Sign Up for WineMaker’s Free E-Newsletter
This is some blog description about this site
Conference Trip Highlights Part 2
This is the second set of highlights from my recent WineMaker Conference road trip to the Finger Lakes region. We pick up here from Part 1 where I shared my experiences with Finger Lakes Riesling and a comparative flight of strawberry wines inspired by my experiences prior to 2010.
Back Out on the Road
During the conference my wife hosted friends for tastings in several locations on both Keuka and Seneca Lakes. After the conference I joined them, and by the time my wife and I left on Wednesday we had sampled and/or purchased wines from over 15 new-to-us producers from the region. Hundreds of wines later I felt like my brain had been artificially altered to manage all the new details. The local “flavor” I was able to experience tasting the wines, beers, meads, distilled spirits and all the food along the way was potent.
(A display in the Atwater tasting room.)
There was plenty of Riesling in the mix but also a collection of reds that already have a reputation for performance and/ or are getting better every year. While some Finger Lakes wineries do still vinify drinkable red wines from hybrid grapes like Foch and Millot (both of which I like), most are looking to produce dry, nuanced, vinifera-bases red wines. So far the most successful of those I have tried are the Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir with pockets of Merlot and Syrah.
After my first trip in 2011 I posted about both the non-Riesling whites and the reds from the region separately. I tasted most of the Cabernet Francs I have enjoyed from the region on my first two trips, although I do recall that we finished the night on Saturday of the conference trip with a bottle of 2008 Hunt Country Vineyards Cab Franc. This wine caused several of us to pause from our revelry to give it a proper taste. Too bad, I didn’t write down my notes!
(A barrel resting quietly at Heart & Hands Wine Company.)
From this trip I uncovered Merlot and Syrah from Long Point, both made from grapes from outside the region though, that both drank extremely well. The Syrah from Atwater was also notable in that it was estate grown and tasted like spiced blackberries. The Syrah from Billsboro was one I had sought out and although it didn’t follow the hype I had created for it, it was drinking well and was a touch smoky making it unique.
If you have followed any of my Finger Lakes tales up to the conference you likely came across my profession of love for the Pinot from Heart & Hands Wine Company. Prior to the conference I interviewed Tom Higgins for the WineMaker Magazine blog. I also arranged to meet he and Susan for a tour at Heart & Hands while we were in the area this past June. Much thanks to Tom & Susan for spending two and half hours with our group talking about how it all started and demonstrating the subtleties in the different wines they are crafting with samples from the barrel! I collected so much information that I have a full post on Heart & Hands planned for later this year. To write the best recounting I think I will have to be saddled up to a bottle or two of their fantastic wines. Whether it is a single vineyard bottling or partial or a whole cluster pressed blend, you can’t go wrong! And their Riesling are as polished and nuanced as the Pinot so there is something for everyone to love!
(Tom Higgins, on the right, is a passionate and energetic winemaker. Thanks for spending the morning with us!)
I haven’t tried the any of the highly rated Cabernet Sauvignons (like Shaw Vineyard for an example) from the region yet so that is why it you don’t see it on the list. I didn’t try any new red blends that wowed me on this trip; something for another day.
There are several emerging grapes that are making good red wines including, Lemberger/Blaufrankisch and Dornfelder. Quite a few winemakers and grape growers that I have met from the region have talked at length about trying to find grapes that really are suited for the climate. The search has expanded from many well known regions to lesser known, cool climate areas in Europe and lesser known grapes from regions in Northern Italy. Nancy Irelan at Red Tail Ridge is seeing positive responses to their Blaufrankisch, Dornfelder and Teroldego wines, and has grapes of at least one other variety, Lagrein, in the ground for future experiments. I also met with Nancy Irelan of Red Tail Ridge during this trip, and with the great information and pictures I collected I plan to post specifically on them and their wines later this year as well.
(I wonder what this has in store for us…)
Food, Beer & Other Liquid Love
The wine-trail food atmosphere at the Red Newt Bistro, Dano’s Heuriger and family vibe at The Fargo provided enjoyable casual dining and local food and beverage pairings for us while we were out on the road.
Margot and I have shared reviews of both the food and wine from Red Newt before, “Back in the Finger Lakes” and look in the Food section, and Margot enjoyed her low-key return visit with friends while I was in class. The report I heard was a thumbs up from all in her party.
Dano’s Heuriger was new for us. The best explanation of the style comes from the establishments’ web site. I was tipped off to this place from a review in the New York Cork Report whose focus is solely on wines, beers and food from NY State.
(From the parking lot you can’t be sure what is inside!)
(The house made spreads with fresh bread are worth stopping in for on their own!)
(The charcuterie plate is loaded with different flavors and texture. Paired with bread house-selected local wines you could spend hours here.)
Margot and I don’t go anywhere for any purpose and not take a few minutes to find the local beers. Everybody has them, and they are always part of the unique character of a place. We’ve been to Ithaca Brewing, Wagner Brewery and Bandwagon Brewpub on past visits, all of which provided us with delightful local suds. Based on our travel plans and timing we missed visits to Miles Craft Ales and Two Goats Brewing. There has to be some to bring us back, why not beer?
We found some tasty brews at Rogue’s Harbor Inn in Lansing just north of Ithaca. This unassuming joint had the right mix of patrons, beer, activities and food that I would call it a hidden gem. The Cayuga Cream Ale and East Shore Pale Ale were both very clean, flavorful and came off as polished just right.
After seeing the pictures of the WineMaker staff pre-conference trip and tasting the grappa from Finger Lakes Distilling late night, we stopped into sample the lineup for ourselves. From grappa to gin and bourbon to flavored vodkas, anyone can find something they like here. The subtle differences in the grappa made from Riesling versus Gewürztraminer grapes was fun to experience. Their aromatic palettes were accessible so they smell like two different drinks straight away! I’m a whiskey fan so being able to try straight, corn, rye and bourbon whiskies all from the same producer was a joy! We brought a whole box of goodies from these guys home.
Bringing it Home
And that’s what I learned out on the road for the 2012 WineMaker Magazine Conference in the Finger Lakes. We brought about seven cases of homemade beverages to share and when we returned home we had six cases of commercial Finger Lakes bottles and a mixed case of our leftovers and swapped bottles. We’ve got a lot of good times ahead of us!
I hope all of the conference-goers enjoyed their time in Ithaca and the surrounding area. If you were from outside the New England/New York area I hope we on the East Coast succeeded in sharing a bit of how we do things while you were in town.
I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference on Monterey, CA. That is a new area for me as well, so who knows what I can discover with some time and an empty glass!
In This Issue
© 2008-2013 Battenkill Communications
WineMaker Magazine · 5515 Main Street · Manchester Center, Vermont 05255 · Phone: 802-362-3981 · Fax: 802-362-2377