Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bashakill Vineyard Makes Great Reds

BashaKill Vineyards is Sullivan County’s first commercial winery. It is owned by Paul Denino. Set in a picturesque region of the Catskills, Bashakill Vineyards got its start in the spring of 2005. Two varieties of vines, Noiret and Cayuga White, both of which are American hybrids developed at Cornell University, were planted in the Spring of 2006.

I met Paul at the 2nd Annual Rip Van Winkle Wine and Cheese Festival just this last weekend. His vineyard is on a slight slope which flows down to the Bashakill wetlands. The proximity to the Bashakill wetlands provides ideal conditions for growing. The moist, warmer air off of the wetlands pushes the colder air off the vineyard and provides a blanket, protecting the vines from the early frosts so commonly found in this region.

Their expected first harvest will be in 2008. Until their vineyard grapes are ready, they are buying grapes directly from the Finger Lakes and the Hudson Valley.

I tasted three wines:
Blue Heron $13 made from 100% Chancellor grapes aged in American oak
Bowfin $14 Blend of 75% Noiret, 25% Chancellor aged in American oak
Copperhead $14.00 Hudson Valley Pinot Noir, grapes grown in Rhineback, NY
I liked all three. All three were for serious red wine drinkers who like solid, well-made dry red wines. This new vineyard and winery are serious about making good wines…and Paul seems like the real deal. They are not far from Warwick Valley Winery. Go check it out.

Bashakill Vineyards
1131 South Rd
Wurtsboro, NY12790
Phon: 845-888-5858
Email: info@bashakillvineyards.com

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Two Wineries Are Better Than One: Westfall Winery (New Jersey) and Island Winery (South Carolina)

For the owners of Westfall Winery, wine is not just their business; it is a labor of love. Loren and Georgene Mortimer met while students at Ithaca College in the heart of the Finger Lakes Wine region of New York State. Visiting wineries and vineyards in that region, they developed both a lifelong love for each other and a passion for world class wines.

Georgene grew up in a big Italian family where home winemaking was a way of life; naturally when she and Loren started a family they continued the tradition. “It was a great way for the family to spend time together,” Georgene remarked, “the kids used to love getting messy crushing and pressing the grapes.” In the Spring of 2000, Loren and Georgene decided to turn their family pastime into a family business and started their own wine school at the historic Westfall Farm in Montague, NJ.

In Loren Mortimer’s family since 1940, Westfall Farm boasts unforgettable scenery and the opportunity for visitors to be a part of living history. Georgene, who holds a doctorate in environmental science, applied her knowledge of organic chemistry and biology along with traditional wine making expertise to launch Westfall Winery in 2002.

In 2006, Loren and Georgene opened a second winery named Island Winery in Hilton Head, South Carolina, their favorite place to spend cold winters. They use the finest grapes to produce high quality wines on Hilton Head Island. They also specialize in Low Country Specialty wines, unique and delicious recipes made from fresh Carolina fruits and honey.

Currently, they spend their time between the two wineries.

Westfall Winery
141 Clove Road
Montague, NJ 07827
(973) 293-3428

Island Winery
12A Cardinal Road
Hilton Head, SC 29926

Maryland Vineyard Specializes in Quality Vinegar

Maryland Community Newspapers Online
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Dragonfly banks on vinegar from the vineyard
Mount Airy farm produces gourmet product from own wine
by Eli Segall | Special to The Gazette

Would you pay $55 for a 6.7-ounce bottle of vinegar? Sue Lewis and Claudia Nami hope so. Lewis and Nami own Dragonfly Farms, a Mount Airy company that manufactures wine vinegar. Bottled by hand, the vinegar has a relatively high sticker price because it’s naturally produced, and it takes roughly two years to go from vineyard to bottle.

‘‘You can’t sell that for $5 a bottle,” Lewis said.

The vinegar, produced on a sprawling 80-acre property off Talbot Run Road, might be unknown to most Mount Airy residents. The company sells it only at a farmers market in Falls Church, Va., and at wine festivals and food shows. Sales have been meager, said Nami, who would not disclose exact figures.

However, the Dragonfly brand’s visibility figures to increase a lot soon. The Whole Foods Market in Gaithersburg plans to start stocking the vinegar this spring, and Dragonfly is planning to launch a marketing campaign of direct mail and advertisements in food industry magazines, according to Lewis and Nami.

‘‘Just ask any chef about the difference between [naturally produced] wine vinegar and the shoe polish you buy in the store for $2,” Nami said.

According to data compiled by The Vinegar Institute, a trade group in Atlanta, 53 million households purchase all types of vinegar, such as balsamic, rice and cider, and wine vinegar accounts for roughly 6 percent of the overall vinegar market. Supermarket sales of bottled vinegar topped $220 million in 2006, according to the institute’s Web site, which also reports that more vinegar is sold in the Northeast, Southeast and Great Lakes region than elsewhere in the nation.

Lewis and Nami, Mount Airy women both in their 40s, dismiss the notion that their $55 price tag will scare shoppers. They say Maryland consumers will appreciate that the vinegar is locally produced with no additives, and that the company is locally owned.

Dragonfly makes its vinegar by producing wine, extracting the juice, by using a hydraulic press, and then mixing the juice with black currant vinegar. The vineyard, currants and processing and bottling facility are all on site, and are tended to seven days a week, year-round, by Lewis and Nami.

‘‘This is a classical handcraft that the French perfected in the 1700s,” Nami said.

Indeed, some chefs swear by wine vinegar. Joe Scaruzzi, head chef at Vellegia’s Restaurant in downtown Baltimore, said he uses it in salad dressing.

‘‘It gives it more flavor because of the wine taste,” he said.

Nami, a Maryland native, for years owned a T-shirt company in College Park with her husband. However, he died in 1999, and Nami, whose grandmother was raised on a vegetable farm on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, decided to enter the family business.

‘‘I wanted a change in career,” she said. ‘‘I always wanted a farm.”

Two years later she called Lewis, a Florida native was working for her family’s electronics company near Philadelphia. The two had become friends over the years as Nami bought T-shirt equipment from her.

They moved to Mount Airy in 2002, and planted their 5-acre vineyard a year later.

‘‘It’s kind of the micro-Napa Valley in this neighborhood,” Nami said, referring to the three wineries in town.

Though sales have been slow, the pair has not suffered economically; to supplement their income, they grow more than 50 types of flowers on their property and sell bouquets to wholesale distributors and florists. They also sell the bouquets at farmers markets, and supply flowers for weddings and other events.

Nonetheless, they’re eager to flood the market with vinegar. The company has enough inventory to fill 10,000 bottles, Nami said.

Dragonfly Farms
Copyright © 2008 Post-Newsweek Media, Inc./Gazette.Net


Here's a few more reviews of wines I liked at the Winemaker's BYOW.

Silver Decoy Winery

2006 Retriever
This is an old favorite. 80% Sangiovese. 16% Merlot. 4% Cabernet Franc The Sangiovese spent no time in oak. The Merlot spent 8 months in oak. and the Cabernet Franc spent 12 months in oak. 100% estate grown. Very aromatic. Very nice.

2006 Cabernet Franc
This medium to deep bodied red spent 9 months in oak. It has a wonderful nose of rasperberries and vanilla. Very smooth. Very, very nice.

Heritage Station Cabernet Franc 2005
There has been a Heritage family farming the land of Richwood Farm since 1851, mostly fruit orchards – peaches, apples, plums, nectarines. In 2001, Bill and Penni Heritage planted a more commercially successful crop than the fruit trees – merlot, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc. Today, those with sharp eyes will notice other types of vines –chambourcin and concord; test blocks of petite verdot, pinot gris, sauvignon blanc, malbec, pinot noir, sangiovese, syrah and grenache.

I met Bill who proudly stood behind the table pouring his wine. The nose with full with a big smell of strawberries and vanilla. And the wine was fruity, but finished dry and smooth. Very nice surprise.

Beans Creek Cynthia 2005

Tom Brown made his first wine in 1976 in a pickle crock in his mother's kitchen with childhood friends Joe and Dan Lasater. In 2003 with the help and support of other winegrowing families his dream of owning a winery became a reality. Their member vineyards are located in Coffee, Warren and Williamson counties of middle Tennessee. We purchase grapes from growers in Sumner, Robertson, Sequatchie, Loudon and Sullivan counties of Tennessee. Bean's Creek Winery is pleased to offer a wide selection of Tennessee wines. In 2007 they won at the Fingerlakes International Wine Competition. They took home Double Gold for their Tennessee Traminette.

It was my first taste of Tennesee wine and I found it very tastey. A very nice surprise.

Chrysalis 2006 Norton

In 1996, Jennifer McCloud moved to Virginia and soon settled in the rolling foothills of the Piedmont to set about making her dream of owning a winery a reality. Chrysalis Vineyards -- named symbolically for the rare nectar of fine wine emerging from the barrel so as the butterfly emerges from her cocoon -- was born in 1997. Chrysalis Vineyards has established a series of excellent vineyards rolling across more than 67 acres in the foothills of the Northern Blue Ridge & Bull Run Mountains. Chrysalis has one of the largest planting of Norton in North America.

The Norton is dark in color with big fruity flavors and firm acidity. According to Chrysalis, Norton (or Cynthiana as it is sometimes called) is the most expensive non-vinifera grape in eastern America. This wine was big and fruity with a nice finish.


A wine trade show in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania? Yes, the largest east of the Mississippi, at the Valley Forge Convention Center. A bigger venue than in past years, with more room on the trade show floor, and in the hotel itself. This is where all the wineries from Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Maine, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, South and North Carolinas, etc. come to meet, greet, and learn. Not exactly what you would expect. You don't think Valley Forge and think, "Oh yeah, they have the largest wine rade show in the east there!"

There are two levels to attending Wineries Unlimited. First is the presented information download which is vast and most valuable. Second is the shared information download which is both vast and most valuable.

Richard Leahy and the staff plan a series of lectures and presentations which speak to the heart of the industry. There are workshops and panel discussions on everything from various winemaking techniques to vineyard management to accounting to marketing. Each program proves more and more interesting. The downloading of this in formation is incredible.

The viticulture sessions in 2008 included takes on challenges and opportunities in a changing climate, vineyard water management, total quality focus winemaking, studies of grape diseases, making chardonnay sur lie and in a stainless steel tanks, event planning at your winery, frost protection, purchasing non local fruit and juice, how to make apple wine, rose' winemaking, successful sales methods, and realizing your tourism potential.

And then the other information is also what makes it so fascinating - the buzz from the trade show floor, the dinners, and the breakfasts, and lunches. How with the economy affect the wineries, epically this summer? How can you grow your business while the economy is having an off year? The increases in pricing of vineyard trellis went up substantially due to the price of processing steel and shipping it. Indeed, how rising fuel costs are affecting prices of goods you're buying (shipping is going up) as well as those you are selling.

Big discussion was focused on costs of new French oak barrels which are now $1,000 each - which is due to the rise of the Euro and is helped along by rising fuel costs. In the face of increased costs, what are the best French oak alternatives? Adding extra stave or chips? Sending out for reconditioning? What are the best new hybrids coming from Cornell and Minnesota? Are there any new packaging options to choose from? What styles are working best for other wineries? What non-grape fruits are making the best and selling the best as wines? How do you get more people to come to your winery? Tasting room policies? Event ideas and planning? Advertising? Web strategy? How green is your winery? Are you solar powered? Is it cost effective? Is it reliable? These are the issues facing wineries today.

The trade show is great for two things - buying wine making equipment and buying merchandise for the tasting room. We found some great wine stoppers - both inexpensive and expensive. My favorite was a Big Bertha Driver wine stopper, and a Titlest Golf Ball wine stopper. Very cool. We found chocolates. Olive oils. Carton shippers. Cds with music written especially for wineries. Wine slushies mixes. Carry home boxes. Found a personalizing label maker for weddings. We took copious notes on trellising costs. We studied oak barrel alternatives. Hung out with a great, funny, and knowledgeable barrel salesman. We bought new bottles, corks, and packaging. We ordered more stainless hose clamps and hoses, and ball cock valves.

And then there's gossip. 'Did you hear that so-and-so has moved from one winery to another?' And who's selling their winery and for how much?

And of course it's about the wine. Who's making the best reds? Who's making the best whites? What are they doing? Have you tried this wine? That wine? Have you seen the most recent scores? How do I get my wines reviewed?

The industry is remarkably open in its discussions in a way that is refreshing. People trade secrets all the time. New winery owners are laughed at and then encouraged. A rising tide floats all boats.

And you heard it all at Valley Forge.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Wineries Unlimited Tasting Notes: First Round

The BYOW Tasting evening, where winemakers brought their wines for each other to taste was still the highlight of the show for me, in regards to reviews. It was exciting to see all the great wines being made on the eastcoast. It's a shame more critics don't attend the evening. For it truly is an eye opening experience. I am filing separate reviews of new wineries I found there. But there are also these random group notes. I must do it this way, or I'll never get all my notes down in any other cohesive way.

The notes indicate no specific order than in the order they wee drank, and then not even that. I had a ball perusing the Virginia table, then the New York, Maryland, the Carolinas, New England, etc. It was awesome and fun. I went back and forth. Talked to winemakers I'd met before, and those I had not.

These are all good wines I urge you to search out.

Jefferson Vineyards

Viognier Vintage 2006.
Big floral nose. Classic Viognier aromas of honeysuckle, apricot and pineapple lead to similar flavors lifted by shimmering, polished acidity and an underlying minerality. This extraordinary cuvee will age gracefully for the next 1 to 2 years, developing an additional element of candied orange peel balanced by increasingly linear acids in the mid-palate and finish. Serve only to your immediate family and closest friends, and with any lighter foods. This wine was one of the most talked about wines of the evening at the Virginia table.

Gold Medal - Taster's Guild International Wine Competition

Gold Medal & Best of Category -- Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition

Vintage 2005. Produced from just less than 24% of the total red wine harvest, the 2005 Meritage shows intense, sweet, palate-saturating red and black fruits from the first taste through the finish. Intermingled are notes of cassis, espresso, chocolates on the mid-palate, and Provencal herbs on the finish. The fine grained tannins and beautiful acid structure balance the intensity of the fruit and carry the wine to its lengthy, ethereal finish, suggesting handsome rewards for those with the patience to cellar the wine into the next decade. Serve with herb-crusted lamb, filet mignon with herbed butter or duck breast in cherry sauce. 650 cases made.

Magnums Available October of 2007

2004 Vintage - Gold Medal - 2006 Virginia Governor's Cup

Jewell Towne Vineyards
Jewell Towne White 2007
50% New Hampshire grapes; 50% Massachusetts grapes
Sweet white wine. Very nice.
In 1977, Dr. Peter D. Oldak, an emergency physician and his wife, Brenda, moved to a 12 acre farm in South Hampton, New Hampshire. In 1982, merely as a hobbyist home gardener, he planted six individual grape vines. Four years later, he started making wine. Each year more vines and varieties were planted to see which would do best in our climate, soil, and location, and which varieties would make excellent quality wine in the chilly climes of the Northeast. Dr. Oldak, who stood behind the counter pouring, was a genuiney nice man, thrilled to talk to folks about his wines.

LaGrange Tannat 2006
This Madiran styled, fullbodied red is well balanced with lush black fruits, a strong tannic structure and a long spicy finish. Lot’s of vanilla and deep dark fruit. Wonderful! One of my favorite wines of the night. I was very sad that the bottles were empty when I went back to get more.

Very rich in history and very rich in wine, the new Winery at La Grange opened September 2006 as Prince William County's only established winery. The red brick three and a half story La Grange manor house built in the 1790's has survived numerous owners and finally has come to rest with an unique group of investors brought together by Chris Pearmund. While the 5,500 newly planted Cabernet Sauvignon vines grow silently, the manor house is completely refurbished, new Winery building is ready and wine is aging.

The Winery at La Grange's current inventory of 5,500 cases of wine include: Viognier, Chardonnay, Meritage, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Norton, Claret, Pinot Grigio, Tannat and a Port styled Snort.

Martha Clara Vineyards
Medium bodied Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon blend. This medium-bodied red blend (assemblage) reveals the mystery of the spices and “fruitiness” of ripe dark berries. Soft & chewy, the wine shows a smooth, firm structure, where vanilla & oak aromas come together to join the distinctive flavors of fruit. Structured and elegant, this blend opens new horizons in the wines of Long Island.

Closson Chase 2005 Chardonnay
Barrel fermented and aged 16 months in oak. They made 252 cases. 13% alcohol
Very smooth and very nice.

Connecticut Valley Winery
La Dolce Vita dessert wine
Very light. Very nice. Not too sweet. Nice acidity and balance. A delicious dessert wine.

Located in Connecticut's picturesque Litchfield County, Connecticut Valley Winery is owned and operated by Anthony and Judith Ferraro. With a passion for offering the highest quality wines, while preserving all the charm of a small, family owned winery, the Ferraros offer an unmatched wine experience in one of the most beautiful and intimate of New England locales.

Part 2 to come shortly.

Greendance - The Winery at Sand Hill

Another Wineries Unlimited Find. Located south east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the official opening of GREENDANCE -THE WINERY AT SAND HILL including a ribbon ceremony took place on the weekend of October 6-7th, 2007. Many of their grape wines and the first run of a few of the season's fruit wines were available to help celebrate the opening. Specializing in high quality small fruits wines made from fruit that they grow on their farm, and grapes from Pennsylvania vineyards, including their own.

The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon was very nice. Lot’s of vanilla on the nose. The wine sat on the skins 28-30 days at low temperatures. It was fermented in stainless steel, using 50% oak chips, and 50% toasted oak chips.

Black Currant Port was also very nice. Big, fruity nose. Touch of vanilla. It has a lot of fruit and sweetness, but just enough acid. The oak definitely rounds it off. 17.5% alcohol. Very nice!!!

Neponset Winery in Needham, Massachusetts

One of the great things about Wineries Unlimited was discovering many new wineries and winemakers. This was one of my favorites. John Comando, owner & winemaker was both enthusiastic as well as proud, which he should be. I tried three of his wines and was most impressed. I've included the winery's tasting notes, with my own in caps. These thee are wines worth trying.

Wrote John on his website, "A good friend introduced me to winemaking more than 30 years ago. It all started with a trip to a pick-your-own berry farm. Those fresh picked currants made a pretty good wine. While I've tried my hand at making a lot of different types of wine over the years, grapes are my fruit of choice." They purchase juice from top growers in Massachusetts and California and ferment it cold to produce distinctive, fruity wines.

They're conveniently located in the suburban town of Needham, Massachusetts, off Exit 19B, I-95/Rt. 128, just 3 miles south of the Mass Pike. Their wines are available for sale at the winery and a select group of wine shops in the Boston area.

Their Wines

2006 Unoaked Chardonnay: made from Massachusetts-grown grapes, fermented in stainless steel. This wine has great tropical fruit and green apple flavors with a lingering finish, and expresses all that a Massachusetts Chardonnay can be. Sold Out

2006 Halloween Harvest Chardonnay: an unusual award-winning wine made from Massachusetts Chardonnay grapes picked on Halloween with a touch of the "Noble Rot." It's a chardonnay that doesn't taste like one. Flavors of Peaches, Kiwi and Honey, with a long finish. LIGHT. SMOOTH. A TOUCH OF PEACH. NICE FINNISH. VERY NICE

Pinot Gris (2006): made in the Oregon style with grapes from the Suisun Valley in Northern California. Bursting with flavors of melon and honey, this is a rich, medium bodied wine with lots of fruit and a long finish. NICE. LIGHT. LEMONY. CLEAN. GREAT FINNISH.

A really fun new discovery...especially in Massachusetts.

Wineries Unlimited 2008: Most Successful in 32-year History

Santa Rosa, California (March 28, 2008) — Wineries Unlimited, the largest vineyard and wine trade show and conference east of the Rocky Mountains, and the second largest in the country, completed the most successful program in its 32-year history by setting new event records in attendance and scholarship fundraising. The event was held March 4-7, 2008 at the Valley Forge Convention Center, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania in suburban Philadelphia.

Over 1,500 wine industry personnel from 36 states as well as Washington, D.C. and four Canadian provinces participated in four days of seminars and two days of trade show exhibits. Three concurrent seminar tracks (viticulture, enology and finance/management/marketing) were conducted by a seasoned lineup of wine industry educators, consultants, association directors and executives. The trade show presented 727 exhibitors, 330 exhibitor booths and over 100,000 square feet of exhibitor space, bringing total attendance to over 2,200.

(Richard Leahy)

One hundred of those participants also enrolled in the full-day focus seminar “Sustainability Issues in Winery Layout and Design” moderated by Dr. Bruce Zoecklein of Virginia Tech. Exit evaluations by attendees indicated that 85% “would strongly recommend this session to others”.

“The trip up here was worth it just for this presentation alone,” said Fred Mindermann of Arrington Vineyards, Tennessee about the session “Advantages of Accrual Accounting Systems for Wineries” by speaker Dennis R. Urffer, CPA of Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.

The eighth annual Best of the East Grand Tasting and Gala was celebrated by a sellout crowd of 330. It featured gold and double gold medal winners from the 2007 International Wine Competition and a live auction benefiting the American Society for Enology and Viticulture, Eastern Section scholarship fund. Nearly $18,000 was raised in conjunction with a silent auction at the trade show, surpassing the 2007 record of $16,000. The single largest cash donor was Arthur Roberts of Arton Glass (Lively, Va.) who presented a check for $1,000 during the auction.

“This has by far been the best Wineries Unlimited we have attended in the last 10 years,” said exhibitor John McClain of McClain Ozone, Inc. of Napa, California. “Our sales were significantly higher than in previous years, and we were very pleased with the quality, politeness and effectiveness of the staff. We participate in several shows each year, and this is one of the best.”

Veteran marketing and communications consultant Steve Burns of O’Donnell Lane LLC delivered the keynote address “How to Brand a Wine Region as World-Class” at a Wine Theme Luncheon on Wednesday, March 5 that showcased chardonnay, rosÈ/blush wines, and apple wines/cider. “I was impressed with the enthusiasm of the eastern vintners and the quality of their wines,” said Burns.

Wineries Unlimited returns to the Valley Forge Convention Center (www.vfconventioncenter.com) in King of Prussia, Pa. March 10–13, 2009. Visit www.wineriesunlimited.com for updates.

Wineries Unlimited was launched in 1976 to provide eastern wineries with a regional venue to network and source equipment. It is a division of Vineyard & Winery Services, the publisher of Vineyard & Winery Management magazine (www.vwm-online.com), Wine Industry Index, and Wineries of the Index on compact disc, and the producer of seminars, conferences and trade shows (Tasting Room Profitability Conference, Wine Club Summits East and West, Managing the Winery Laboratory, and Marketing & Public Relations Conference) as well as three wine competitions (Grand Harvest Awards, International Eastern Wine Competition, and West Coast Wine Competition).

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Wine Enthusiast Praises Eastcoast Wines

The April Edition of Wine Enthusiast rated a whole series of wines from New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia in the mid- to high-80s.

The two top scores were both 88s - Dr. Konstatin Frank 2005 Barrel Reserve Chardonnay and Wiliamsburg Winery Gabriel Arher 2005 Reserve Bordeaux Blend.

Lamoreaux Landing garnered two 87s - 2006 Chardonnay and 2006 Reserve Chardonnay

Cascata 2006 Fireside Chardonnay - 87

Chaddsford 2005 Pinot Noir - 86

Chateau Lafayette Reneau - 86

Fox Run Chardonnay NV - 86

Prejean 2006 Chardonnay - 86

Cayuga Ridge, Heron Hill, Lakewood, Rooster Hill, Ventosa, Wagner, and Chaddsford chardonnays all scored 85 points.

Congrats to all!

Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World Wine Course Tastes Lenz!

I have gone back to school. And I've never had so much fun at school as I am having at the Kevin Zraly Windows on the World Complete Wine Course. What can I say, I am a strong believer in continuing education.

Zraly is a maniac in the best sense of the word. He's funny, energetic, enthusiastic. And he's deeply passionate about wine. Part Bob Barker and part Robert Parker, he makes wine even more fun and exciting than ever before. And he has a very keen and sharp sense of how to take complex regions and concepts and use layman's terms to break them down for the lay person. I cannot recommend Zraly, or the course itself, highly enough. I learn 10 new things every class.

I must say, just last night we did the Burgundy region. Now, I have a cellar one-third filled with Burgundy and Rhone wines. I know what I like - Châteauneuf-du-Pape (especially Beaucastel and Domaine de Beaurenard) as well as sundry classics like Clos de Tart, Joseph Drouhin's Clos de Mouches, Crozes Hermitage, Cote Rotie, and two highly coveted Echezaux.

But I pretend no knowledge of the region, and rely very much on the critics from Wine Spectator, Robert Parker, and Wine Enthusiast for their endorsements. Last night I looked like a blithering idiot trying to answer questions Mr. Zraly rattled off with his good natured smile and razor-sharp knowledge. I was wrong 50% of the time. In the end, I learned a lot, and look forward to learning more about the region.

Weeks earlier, however, while tasting chardonnays from California, Mr. Zraly threw in a New York chardonnay for tasting. He offered a Lenz Chardonnay from Long Island. Here Zraly was, teaching people about the abilities and characteristics of chardonnay, and he praised this wine during the serving and tasting.

Congrats to Eric Fry and the folks to Lenz!

Lenndevours on James Molesworth and the Winemaker's Quandary

Lenn Thompson on James Molesworth
I was going to write an entire column about Molesworth's recent take on the Finger Lakes and Riesling. But my friend, Lenn Thompson did it before me and better than I could have. Like him, I feel higher scores were merited. His rant is worth every second.


The Winemaker's Quandry
However, there is something here that I am very keen on.

Wrote James Molesworth: "Within New York state, the Finger Lakes has quality Riesling in the palm of its hand, but seems intent on tinkering with a hodgepodge of varieties, including reds from Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir that rarely achieve good ripeness and varietal character in upstate New York. That lack of focus keeps holding the region back."

And this is where you come to the winemaker's dilemma. In essence, Mr. Molesworth is 100% correct. If you live in Burgundy, do you make anything other than good to great Pinot Noir? Why else would you? If you planted in Champagne, why would you make anything but Champagne? Yet there are a hand full of people who grow Chardonnay, and a few other varieties in Burgundy. But as time has marched on, more and more landowners and vineyard managers have moved toward Pinot. The region has a good reputation and carries along the vintner in a rising swell of promotion, media coverage, good ratings, and ultimately sales. Burgundy is the epitome of such a region. So is Alsace or Champagne.

Any smart winemaker from Burgundy, Bordeaux, Alsace, Champagne, etc. would tell you the same thing. However, the big, daunting red is the Moby Dick of winemaking, and in it's shadow every winemaker is Ahab. Don't let them lie to you. If most winemakers had their druthers, they would live in Bordeaux, or Chile, or Napa, and be chasing the great big red wine like American writers want to write the Great American Novel. It looms over them like a giant mountain or a tall, good looking stranger. And in the region there are a handful of wonderful reds - some of which I just reviewed.

However, the thing that holds them back is the same thing that makes them successful. Their diversity is what supports them - their blush wines, their fruit wines, their red wines and dessert wines, keep the wine trails flowing and growing with hundreds of thousands of visitors every summer. This is the other winemaker's quandary. How can I make the wines I want to make (or should make) when I have to make a certain number of wines to keep people coming in and out of the door? Robert Mondavi didn't make all that money selling high-end Cabernet Sauvignon - he made it selling inexpensive chardonnay and white zinfandel. These wineries need to keep visitors coming. The region is destined to have its share of wineries who will sell pink blush to their visitors - because those visitors like it.

However, without a few higher scores from Mr. Molesworth, and all the other wine critics, the wineries cannot get the wine distributors they need to sell their products in far off markets. Thus they must rely more on blushes, etc. to support their staffs, vineyards, etc. This is the same problem plaguing many eastcoast winemakers.

THE FINGER LAKES ARE 10-20 YEARS AWAY FROM BEING ONE OF THE GREAT WINE REGIONS OF THE WORLD. If over the next 10-20 years, more and more of the vineyards start switching to Riesling (which is in great demand) - the Finger Lakes can join Napa and Sanoma as one of the great and notable wine regions of the world.

I agree with both. Lenn is right - there are at least a few wines worth of a 90 in the Finger Lakes. Or on the Island for that matter. Agree with Mr. Molesworth - the region lacks focus. It is not his job to focus the region or champion something that is not yet ready for prime time.

Greatness hates diversity. Singleness of purpose is everything. The Renaissance Man is dead. Do something focused and do it well. That is what Mr. Molesworth is telling the region - and I hate to say it - he is not wrong. In fact, he is very much correct. But he, and wine rating community (lets not lay this at poor Mr. Molesworth's feet solely - also it must be pointed out that Mr. Molesworth was not stingy in the least - he handed out many scores in the mid- to high-80s), are more a part of it than Mr. Molesworth lets on. No great region became so without a champion or two.

Who will step up? Which winemaker? Which critic?

More Information on Finger Lake Reds

Here are two more poeple chiming in on the recent red wines of the Finger Lakes. If you won't believe me, maybe you'll believe them.

Sandra Silfven - Detroit News

Thursday, March 13, 2008
Sandra Silfven:
Finger Lakes vintners don't shy away from dry reds

In the early days of her winery in upstate New York, Marti Macinski of Standing Stone Vineyards remembers neighbor Jim Hazlett offering her a load of Cabernet Sauvignon.

She sent him away and scoffed, "You can't grow red wine in the Finger Lakes."

The neighboring vintner took the grapes around to the back door, gave them to her husband Tom, and before long, she had planted her own Cabernet Sauvignon and named her new Cabernet-based blend "Pinnacle" -- because, well, the common perception is that you're not supposed to be able to grow Cabernet in the Finger Lakes.

The first Pinnacle debuted in 1993, and not only have the vines flourished, but they did not die like so many other varieties did in the winter of 2004.

Macinski's success has been repeated from southwestern Michigan to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia and even Rhode Island, where red European vinifera vines sometimes not only live, but do quite well, despite frosts, floods, disease and hurricanes.

Six vintners in New York's Finger Lakes region rolled out examples of dry reds last week to scribes around the East -- and Michigan -- for a unique tele-wine tasting, mostly based on one of the "parents" of Cabernet Sauvignon -- Cabernet Franc.

Writers, including myself, were shipped six wines in advance and hooked up via conference call with the winemakers, gathered in Geneva, N.Y., so we could all be in the same "room."

Cabernet Franc is lighter-bodied than Cabernet Sauvignon, and more spicy and herbal, sometimes with a licorice twist. It has the red berry, cassis, leather and tobacco notes of Cabernet Sauvignon and is one of the components of a traditional Bordeaux blend. As a straight varietal, it is usually identified with Chinon in France's Loire Valley. As a somewhat early ripener, it is favored by vintners in cooler climates, and as these growers in New York proved, you can grow Cabernet in the Finger Lakes.

Here are notes on the wines and the people who made them. And remember, if you do not live in the Finger Lakes, you most likely can have these wines shipped to you, or you can tour this scenic region yourself, or at the very least, get to know the styles of your own locally made dry red wines.

You can read more at:

Rick Liyke - Lyke 2 Drink

Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Tuesday Tasting: Finger Lakes Reds

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we travel to the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York to taste six reds.

From the full disclosure desk: I work for Eric Mower and Associates, a marketing communications agency (www.mower.com). We developed a program for the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance called the FLWA Vintners' Roundtable. This virtual tasting is conducted via conference call, linking winemakers and food and beverage journalists. Earlier this month I played host to a FLWA Vintners' Roundtable attended by several drinks journalists, including Sandra Silfven of the Detroit News, Sean Ludford of Beverage Experts, Christopher Davies of Wine Country International, freelancer Thomas Pellechia, and bloggers Rob Lane of the Finger Lakes Weekend Wino and Carlo DeVito of East Coast Wineries.

When the subject of red wines from the Finger Lakes comes up, most people – vintners included – immediately question whether or not the climate can support the longer growing period required to mature grapes on the vine. Marti Macinski, who runs Standing Stone Vineyards with her husband on Seneca Lake recalls the day that a neighboring grape grower, Jim Hazlitt, showed up with cabernet sauvignon grapes he was trying to sell. She turned him away because she was “convinced you couldn’t grow red wines in the Finger Lakes.” Luckily, Tom Macinski did not get that memo and ended up buying the grapes from Hazlitt. It was the start of Standing Stone’s successful Pinnacle blend.

Wineries in the Finger Lakes are extremely young compared to the classic red wine producing regions in France, Italy, Spain and California. Most of the vines producing vinifera reds are less than a generation old. The Upstate New York winters can be tough on the vineyards and the relatively short growing season means that for the most part the Finger Lakes will never be known for producing big red wines that have built the reputations of Sonoma and Napa vineyards. However, this does not mean that the wineries cannot make some very fine reds with plenty of character. These wines are stylistically on target and compare very well in matching food to wine with some of the top reds from around the world.

For this tasting we sampled six reds, four cabernet francs and two Bordeaux-style blends. Cabernet franc is a slightly lighter style cousin of cabernet sauvignon. The French love this grape for blending, but Finger Lakes wineries are finding that it is one of the red grape varieties that thrives in the region and can make a sophisticated wine.

Read the rest at: http://lyke2drink.blogspot.com/2008/03/tuesday-tasting-finger-lakes-reds.html


One of my favorite blogs is Weekend Wino, whose writer is Rob Lane. It's funny, irreverant, and filled with all kinds of cool stuff related to the Finger Lakes.

I've posted some notes to two articles I liked very much: 1. 2007 Finger Lakes Weekend Wino Wine Awards- White Wines and 2. His highlights from James Molesworth's recent NY Riesling ratings

Enjoy his columns and more importantly, listen to his advice.

2007 Finger Lakes Weekend Wino Wine Awards- White Wines
When we last went to commercial break at The Finger Lakes Weekend Wino Wine Awards show, we had just announced the winners for Favorite Red Wines (click here to see the post for Favorite Finger Lakes Red Wines of 2007) and our host, Conan O’Brien was cracking bad jokes like "Men are like a fine wine. They begin as grapes, and it’s up to women to stomp the crap out of them until they turn into something acceptable to have dinner with." (Can‘t wait until the Hollywood writer‘s strike is over). Return from commercial break (seat fillers in place) and cue Conan.

Conan: Welcome back to The Something Something Wine Something? I really need to get a new agent and stop doing these low budget events. Well anyway, here are the winners for Favorite Finger Lakes White Wines of 2007 as chosen by some doofus calling himself the Finger Lakes Weekend Wino, who visited 81 Finger Lakes wineries and tasted over 600 Finger Lakes wines in 2007.