Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Arrowhead Springs Winery – It’s All About the Wine (NY)


It was a cold winter day, and snow was coming in. We’d been riding through flurries the whole way, with the dark, thick sky sitting on top of us. Dominique had been fretting about the snow from the day before, anticipating blizzards which were forecast for much of the region. We were among the only families to visit Niagara Falls in winter, and had enjoyed a fun series of visits to wine country in Niagara on the Lake. The entire wine country was drowning in a sea of thick white snow. On our way home we decided to stop and visit some friends on the American side before heading home.

Snow was already on the ground, and the surrounding country side of the Niagara Escarpment had that bleak kind of look that farm country has in winter. Long rounds bounded by barren, gray trees, sprawling, empty hedgerow, barren fields, empty vineyards and orchards. It was 20 degrees out, with a chilly wind, that made it feel ten degrees cooler.


A dog greeted us as we got out of the car in the winery drive way in Lockport, NY. The  border collie escorted us from the mini-van to the tasting room. It was playful and welcoming, despite the cold, and carried a stick he intended for you to throw…numerous times. The tasting room at Arrowhead Springs had several things going for it….the cheery company of Robin Ross; all the good wines from winemaker Duncan Ross; and a nice warm fire in the cast iron wood stove. Once in from the cold, we were good to go. However, it took a glass or two before I shook off the cold.

Robin was alone. Duncan would be joining us later. She was chatty, and she and I and Dominique traded war stories of errant customers, spilled wine, and tasting room madness. Robin could not have been nicer. Bundled in a big comfy, thick sweater, she poured one great wine after another.




The first was the Arrowhead Springs Chardonnay 2010. This is an estate Chardonnay aged in oak for nine months. The result was a wonderful wine with bright fresh apple, lime, and tropical notes on the nose, with hints of spice and vanilla. The apple comes through on the palate as well as hints of lime and minerals. A bright acidity keep the fruit fresh, with a lovely, smooth, smooth finish. Wonderful! 

The next one was the Arrowhead Spring Pinot Noir 2011. This wine was grown on the Niagara escarpment. This was a beautiful, elegant wine bursting with bright black cherries and hints of vanilla. The acidity was nice, and kept the fruit lively and delicate. A beautiful, light garnet colored red. This was gorgeous!

The next was Arrowhead Springs Arrowhead Red 2010. I have to say that I have tasted several vintages of this red blend, and I believe the same thing every time….simply put, at $15.95 is the best single value of any red wine on the east coast. It drinks like a thirty dollar red, and costs half the price!! The wine is 46% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 29% Merlot. All the grapes are estate grown. The wine is aged in French, Eastern European, and American oak barrels for 2 months. Black cherry, vanilla and tobacco and mocha all come across on the nose as promised. And the taste is fantastic. Big black cherry with a hint of spice and a beautiful long finish with nice acidity and well balanced tannins make this an absolutely incredible, sophisticated red wine. Big. Elegant. Perfect for any table, casual or formal. Whether with Parmesan cheese or grilled Portobello mushrooms or a nice roast.  Amazing.

The Arrowhead Springs Meritage Reserve 2008 is an epic wine. Estate grown, and aged for 23months in French, Eastern European, and American barrels, this wine is a complex giant. 41% Cabernet Franc, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Merlot, this is their version of a big, Bordeaux-styled wine. And it compares favorably to the better versions of that region’s wines. Dark cherry, cassis, spices, vanilla and eucalyptus all dominate this big, deep, dark red, with a nice undertone of minerality. This is an immense wine. Impressive!

Arrowhead Estate Merlot 2010 was next up on the tasting menu. Big whiffs of ripe and dark cherry come across on this estate grown Merlot aged 22 month in small oak barrels. Cassis comes across as well, Smooth and easy to drink, with nice acidity and slight but solid tannins. Very nice!


Arrowhead Estate Cabernet Franc 2010 was bright cherries, minerals, and raspberry. Aged in New York and Pennsylvania oak. A lovely, ripe wine, with incredible flavors and a lovely, lovely finish. An easy wine to pour for yourself or friends and family. Very nice!


Arrowhead Springs Estate Syrah 2010 is a revelation. This is yet another of my favorite wines from Arrowhead Springs. The wine was fermented in oak barrels with some of the grapes fermented in Puncheon style barrels. The wine was in oak for one year. The flavor is an overwhelming mixed berry stew with blackberries, raspberries, and even a little red currant. There’s also dark chocolate and white pepper both as promised. A fantastic wine. Elegant. Big. Layered. Fantastic.

Arrowhead Springs Estate Syrah 2008 was also spectacular. Again big handfuls of blackberry, dark raspberries, and cassis, and mocha with a big dollop of white and black pepper. Also absolutely impressive!!!

You see, in the main, winemakers are casual folk. Most winemakers do not wear incredibly nice clothes, especially around red wines. They never wear anything they might remotely care about. Work pants or jeans are the norm. Sweat shorts and t-shirts the order of the day. He came Duncan in a double breasted gray pinstripe suit, shirt, tie, and trench coat. He looked not only like a proper and successful businessman, but like the president of a large corporation or a senator. I was impressed. But I was also shocked. I almost didn’t recognize him. He went and got changed before I could photograph him into his usual more comfortable gear.

Robin made a salad and a fabulous spaghetti carbonara. We washed it down with a nice bottle of wine and we all chatted. If it were up to me we would have stayed the entire afternoon. But my wife was fearful of the weather and we had two bored 14 year olds in tow. I knew I was beat, but I was grateful they had assented to my request to visit Duncan and Robin. My wife was happy to chat with Robin. And it’s always a treat to see Duncan.
And of course, it's all about the wine.