in recent years a lot of wineries have now gone back to making wines as they were in the "old days" which is a real shame. Thank goodness there are still some, as your found out, that are making great wines!