Tag Archives: Finger Lakes Wine

Vintage 2016 Update

Here we are again. Standing at the exciting start of another vintage.  It is the beginning of spring and while my friends in California are already well underway with budbreak, in the Finger Lakes, we are slowly emerging from one of the mildest winters in recent memory.  Even though the winter was largely mild, that did not mean it was without challenges.  After an almost 70 degree Christmas Eve, the temperatures plunged to below freezing rapidly in a 24 hour period. There was also one weekend in January where the temperatures plummeted as the Polar Vortex swooped in.  Many areas of the growing region reported temperatures well below zero with some dropping to 10 below, right to the edge of some Vinifera varieties’ cold hardiness.  This issue was compounded by the fact that we received very little snow this winter.  The snow can offer insulating properties for the trunk and graft union of the vines when it remains for the season. There was only one significant snowfall the entire winter.   It remains to be seen how these singular but compounding events will affect the crop.  Initial estimates have come in from 10% to 50% loss so it is likely that it will, once again, depend on individual site location.  Seneca and Cayuga Lakes, the two largest and deepest lakes of the Finger Lakes, didn’t even think about freezing this year which should help vineyards that were close to these bodies of water.  I didn’t achieve my goal of a weather station up on our property last year to record the winter temperatures so I have very little to go on to understand how our site would have been affected.

There is talk of an early budbreak here since the spring weather has been showing up earlier than normal. This brings the danger of an extended frost season to the area and very few vineyards have invested in the equipment to counteract it. The roar of frost fans, so common in the spring in Napa, does not exist here.  This serves as a silent reminder that, even though winter is over, the danger of cold is not.

In the winery, we are preparing to bottle the Riesling and the Rose for 240 Days as well as our own Trestle 31 Riesling. The Cabernet Franc is developing in barrels very nicely and I’m encouraged by what I see evolving there.  Brian and I met with Stuart Pigott, this past week who tasted through all four wines and seemed to like them. Pigott’s write up can be found  here on his site, Riesling Global.  It’s always nerve racking for me, regardless of how long I’m in the industry, to present my wines, which are in some ways like my children for judgement. I’m glad he understood what we were trying to do.

For my part, I am thoroughly enjoying the weather. Spring here consists of cold but sunny days with piercing blue skies with white puffy clouds perfect for identifying hidden pictures with my three year old. I am waiting for all the bulbs that I planted last fall to show their first signs of life and for those two weeks that usually happen in late spring where everything is a verdant green and blooming.

Two Nights of Kinship at Kindred Fare

  One of the things Brian and I miss most about living in Napa is the wide variety of amazing food available there.  It was always a struggle to decide, when we were going to go out, where we should go because there were so many great choices, many of which did not need reservations 6 months in advance.  So of course, when a new restaurant in the Finger Lakes comes on our radar we have got to go check it out.

I had heard great things about Kindred Fare in Geneva, NY from many of my friends so I decided to try it, sight unseen, last week with visiting colleagues from San Francisco.  It was a Tuesday night and the crowd was full but not packed which was a good sign.  The wine list is a nice mix of local stars and global examples of mostly cool climate wines which are complementary to the restaurant’s farm to table offerings.  The list is curated by Bob Madill, a local fixture here in the region, likely best known as a tireless Finger Lakes ambassador and one of the founders of Cayuga lake treasure, Sheldrake Point Winery, who is currently working with Glenora.  My colleagues had never visited the area before and I felt that this restaurant, representing the rising foodie scene in Geneva plus their local wine offerings would be a perfect introduction.

  The kitchen sent out an amuse bouche of baked potato with two cheeses which was a lovely start to the meal.  For our appetizer we ordered the flatbread which had braised duck, caramelized onions, and delicious melted cheese topping a fantastic flatbread crust.  It was wonderful.  To pair, we chose the Ravines Single Vineyard Chardonnay (Stone and Chalk) from the White Springs vineyard.  To choose a Riesling would be obvious, but at this point, even the farthest wine lover here in the US has heard that we make good Riesling here.  Chardonnay from the Finger Lakes was an unknown to my two friends so it was a good choice to demonstrate the versatility of the region.

All three of us happened to be duck lovers so we each chose the Roast Duck with plum sriracha, mushroom, bok choy, peanuts, cilantro, and daikon-carrot pickles.  To pair we chose the Red Newt Glacier Ridge Pinot Noir (Elegant and Floral).  This one was exciting for me since I had just finished espousing my passion for Pinot Noir in the Finger Lakes and although many that I taste currently are not where they need to be yet, this one was showing very well and complemented the duck completely.  Yes, we were the three duck table! Dessert was a fantastic bread pudding which is one of my personal favorites.

I immediately went home and began talking about the dinner with Brian and how amazing it was.  As a twist of fate would have it, my mother in law was in town due to my son being sick that week and with him having to stay home from school, we needed backup.  She, always a fan of date nights, suggested that we should go out ourselves the next night.  Thus, I ended up walking back into Kindred Fare the very next night for a second fantastic dinner.  This time we tried the Boundary Breaks clone 239 Riesling (Zesty and Fruity) which was delicious and highlighted everything that I love about the variety.  It was a bit more sweet than expected but still went well with the meal which started off with a mixed bread basket and house made chunky style hummus.

I chose one of the nightly specials, the Coq a Vin (Roast Chicken with red wine based sauce) with various roasted vegitables.  Brian got the Braised beef shank goulash which was a meal choice that I had toyed with both nights that I had been there.  According to him, the meat fell apart at the touch of a fork and had a kick but was not overly spicy (that is why I didn’t order it myself since I try to stay far away from anything with heat spice).  It was mouthwateringly good.  We finished off dinner each with ice cream.  I chose Blood Orange and Brian chose Chicory.  Both were amazing but after the first taste swap neither of us were keen to share.

That is how I ended up two nights in a row at one of Geneva’s newest foodie destinations and I am actually contemplating going back this Friday as well.  Amazing food can be found in the Finger Lakes if one is willing to drive a bit to find it.  I find myself a bit envious of my friends in Geneva, which has become ground zero for the culinary revolution happening here, since they are so close to the action.  I highly recommend a visit to Kindred Fare if you happen to be in the region!

 

 

Exploring the Local Microclimate

The past two months we have been in New York have been so amazing.  I’m settling into my new job.  Our boxes are almost unpacked and we had time this week to get out and about in the area.

The first place we spend a good bit of our time is our future vineyard property.  We have 12 beautiful acres on the Northeast side of Seneca lake that is currently a wild, overgrown mix of crabapples, wild roses, various grasses, pines, spruces, and hardwoods.  It is a shale based soil with huge chunks of weathered shale spread all over the surface.  It is quite fascinating to look a these huge rocks which are flaking apart from the severe weather they have experienced.

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There is one thing I have always loved in the Finger Lakes and that is the color of the sky!  It is so vibrantly blue contrasting with the amazing bright green of the trees.  There are no filters on this photo!  It really is that blue!

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We had some free time sans child last night for a quick date night and ended up at a small wine bar in Geneva (recommended by a new found fellow winemaking friend) called Microclimate.  The atmosphere is sophisticated, rustic, and homey all at the same time.  Last night the doors and windows were open and the sound of live bluegrass music could be heard on our walk up to the front.

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Apparently it was Americana music night which happens only on the last Thursday night of the month during the “off season”.  Stephanie, one of the owners, was manning the bar and all too happy to bring us up to speed on the music.  The players all show up from various bands and come together to adlib several hours of really fantastic music.  They welcome other instrumentalists and singers.  This night involved several guitar players, a banjo, mandolin, harmonicas, bass, and a trumpet. Their rendition of “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In” was fantastic!

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The wine list is small but impressive having not only local selections but wines from all over the world.  The flights of five wines each always have one Finger Lakes wine represented as well as the same style or variety from four to five other countries in the world.  “Its so you don’t get blinders for what is going on in the rest of the world” she says holding her hands by her eyes.  “This gives people perspective.”  She is half French and half Spanish and joked about a customer who once told her that he trusted her wine knowledge more because she spoke with a French accent.  “He made my night I laughed so hard.”  She and her business partner built everything for the bar from the aluminum bar top, wooden benches, and riddling rack lined walls.  Even the bathrooms are walled in tartrate covered old wine vat wood.  We each talked about our decisions to move to the area from other wine producing regions and shared similar views.  “It’s so exciting here!” she exclaimed. ” There is so much room for growth and opportunity.” The bar has been open for three years and has become a local winemaker hangout.   I can tell for sure we will be back.

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 Stephanie mans the bar at Microclimate.

Wines tasted…

2012 Heart and Hands Pinot Noir, Finger Lakes – Elegant and Floral

Very restrained Pinot Noir with fragrant nose of truffle, wild raspberry and sous bois.  Delicate tannins with a soft finish and extremely well integrated oak.  Smells very much like Francois Freres.

2012 Blaufrankisch, Red Tail Ridge, Finger Lakes – Spicy and Smoky

This wine was incredibly interesting with aromas of plum, hints of tobacco, and dark chocolate.  The oak was extremely subtle but the fruit powerful enough that I can’t categorize it as restrained.  The tannins were very well managed.  While this example was far less dense than is typical of it’s Austrian counterparts it is very well done and made me think it might be fun to try.  Unfortunately most of the wineries growing it in the Finger Lakes have gone with the far less marketable but more pronounceable name of Lemberger, no relation to the cheese…

2011 Sparkling Teroldego, Red Tail Ridge, Finger Lakes – Light and Bubbly

I say light and bubbly because it is sparkling but really what it is reminds me of a dry Lambrusco with cojones! Extremely well made with subtle texture and fine creamy mousse on the palate.  Fantastic!  One of those great summer wines for the red bubbly wine drinker in your life.