Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Freedom Run is Helping Make a Name for the Niagara Escarpment (NY)


I have long been associated with Bryan Calandrelli by the birds of a feather bonds of a love for east coast wines. I had read his articles about wines from the Niagara region on New York Cork Report. And then we actually met at the Finger Lakes wine festival when I first tried Freedom Run. Bryan is the Regional Editor, Niagara, and Brand Manager for Freedom Run.

Bryan Calandrelli moved to the Niagara Escarpment several years ago from New York City, where he and his then-fiancee spent an almost unreasonable amount of time driving back and forth from the East End of Long Island on wine-tasting jaunts. When he doesn’t have his nose deep in a wine glass, Bryan is a camera operator/director of photography for network and cable television shows. He has been the unabashed ambassador of Freedom Run.

Freedom Run is owned by Larry and Sandra Manning – along with brothers and co-owners Sean and Chip Manning. The winery is situated in the heart of the burgeoning wine region on the bench of the Niagara Escarpment. Located in the heart of the USA’s Niagara Escarpment AVA, they currently have more than twelve acres of grapes planted in four vineyard blocks. Planted in spring of 2005, these vines (the largest percentage of which is Pinot Noir) are just beginning to reveal their personalities. They also grow Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and white varieties include Riesling and Chardonnay. Their backyard neighbor is Arrowhead Springs (another of my favorite NY wineries). Their vineyards practically touch each other.

Larry is a retired vice president and co-owner of a large manufacturing corporation, and Sandra is or was a preschool teacher. Larry – Freedom Run’s chief operating officer – oversees sales and production of the winery’s boutique offerings. He’s often on the road selling Freedom Run Winery, but he can also operate a forklift with the best of them. He and Sandra – along with brothers and co-owners Sean and Chip Manning, the winery’s agricultural manager – also know that Freedom Run couldn’t exist if it weren’t for the help and expertise of those they are surrounded by.

Freedom Run picks in small lots and maintains the identity of those lots through destemming/crushing, fermentations, and aging. These distinct lots provide the winemaking team with a rich palette from which to construct each blend. Something I very much like, they prefer used French oak barrels over new barrels. This helps them preserve the integrity and flavors of the fruit.

So it was a pleasure to see Bryan at NY Drinks NY, and finally get a chance to taste a good portion of the Freedom Run line. I was thrilled.


Pinot Noir Estate Reserve 2010 - Freedom Run says this is their “finest Pinot Noir yet.” It was certainly a beautiful wine. Bright, red ripe cherry and hints of raspberry and plum, and a nice wafting touch of vanilla came across on the nose. Great acidity and just enough tannin to give it backbone. A lovely, lovely wine! A beautiful Pinot Noir.

Cabernet Franc Estate 2010: This is an estate grown Cabernet Franc. It has bright notes of red currant, sour cherry, black pepper, and spice. It's medium-bodied dry red wine with bright acidity and smooth tannins. A lovely wine. Great with food. It’s fantastic!

Meritage Estate 2010 - This blend of 75% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc. Dark ripe cherry and cassis, chalk and spice all come through as promised. Also hints of cedar and a light touch of fallen leaves. A wonderful wine. Excellent!
According to Freedom Run cellar master Kurt Guba (pictured below), "We had ¾ ton cabernet franc grapes that we harvested at 23 brix, which dried to just over 30 brix. It was vinified using a high alcohol-tolerant yeast, which enabled us to get it to nearly to dryness. The skins from the lot were blended with standard harvest cabernet franc and allowed to ferment Ripasso style. We ended up having an appassimento and ripasso blend that ended up getting blended in with some of our standard wines to give us an alcohol of 14.5%. The final blend was around 75% dried cabernet franc with cabernet sauvignon and a touch of merlot."
This was my favorite wine. Mature. Complex. Sophisticated, with a range of bright and dark red fruit, solid acidity and good tannin, this was a smooth drinking red, you could serve to the most uppity wine snob and get a smile. A tremendous wine!

Nektars Black Currant is a cassis-styled dessert wine. Big dark sour fruit up front, with big flavor. Absolutely a lovely expression of black currant fruit and a quality dessert wine. Very sophisticated.
I was thrilled to have tasted the wines, and the experience confirmed for me what I had already come to understand – Freedom Run is making exceptional quality wines on the Niagara Bench. Kurt Guba and the Manning family are doing great things. You should go and try them!