Thursday, August 16, 2018

Red Tail Ridge - "Yes!" A Winner By Unanimous Decision (NY)


Mike Schnelle and Nancy Irelan owners of Red Tail Ridge Winery make some of my favorite wines on the east coast. I have been to their tasting room at least half a dozen times, if not more, and I always walk away impressed. Just this last July I stopped by the tasting room with friends, Rich Srsich and Bryan Van Deusen and we tasted there again. It's their third or fourth time being there I believe. Red Tail Ridge was an easy unanimous decision on our list of wineries to visit. No conversation needed to happen. Someone mentioned the winery's name, and we all shouted out a unanimous "YES!" James Joyce would have been proud! I didn't think to text or call ahead to see if Nancy were around. We were rushing around trying to hit a few tasting rooms, and I didn't want to hold her up if she was busy. 

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Nancy Irelan (courtesy of  Red Tail Ridge Winery Magazine)



First up was this Red Tail Ridge Gewuztraminer Senca Lake 2017. The nose alone sent me to heaven with tropical notes, and soft flowers, and sweet mango and green apple. The wine was light, delicate, and packed a giant wave of flavor. Bright and zesty, the tropical fruit and green apple gave way to a final pop of grapefruit, lemon and lime. Absolutely lip-smacking. Everything a Gewurztraminer should be.


The Red Tail Ridge Dry Rose RTR Estate Vineyard 2017 was one of the prettiest rose wines of the season I have tasted so far. A big nose of fresh strawberry and bright sour cherry gives was to a lovely palate cleansing wine, filled with fresh young fruit and a lovely, zesty finish. Pink fruits slowly melded their way to green apple, lemon zest, and tangerine. A pop of lime. Incredible. 


This is one of my favorite Pinot Noirs in New York state. The nose of this Red Tail Ridge Pinot Noir Seneca Lake 2015 hits you with blueberries and lavender, as well as bright cherry, mocha, and a hint of earthiness. But what's funny about this wine, when the fruit lingers on at the end, and the wine slowly downshifts, and the resulting flavors are of young strawberries and fresh cherries. An amazing transition. What an elegant, well crafted, immensely layer wine.


I loathe Donfelder. I've only had two I liked - one from Santa Barbara, and one from Red Tail Ridge. The Red Tail Ridge Dornfelder RTR Estate Vineyard 2016 is a big, powerful wine, with dark cherry, dark raspberry, cassis, prune, and lekvar. It has enough structure, and enough acidity to keep the big fruits from becoming top heavy. A lovely, lovely wine. This is the kind of wine that tells you something about a grower and a winemaker. This was truly an accomplishment! 


I jones for Red Tail Ridge's Terolodego. There is no other way to say it. I crave it? I jones for it? I absolutely get night sweats thinking about this wine! The Red Tail Ridge Teroldego RTR Estate Vineyard 2015 is a big wine, with big fruit, dark fruit (think blackberries, cassis, dark plum, dark raspberries) with a spice and earthiness that makes it one of the most muscular red wines of the Finger Lakes. There is a lovely soft transition to vanilla and spice that is magical. All I can think of eating is a charcoal crusty Porterhouse steak for two (Pittsburgh style aka black-and-blue), all for myself! What an absolutely astonishing wine, especially coming from this region!


Red Tail Ridge Seneca Lake Blaufrankisch is a non-vintage wine made up from 2015 and 2016 grapes. Bramble and blackberry come raging through this wine, with hints of heather, and farm, earth and spice. A lovely, dark red wine with tremendous flavor that proves to be incredibly mouthwatering. One envisions a big stew or cassoulet while drinking this. Or a mixed grill of game and blood sausages. Not always a big Blaufranisch fan, I think Red Tail Ridge's wine is easily one of the best verietal wines of this grape on the east coast.

Bryan Van Deusen

After the tasting, when we got in the car, all three of us agreed, that Red Tail Ridge was a unanimous winner once again. We never tired of coming here. We had all bought bottles, and we had all been impressed - again! Later, Nancy messaged me on FB, saying she'd been bottling when were were there and could easily have come out to welcome us. But who wants to bother artists while they work? Not me! Joyce would have said "YES!" again.