By Niagara Escarpment Correspondent Bryan Calandrelli
The Niagara Escarpment AVA added another winery this weekend as Arrowhead Spring Vineyards opened it doors to hundreds of chocolate-eating, wine-drinking visitors during the "Be Mine with Wine" trail event.
The Niagara Escarpment itself provides a spectacular backdrop for vineyards in this area which is quickly making Cambria, NY a wine destination thanks to the six wineries located within a few miles of one another. Temperatures in the single digits and wind chills flirting with minus twenty below didn't stop the hordes of tasters, myself included, from checking out the view from the newest winery and more importantly, tasting the wines.
After winding down an ice-covered driveway that makes you appreciate an AWD vehicle, I popped in with my fiancee. We were greeted by the husband and wife team of Duncan and Robin Ross, who stood proudly behind a tasting table and in front of several large windows that offer a spectacular view that stretches all the way to Lake Ontario: several miles of rural farmland, vineyards, and farm houses. The ambience at Arrowhead Spring is friendly but serious, with Duncan and Robin's wines on full display - several of which were flanked with medals they've won since they started making wine at home many few years ago.
The first wine we tried was a 2006 Riesling with grapes sourced from the Finger Lakes Region. True to form with shale-stone influenced flavors, this wine could have easily been mistaken for one of the established and acclaimed wineries of the Finger Lakes. With a slight effervescence, this crisp, clean young white wine is quite pleasing.
The two red wines that are available to taste are made with grapes sourced from California and elsewhere New York State. The "Apogee" is made in a Super Tuscan style with sangiovese, cabernet franc and merlot. The Arrowhead Red is a familiar Bordeaux-inspired, multi-state blend. Both reds are full bodied, well balanced and extremely smooth with 22 months in French oak. I picked up the Apogee blend as it seemed to have a bigger punch, with more character and complexity.
In what I think is a compliment, you'd never guess that these red are partly made from California grapes, as they don't have any one overpowering quality that dumbs them down to fruit bomb status. Also mentioned as "coming soon" on the menu was a Vidal Ice wine and a chardonnay.
Later that night, when I had a few hours to contemplate another weekend where the success of the wine trail here is getting more and more tangible, I was trying to remember what I thought of the newest winery on the trail's offerings. While I don't have any one big specific tasting note on these wines, I feel that both reds had a seamlessness that points to meticulous sorting of grapes and blending of wines in the cellar. In a region that doesn't really have one big red grape, like merlot on Long Island for example, the careful blending of varietals is going to be the only way to compete with warmer regions that can consistently ripen grapes like cabernet sauvignon to where they resemble what people are used to drinking. From what I tasted this weekend, Arrowhead Spring Vineyards seems like they have the right idea. E
Even though their vines were barely old enough to walk this past summer, they did produce a fair amount of fruit due to the hot and dry growing season of 2007. So hopefully it won't be too long before we get to try some estate grown samples from the new winery on the block, and by block I mean that huge limestone shelf we call the Niagara Escarpment.
And for all you other wine geeks out there, you might want to know that they planted syrah (in addition to merlot, cab sauv, cab franc, chardonnay, and an experimental row of malbec). I know, I know. Syrah is a warm weather grape... but don't mention that to a handful of wineries in Ontario, or the few wineries in the Finger Lakes that are gambling on it.
And please don't bother Duncan and Robin with your questions as to whether they can ripen the star of the Cote-Rotie. It may just make one hell of a spicy sexy fruity red here in the future. That is, if we keep having these growing seasons a la 2007. And you thought pinot noir was a stretch up here.