Saturday, September 13, 2014

Have You Tried August Deimel's Wine? If Not, You Should be Drinking Keuka Spring Vineyards!

Whether or not you like it, math and wine are inseparable. How many tons of grapes come from an acre of vineyard? How many bottles of wine come from a ton of grapes? My personal favorite, through experience, is the classic, 'If little Johnny has two pages of "the new math" homework, how many glasses of wine will it take before his parents gets over it?" 
According to his biography, "A polymath, raconteur, intellectual-at-large, gourmand, and Steelers fan, August Deimel came to winemaking the usual way: accidentally. Having studied the Great Books at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM he followed the well-trod path of liberal arts majors into re-tail sales, taking a job at a wine shop in Baltimore, MD. His passion for wine quickly took him on a whirlwind tour of the wine industry, selling wine for a distributor in Washington, DC and working a harvest for Goldeneye Winery in Philo, CA. Of course, all of this was done while exploring careers in the theatre and politics as well. But eventually decisions must be made, and in 2010 August concluded that winemaking was his first and greatest passion and it was time to commit to a path. He crossed the Rubicon (or at least, two state borders) to attend Cornell University where he received his Master’s degree, studying Enology in the Depart-ment of Food Science and Technology. After graduate school, he took up the position of wine-maker at Adams County Winery in Orrtanna, PA where he produced some nice wines while achieving immortal infamy for appearing in a series of promotional videos on YouTube (Yes, Virginia, acting classes can pay off!) But his time in the Finger Lakes while at Cornell left an indelible impression. Unable to resist its pull, he returned to the region like a swallow to Ca-pistrano in the spring of 2012. He took up the winemaking duties at Keuka Spring Vineyards where, along with a crack team and the dedicated leadership of the Wiltberger family, he strives to create the benchmark wines...."
I can't say all that because I really don't know him THAT well. I chatted with him twice, so it's not like we've kicked back with a six-pack and a couple of bottles. But I can tell you this - it seems right, even after only meeting him for a few minutes here and there. I like what I have seen. And I like what I have tasted. You can taste the authenticity.
I had the pleasure to meet August at the Hudson Valley Wine Festival 2014. He came right up and introduced himself, and it's been a pleasure ever since. He has a wicked sense of humor that comes across easily. I have always wanted to meet him, so that was cool, and we easily started the wine geek admiration thing. He can speak wine-geek with the best of them. Keuka Spring has produced some lovely wines, and so I took full advantage of the opportunity to partake of his wines  - despite his affiliation with that team that says it plays "football" near the confluence of three rivers in Pennsylvania.

In the early 80's Len and Judy Wiltberger had the opportunity to purchase 30 acres of land overlooking beautiful Keuka Lake. With their love of wine and winemaking experience,  they planted several wine grape varieties at the site with help from their children and Len's sisters. They opened a tasting room in the mid-80's, adjacent to the vineyards, as an outlet for their premium wines. Keuka Spring's first vintage was in 1985. Throughout the 80's and 90's the Wiltberger family produced and sold wine primarily out of this tasting room. In 2003, the Wiltbergers designed and constructed a new tasting room on the opposite side of the vineyard overlooking the lake, which opened in 2004. 
The vines that they planted in 1981 continue to bear very worthy fruit. They have added additional plantings of Lemberger and Cabernet Franc to the original Chardonnay, Seyval Blanc, Riesling, and Vignoles vines. Throughout the years, all of the Wiltberger children have contributed to the development of the business and are still involved today. The family runs the day to day operation of the winery, and usually either Judy, Len, or Jeanne is around.
Len and Judy are committed to making consistent, high-quality, award-winning wine, hand-crafted from vine to bottle.  From the beginning, they have believed that Keuka Lake is an area capable of producing world-class wine and wanted to be a part of this trend. They have been residents of the area since 1973.
Initially, the Wiltbergers intentionally kept production small, to about 2,000 cases per year, hand-bottled and hand-labeled.  As business grew, more and more wine became sold out.  To meet customer demand, they have expanded production to about 8500 cases per year. Len and Judy Wiltberger continue to run the business today, aided by a wonderful tasting and vineyard staff.

OK, on to some of my favorite Keuka Spring Vineyards wines.

 100% barrel-fermented, 9 months gross lees contact, 100% ML, 66% bought fruit (E. Seneca) 33% Estate.  8% new Hungarian oak.  Remainder is a mix of ancient USA and France.  Says August, "[We're] Looking for reasonably fruity Chard that still shows classic barrel-fermented character.  We've been playing around with this and are continually tweeking it." So far, so good. Nice bright fruit. Green apple. Tropical fruits. A hint of creaminess. Very nice.

This Gewurztraminer is sourced from 3 different vineyard sources, ripest grapes in the blend came in at 25.5 degrees Brix. "18 hour cold soak that we chilled with dry ice. In addition to keeping the whole thing cold the dry ice aids extraction by breaking up the skins. Pressing it is like pressing fermented reds. Love this Gewurz, personally. I think it may well be a Gewurz lovers Gewurz in the end," August told me. If you like Gewurztraminer, then this is your wine. It's got a gorgeous nose, and great acidity and really full mouthful make this an extraordinary light white. And it's not too sweet. Coming in at 0.07% RS makes this an elegant wine. Lovely. Really pretty. A must have for Gewurz lovers.

This is Keuka Spring Vineyard's largest production Riesling with 961 cases made. With 1.4% R.S., this is a semi-dry that drinks fairly dry. This Riesling is a blend of 3 vineyard sources, 5 different fermentation lots, 2 different yeasts. According to August, "This is in many ways our signature wine and I think it combines a lot of elements that define our house style.  Appealing fruit? Check.  Very little phenolics, allowing the acid to carry the finish without any roughness? Check.  A bit of CO2 to keep things lively? Check.  What I like about the balance is that I think there's enough sugar to keep it drinkable without food but it's dry enough that it will pair with most things at the dinner table." He couldn't be more spot on. A really lovely, lovely Riesling. A fine wine.

This semi-sweet Riesling goes through a 4 month long fermentation, and results in a 2.5% R.S., The fruit is from the Humphreys vineyard on West Seneca. According to August, "This is our super-long fermentation wine.  We were looking for aromatics that were different than anything else we had in our other Rieslings along with a bit more texture in the mouth.  This was a fun one, as it changed so much during its fermentation." This is a more conventional styled Riesling with that green apple and tropical fruit with a hint of sweetness. If you like a hint more sugar this is really special. Great acidity balances this lovely wine. Very elegantly done. Great complexity.
 This is one of my absolute favorites. 6% R.S. "15-25% botrytis.  Came in at 25.5, fermentation stopped very early (obviously). Vines were planted in 1981. Older Vignoles develops such nice depth. The botrytis only serves to intensify the standard Vignoles character and I have never EVER seen sour rot in this vineyard despite botrytis being everywhere.  I like our winemaking on this, but really it's all in service of showcasing this amazing fruit." This was an absolutely astounding Vignoles. Floral, crisp, fantastic aftertaste. An amazing wine! Possibly one of the best Vignoles I have ever had.

August told me that this was made from, "100% estate fruit, grown on Scott Henry to try to capture as much sun as possible."One of the reasons I really liked this was that it was not over extracted. A light red full of flavor. Bouncy, ripe cherry, pomegranate, and other bramble fruit made this a lovely,  Burgundy-styled wine, that was soft an approachable. This is how Lemberger should be made. Instantly one of my favorite Lembergers (why couldn't you call it Blaufrankish?) on the east coast. Fabulous!

This is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cab Sauvignon.  And it's aged in Older oak, both French and American.  When I tried this wine it had only been in the bottle 3 weeks before I tasted it. "Cap management was 100% delestage in order to bring out the primary fruit and to round out the tannins and begin to develop solid structure in the fermentor. This was essentially a barrel selection from 2013 red varieties, picking and choosing our favorites and then working up a blend that highlighted their qualities.  Loved the strawberry jam thing." This blend is full of dark cherry, blackberry and plum all come through, both across the nose and on the palate. Hints of vanilla, spice, and a whiff of fall make this a lovely, lovely red.
If Little Johnny can figure out his math home work in at least a few hours, especially the new math, then if mom is really lucky, she'll have a glass of Keuka Spring Vineyards wine. How many glasses will she have? If she's lucky, she'll have a whole bunch. That's good math. 
The best math that I can muster is this - Keuka Spring is making too many good wines to count! So you will have to try them for yourself. Luck you!
Great job, August!!!