Thursday, June 01, 2017

Amorici Vineyard: The Sunniest Rainy Day I Ever Had! (NY)

Mark Twain once said, the coldest winter he ever spent, was a summer in San Francisco. Friend Rich Srsich and I felt the same way while driving on a dreary Memorial Day Monday just last week, when a friend suggested we make the trek to see Joe Messina over at Amorici Vineyard. In fact, this winemaker insisted we tell Joe that he was coming to dinner.

Joe Messina is a fascinating character. He is at heart an artist and an entertainer. He is a salesman, a chef, and artist, and a teller of tall tales all rolled into one. He is always among the biggest characters in the room, and you always get the impression Joe could sell you the Brooklyn Bridge if he truly wanted to. But he has too much living to do to be bothered. When we walked in and I took off my cap, his jaw nearly hit the floor. I have known Joe eight or nine years, and we love to chat, but I had never been to his place. I felt truly badly that it had taken me this long. Actually, I was embarrassed to show up, it had been such a long time. Of course, Joe dismissed those feelings immediately, and gave me a great big hug!

My friend Rich and myself were worried that Joe might not even be opened. His place is set far back from the main roads, but there were people already there, and more came in while we visited. All this on the rainiest Memorial Day Monday in recent memory. Joe credited the newest edition of  Southern Saratoga magazine which had recently published a flattering story on the unique trattoria/winery.

The article talked about how visiting Joe's establishment was like discovering a small Italian farm in your own neighborhood. And the best part? We had no idea Joe had been either an accomplished chef, much less such a talented winemaker. But there he was in his chef whites, greeting us heartily!

Joe insisted that we order something from his menu He has a tavern license as well as a winery. So in the winery there are plenty of tables, and in fact, several of the customers came in for a lunch or dinner, and of course order wine with their meals. We ordered our meals, and then began our tasting.

The first wine we had was a shocker, and set the tone for the rest of the tasting. A dry Cayuga white wine that was a big, grapefruit, citrus bomb! Amazing! Albarino move over! This was a tasty, acidic, fun white!

Next was the Capriccio Allegro Chardonnay 2015. This wine is made using 50% chardonnay grapes from the Finger Lakes, and 50% chardonnay from Long Island. It was a mineral-y, dry white with apples and pears and tropical fruit. Stainless steel driven, this wine was bright with acidity and a lovely, citrus white that had a nice, creamier finish. He has the wine with the Capriccio Allegro label which he uses for a local restaurant, but he sells the same wine using his own label as well.

The Riesling 2015 dry white wine was a a lovely surprise as well. And even made, well crafted dry Germanic-styled white with lovely tropical fruits, and a bone, bone dry finish. 

The Amorici Cabernet Franc 2012 was grown in the Finger Lakes and was a soft, lush easy drinking red with no herbaceousness at all. Very lovely.

The Amorici Marquette NOR 2015 is 100% estate grown red and was an absolute shocker! While I have tasted good Marquette, it's not always an easy feat. This was terrific! This wine had big fruit up front. Stewed red fruit, with prominent notes of strawberry and plum. Nice balance of acidity and tannins. Some nice minerality. An impressive wine. Truly amazing.

Amorici Vino Della Famiglia is a fun red classico-styled blend Joe makes for a local restaurant. It's a fabulous, medium bodied red meant for meals and family. And I loved the fact that he packaged a small part of the run in the old fashioned Chianti backet-styled bottles! Suddenly, I started humming Scenes From An Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel. A very fun touch! 

It was then that the food arrived. I had the brown rice risotto and Rich had the sausage and peppers. We split the dishes. The sausage and peppers were the absolute perfect companion for the risotto! And the wine was perfect for the meal. I sampled my two favorite wines with lunch....the chardonnay with the risotto and then the estate Marquette with the combination of the two dishes, as did Rich. The chardonnay showed incredibly well against the creaminess of the dish, and the soft, fruit forward Marquette was a perfect compliment to the combined dish.

Slowly, the dreary, rainy, cold weather, winter's last great grasp of Spring's throat, was fading away, and we were easily transported to sunny Italy. It felt like you were in some country-side trattoria, eating Italian food and drinking wine. Suddenly, it all seemed sunny, and beautiful!

A note from a satisfied customer.

Amorici vinegars....

After lunch we tried two digestifs. The first was one of my favorite grappas on the whole eastern seaboard - Amorici Grappa which is distilled from Joe's wine by Yankee Distillers, in nearby Clifton Park, NY. I have raved about it before. I knew what we were in for. It is light, super, super smooth, with a slightly floral nose and doesn't leave a horrible burn. This is great tasting grappa. Fantastic!!!

The second after dinner wine we had was the Amorici Vneyard Tawney Vintage Sweet Wine which is a slightly sherry-style apple honey wine. I was a tad skeptical. SOunded like an apple honey wne that had gone back. Some kind of wacky experiment. I was pleasantly surprised! It was a beautiful, light sherry-styled wiwne with a big nose of apple and honey, yet balance nicely by the classic sherry notes. It was only slightly sweet, not cloyingly so. A very nice surprise to end the meal with!

Another absolute secret weapon Joe has at his disposal  are Brian and Robyn! Brian makes the wine with Joe and Robyn took us through our tasting. These were incredibly hospitable and friendly folks. Down to earth, friendly, chatty, and knowledgeable. They made the experience so much more enjoyable, and their sunny dispositions set the tone for our visit far away from the gray, watery world outside.

Rich and I were loathe to leave our little Italian idyll. It had been a last minute stop, turned into an extremely fun afternoon! It was great to see Joe and taste his wines, but the real treat was the complete experience we were able to enjoy at Amorici Vineyard, and both Rich and I agreed, with apologies to Mark Twain, our visit to Amorici Vineyard had been the sunniest rainy day I had ever spent!

Go up and see Joe and tell him I sent you! Buona fortuna!