There are certain wines or wineries that are decidedly
pretty or not pretty in my view. And I do mean in “my view.” Just like with
people. What small tick in me signals whether it is a beauty mark or a wart?
Cindy Crawford had a beauty mark. Cloris Leachman in Young Frankenstein had a
wart. But sometimes I see a wart when others see a beauty mark and vice versa.
I am weird guy, what can I tell you?
For me, McGregor has been a wart….but not for others. It’s
just been me. They have everything I like in a girl…er, winery. They have lots
of different wines. They have lots of reds. They have exotic grapes (I’m a
freak for weird grapes). And they have the whole Scottish angle (which I think
in the end is freakin’ brilliant btw). Being a closet Anglofile, I wanted so
badly to join “the clan.” I was always jealous of those WASP and Irish guys
whole competed in the Scottish games.
So why was I so reluctant? I’d tasted their wines before. I
liked them. I had met John’s wife at the wine festival several times. A friend,
David Jackson, a former wine professional and a connoisseur (who wears a
dashing kilt and a black jacket and bow tie to formal affairs), has told me for
years I should go. So this summer I relented, and went with two other people
while visiting the Finger Lakes.
Maybe I was jealous? Angry? I mean these folks are brilliant
marketers. You don’t join another wine club…you join the McGregor Clan. You get
invited to Clan parties. You wear kilts. And who ever heard of Scots making
wine? A little too corny? Not sure. When you’re in their tasting room you’re
not sure if you’re in a wine shop or a yarn store with lots of Scottish food.
Everything’s in plaid! It’s so not your average tastingroom. I’ll admit, I was
charmed. I wanted to linger….and that’s just what they want you to do.
They don’t have a tasting bar. You sit down at benches. They
have two huge rooms, with fantastic views of the lake and their vineyards. The
rooms are lit with strings of lights, lined up with rows of big picnic tables,
and hand you wine menus. They bring you crackers and cheese, and then you do
your tasting ordering your samples from a vast menu of choices. It smacks of
marketing…but it’s freakin’ brilliant. I was pissed because my camera died as
we entered the tastingroom.
But there was in me a suspicion. Anything this smart and
this well thought out could not possibly produce good wine. It had to be a
In 1971, John McGregor and his family began planting
twenty-eight acres of premium Vinifera and Hybrid grapes overlooking the beautiful
East Bluff of New York's Keuka Lake. The local wine industry (which was
essentially dependent upon native American grape varieties) watched with
skeptical interest. Today, the thriving McGregor Vineyard includes Cabernet
Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Chardonnay,
Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Muscat Ottonel, Cayuga White, and Vignoles. McGregor
Vineyard is also home to the rare (in the United States) Vinifera grape
varieties Sereksiya Charni, Saperavi Rkatsiteli, and Sereksiya Rose'.
The McGregor family established their winery in 1980 and
began producing Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir that year.
Since its inception McGregor Winery has followed the European philosophy of
winemaking. Each year's production of estate bottled wines is a reflection of
the "voice of the grapes", the skill of the vineyard manager and the
art of the winemaker. John’s son, John, and his wife, Stacey, now run this
The first wine I tried was a 2009 Seyval Blanc. I admit, I
tried few whites, really wanting to sink my teeth into the decidedly big and
different red list. But I thought Seyval might be a good place to start. It
was. Bright, light, refreshing, and lemony. The grapes were from Emory
Vineyards on the west side of Keuka lake. Apple, pear, and lime all come
through as promised. A very nice, refreshing white. A good start.
But my eyes glazed over at the red list. As they always do.
I LOVED the estate 2009 Pinot Noir. It’s very light in its
color extraction and flavors. Almost a dark rose’. But it was wonderful. Bright
cherry and raspberry spill out of the glass, couched in vanilla and spice. A
wonderful, lean, crisp bright red wine. I loved it!
The estate 2008 Cabernet Franc was also lovely. Dark red
cherries, vanilla, and a much more aggressive oak spice. The fruit lingered on
the palate nicely. Very nice.
The estate 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon was lighter than I
expected. But is too was very good. Bright cherry, black berry, and cassis were
all in evidence. Nice acidity and good solid tannins mixed with a spicer
finish. Smooth. Very good drinking wine. One of my favorites.
The 2008 Rob Roy Red was terrific. A blend of Cabernet Franc
(50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%), and Merlot (20%), was aged in French and
American oak for 17 months. It’s an all estate wine. Cherry, cranberry,
elderberry, and blackberry all come through as promised. Reviewing my tasting
notes, all I can see are exclamation points!
I also tried the 2007 Black Russian Red – 30 Month Barrel
Reserve. This is the wine at the heart of all the fuss. This wine is so famous
Evan Dawson devoted a whole chapter to it in his book, Summer In A Glass. At
what point is the wine hype versus great wine, in my mind? I was about to find
The wine is made with Saperavi and Sereksiya grapes.
Saperavi (Georgian: საფერავი; literally "paint, dye" - due to its
intensive dark-red colour) is an acidic, teinturier-type grape variety native
to Georgia, where it is used to make many of the region's distinctive wines,
along with the Alexandreuli and Rkatsiteli varieties. Leaves are 3-lobed,
large, and roundish. Berries are medium to large, elliptic, dark bluish, and
thin-skinned; with a maturation period of approximately 5 months and moderate
productivity. It has the potential to produce high alcohol levels, and is used
extensively for blending with other lesser varieties. It is the most important
grape variety used to make Georgian red wines. Saperavi is a hardy variety,
known for its ability to handle extremely cold weather; and is popular for
growing in high altitude and inland regions. It is a teinturier grape,
containing the red anthrocyanin within the grape pulp as well as the skin; and
is unusual in being one of very few such grapes used in single-varietal
winemaking (most are used in small amounts, strictly for blending).
Sereksiya is also known as Băbească Neagră, which is an old
native Romanian - Moldovan wine grape variety. It is cultivated in the south of
Moldova and in Romania (region of Moldavia, Dobruja and Wallachia), and is the
second most planted grape variety in Romania, with about 6,300 hectares (16,000
acres) in 2005. The name Băbească Neagră means "grandmother's grape".
Wines made soley from Băbească Neagră are light, fruity red wines.
This blend is an estate wine aged in American oak. It has
big fruit up front and big oak. Blackberry, cherry, plum, cocoa, and eucalyptus
all come through. So does some vanilla and some spices. This was a big, dark,
deep, red wine. Amazing. I have to tell you I loved it. Absolutely loved it!!!
Now, I must be sincere, and say that this was 1. The last
stop of the day, and 2. One of our favorite stops along Keuka Lake. We sat at
the table, three of us, ordered two extra servings of bread, and bought
numerous bottles, but only opened one, and finished it within a reasonable
amount of time. We had a great time.
OK, gimme the kilt. Wrap me in plaid. I have been seduced! I
surrender to the charms of this gorgeous woman they call McGregor Vineyards.
Tall, thin, attractive, pretty and polite, I am bewitched. And you will too.