Last night, my parents-in-law graciously invited my wife and me to a Syracuse charity event that raises money for the Food Bank of Central New York. Savor Syracuse, as it is called, was held last night at the Hotel Syracuse, an early 20th-Century gem that is no longer functioning as a hotel but serves as a tremendous event venue with a fantastic decor.
The event is simple: local restaurants and other institutions prepared and served food at various stations, and you go around and taste.
We went to this event two years ago and at that point it was heavy on the food and had maybe one or two wineries pouring wines. The rest of the drinks at that event were beer or from wine sales reps who were pushing their client's wines from California, Australia, etc. Basically, there wasn't much going on in the local drink department.
Much to my surprise, when I walked in this year, I saw more wine than food and it was all Finger Lakes wine!
Here before me were wineries like Standing Stone, Lamoreaux Landing, Fulkerson, Heron Hill, Dr. Frank's, Prejean, and several more. It was something akin to a tasting event that was not even labeled as such and so I quickly took advantage of the circumstances and started the rounds.
I was not equipped to take detailed notes, but I'll leave you with some of my overall impressions.
The 2006 rieslings are delicious across the board, no matter if the winery has a reputation of being just okay or the very best of the region. There is just something about the firmness of the rieslings that works, with the mineral structure pushing most of the wines to be Alsatian in style even if the winemaker strived to make them more fruit-forward. This event only proved further the impression I've received that 2006 is a banner year for rieslings.
Some of the reds I tried were decent, but this depended heavily on the vintage. 2005 reds were very acceptable and some were quite good, but the 2006 reds that I tried were all very flat -- drinkable maybe, but not worth an investment. We can all debate later about the qualities of Finger Lakes reds, but it can be said without qualification that the results can swing wildly from one vintage to another even at good wineries.
The very best wine I tried last night was Lamoreaux Landing's 2006 Gewürztraminer. This had all the spice and complexity of a good Gewürztraminer but it was held firm by the same tight mineral structure that also benefits the rieslings from the same vintage. It was a very impressive wine
Standing Stone offered a 2007 riesling, most likely due to the fact that Wine Spectator's recent classification of their 2006 riesling as a "Best Buy" meant that distributors completely raided their storeroom. It's still early, but the 2007 was what I expected: good solid fruit, great taste, but not a lot of backbone. The wine will be a great choice for a year or two from bottling but will not be a long-lived wine like the 2006.
Will the Savor Syracuse event continue to be a wine tasting opportunity in the future? I have no idea, but I took full advantage of it this year. My wife, Kathleen, was especially patient as I ran around tasting wines at an event neither of us expected to be anything but some good eats. We had a fun time and I'm grateful I had the chance to taste so many Finger Lakes wines side-by-side.
(Editor's Note: Jason's wife, Kathleen, is pregnant, so her patience is all the more remarkable.)