Tag Archives: Finger Lakes

The Finger Lakes Region Gets Better and Better

4 Aug

Finger Lakes Wine pic

New York’s Finger Lakes viticulture area has come a long way in recent years.  Home to more than 100 wineries centered around Keuka, Seneca, and Cayuga Lakes, the area has long been a source of excellent cool climate wines, and has recently been bringing home awards and earning some great press.

While commercial wine has been produced here since the mid-1800’s, a major change occurred in the 1960’s when Dr.  Konstantin Frank successfully grew and produced wine from Vitis Vinifera grapes such as Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Gewürztraminer, and Cabernet Sauvignon that had been grafted onto cold-hardy native rootstock.   For years, it was relatively uncommon to find Finger Lakes wines other than Rieslings earning 90+ scores from Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast or Wine Advocate.  That has certainly changed!  Recently, I went to the region and sampled wines from 3 producers who have received some rave write-ups and scores.

Ravines winery

My first stop was Ravines (https://RavinesWine.com) which featured 13 (thirteen!) wines which had received scores from 90 to 94 from Spectator, Advocate and Vinous Media.  Ravines’ Rieslings, both dry and off-dry; Chardonnay; Pinot Noir and Cab Franc were all excellent old-world style offerings.  Prices were also very good, mostly between $17 to $25.   Their 2017 Cab Franc and 2016 Le Petit Caporal (Bordeaux blend) were exceptional.

Next on the tour was Shaw Vineyard (https://shawvineyard.com).  I have blogged about Shaw’s Orange Wine before (https://fumblingviniferist.com/2017/06/19/orange-wine-a-rediscovered-style/) and on this visit tried several of their more traditional offerings.  Steve Shaw ages his wine a good bit longer than most local vignerons, and one of my highlights of the day was a 2011 Merlot Steve had just released.

Finally, and my favorite, was Bellangelo winery (www.bellangelo.com).   Winemaker Chris Missick is exceptionally knowledgeable in all facets of viticulture and enology.  A military veteran and former attorney from Southern California, Chris is publishing a series of books taking the reader deep into Finger Lakes Wines.  The first book in the series, “FLX Wine School, a Crash Course by Bellangelo Book 1”, covers the history of Finger Lakes wines, wine chemistry and basics of wine tasting.  The book is approachable and comprehensively sourced and footnoted.Villa Bellangelo

Bellangelo’s wines were all impressive.  Chris has received a lot of press for Bellangelo’s sparkling wines, including a just-released sparkling Gewurztraminer.  I am not a big fan of that varietal, but this 2017 sparkler is delicious!  In addition, Bellangelo’s single vineyard Rieslings were some of the best I have tasted.  A standout among the reds is the 2017 Cabernet Franc-Lemberger blend which was bright, complex and well-balanced.

Over the past few years I have made it a habit to visit the Finger Lakes every year.  Given the trajectory in quality I have seen, I can’t wait for my next visit.


Orange Wine – A Rediscovered Style

19 Jun

Orange Wine

Most wine lovers understand that white wines and red wines are fermented differently.  For whites, the grapes are crushed and the clear juice is immediately drained into fermentation tanks.  After red grapes are crushed, the entire mixture of juice, skins and seeds are fermented together.  This is one reason reds have heavier tannins than whites and why whites are lighter and fruitier.

But thousands of years ago, many white wines were fermented just as reds are today.  Long ago this practice fell out of favor, but recently has been making a comeback – particularly in the Finger Lakes wine AVA (American Viticulture Area) of upstate New York.  When white grapes are crushed and allowed to ferment on the skins, the result is a deeper, richer wine that, yes, approaches orange in color.  Greater complexity and a fuller mouthfeel are also common.  Today, orange wines made from common white varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling can be found, not only from New York but also Italy, France and Australia, among other regions.

For several years I have seen articles about orange wines and have been intrigued, but never happened across one in a wine store or restaurant.  Last week I was happily surprised to find a 2014 Shaw Vin Rustique orange wine on the list of a restaurant in Utica.  It was a BIG, flavorful wine and absolutely delicious.  Unfiltered and textural, with a slight nuttiness and full fruit flavors of dried apricot and pear which were balanced by a citrus acidity.  (90+, $30).

As more is written about orange-style wines, I believe they will be increasingly seen in neighborhood wine stores and restaurants.  In the meantime, many good ones can be ordered online.   If you are bored with your standard Pinot Grigio’s or Rosés this summer and are intrigued by exploring unfamiliar wines – by all means, give orange wine a try!