Should wine be sold in New York grocery stores? This is a hot topic and one that several readers have emailed me about in recent weeks. So where is the LENNDEVOURS post with our take on the situation?
Be patient. Instead of writing a post with knee-jerk reaction, Evan (with a little help from me) is working on a well-researched post on the topic. With so many egos, personal interests and dollars involved, this is a controversial, emotional topic for a lot of people. As such, not everyone wants to talk on the record.
But, we'll have a post up soon about this important issue -- either today or tomorrow.
In the meantime, here are some links to related stories, including one by friend and fellow-blogger Neil at BrooklynGuyLovesWine:
I've long been a fan of the Gamay grape. I first encountered it like many do, in the form of Beaujolais Noveau. I've since out-grown those wines, but I love Cru Beaujolais and also enjoy Gamay from the Loire Valley as well. These are wines that are often priced for daily drinking, have great acidity for with food and are just plain fruity and delicious.
My affection for French Gamay is probably a big reason why I was so disappointed by Sheldrake Point's 2007 Gamay ($16).
A surprisingly light ruby color (almost like a pinot noir) the nose on this wine is fruity with strawberry preserve and stewed cherry aromas, but there is also signifcant oak character that comes through both as vanilla and cedar-wood.
The palate is juicy and soft, without much in the way of structure. On the first day I tasted this, the oak-vanilla was significant, masking the bright strawberry flavors. By day two, the oak had taken a step back, but without enough acidity, the sweet red fruit flavors are a bit much. The finish is dry and ends with a cherry pit note.
I'd be curious to taste Finger Lakes Gamay made in the more traditional style, with much less oak (or no oak at all).
Over the weekend, I tasted a handful of Finger Lakes reds, mostly cabernet franc, and I came away pleasantly surprised by what I tasted.
True, each of the cab francs came from the outlier 2005 growing season, which was hotter and longer than usual, but the quality can't be denied -- even by those of us that wish Finger Lakes wineries would plant more riesling and Gewurzt and less merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc.
Heron Hill Winery is perched on the western shore of Keuka Lake, but the grapes that go into Heron Hill Winery's 2005 "Ingle Vineyard" Cabernet Franc ($25) come from owner John Ingle Jr.'s vineyard on the western slopes of Canandaigua Lake, one lake to the west. That vineyard, planted in 1972 and still maintained by Ingle, provides grapes for an entire vineyard-designated line at Heron Hill.
Tasted over a two-evening period, this cab franc stood out as one of the best.
The nose, which started out showing mostly blackberries and sweet oak, later revealed beautiful floral aromas along with those of chicory and black pepper.
In much the same way, the evolved over time starting with intense blackberry fruit character but soon blending that ripe fruit with black pepper spice, coffee and licorice-anise notes. A wet stone, almost graphite-y vein runs through this wine that you don't always taste in New York cab franc. Supple tannins and just the right acidity bring just the right structure. No where near peaking, holding it for a few years (or decanting it for a few hours) is a good idea.
I was disappointed to hear early this week that, as a result of major spending cuts at Stony Brook University, the Center for Wine, Food, and Culture will become inactive at the end of the current semester. Louisa Thomas Hargrave, the founding mother of Long Island wine, will also obviously no longer serve as the program's director.
The Center started in 2004, with a state grant via State Senator Ken
LaValle. And, from the fall of 2007 to now, they have offer 40 separate
wine tasting classes, including the first Wine and Spirits Education
Trust accredited courses on Long Island). They also hosted three international
Louisa has encouraged the university to keep the website up in the hopes that, down the road, the program can be re-started.
This is a loss for the Long Island wine world, and it certainly leaves a void that is unlikely to be filled in the near term.
I emailed with Louisa a bit and when I asked her what her plans are, she told me simply "I will continue writing. I'm looking forward to planting my vegetable and enjoying life on the East End."
Casa Larga's Gallery 155 tre Blanc ($15) is one of the more unique blends I've tasted in a while. And I mean unique in a good way and not just for the sake of being unique.
The result of blending 57% Muscat Ottonel, 33% traminette and 10% Gewurztraminer from multiple vintages and vineyards throughout New York State, it offers clean, zesty citrus aromas with intense ginger spice and a faint-but-interesting minty-herbal note.
Medium weight, the palate shows more lemon and grapefruit zest with candied ginger and a crisp pear flavors at the end of a long, dry finish. .5% residual sugar is balanced extremely by lively, tongue-tingling acidity.
Producer:Casa Larga AVA: New York RS: .5% ABV: 11.5% Price: $15 Rating:
(2.5 out of 5 | Average-to-Very Good) (Ratings Guide)
So how DO you convince consumers and restaurants to buy local wine?
I realize the first solution is to offer quality wine. Let's start with the premise that New York wine is of higher quality than many people probably assume.
There's a new "Buy Local" campaign afoot in the Finger Lakes, and unlike many well-intentioned but ultimately misguided efforts, this one strikes me as simple and effective.
Joanna Purdy created two posters for Fox Run Vineyards, and the posters will be made available to other wineries and organizations that would like to use them in some fashion. One of the posters (at right) is directly evocative of J. Howard Miller's famous "We Can Do It" poster from 1942, which successfully stirred nationalistic fervor (and, in particular, the powerful role that women played) during the war.
Purdy says the posters come at a time of economic hardship for many Americans. "It's a reminder of other tough times, and we're trying to capture the spirit that says a large group of people can get behind a cause."
The poster strikes me as strong and clear, and there's an added bonus: Asking wine drinkers to buy local might feel like a sacrifice if they haven't experienced NY wines, but it's likely they'll become life-long local wine drinkers because the product is better than they expect.
Now, convincing local restaurants to carry New York wines is another issue entirely. In the Finger Lakes, restaurants near the waters' edges are passionately local with their wine lists. But in Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo and the rest of the state, it's often very difficult to find local wines. If there are a few those lists, you can expect to see a small group of usual suspects.
So what to do? Some wineries are giving small cards to members of their wine clubs with courteous but pointed messages; the members are asked to leave the card with their waiter or waitress at the conclusion of a meal if the restaurant does not carry NY wines. Casa Larga Vineyards, for example, began a card campaign about eight months ago. The cards say simply:
I very much enjoyed your food and service. Please consider adding Casa Larga to your wine list.
"We've had a slow trickle of feedback from restaurants, but we expect it to be a slow process," explains Casa Larga's marketing director, Stacy Kurtz. The approach has to be constructive and courteous, Kurtz says. "We don't want to attack restaurants. We don't want to come at this in a negative light. We want to work with them in a positive way to improve their wine list and increase Finger Lakes wine availability."
"More restaurants carried our wines twenty years ago compared to today," says John McGregor of McGregor Vineyard and Winery on Keuka Lake. He says meeting individually with restaurtants has its drawbacks. "I could strike up a partnership with a restaurant, but there's a high turnover rate in restaurant management. Often the new managers come in and shake up their menu or wine lists, and we have to start over again. On top of that, it's enormously time-consuming to drive from restaurant to restaurant. And when you think you've got a good thing going, a distributor will often come in and tell the managers, 'Listen, I can save you a couple bucks a bottle with something else.' So it's frustrating."
McGregor says there's no easy solution to changing the abstemious approach many restaurtants take to NY wine, but he supports the idea of leaving cards at restaurants that don't carry local bottles. "The New York Wine and Grape Foundation liked that idea, and I've seen stacks of cards. Any small step is progress."
Sometimes I think that dessert and ice wines are the unsung heroes of Finger Lakes wine country. True, riesling table wines are the shining stars, but there are some terrific sweet wines being made in the region too -- many from riesling.
Sheldrake Point Vineyard’s Late Harvest Riesling ($20) is beautiful in the glass — a brilliant lemon-yellow and slightly viscous. The nose brings big fruit aromas of peach and pineapple with hints of honey and baking spice.
It’s sweet on the palate (8% RS) and there isn’t quite enough acidity for my tastes. Still, it’s far from cloying and is actually a bit more nimble on the palate than you might expect.
The flavors are luscious with more peach and honey, and candied grapefruit joining the party. The finish is long and sprinkled with nutmeg.
Tonight I'm excited to announce that CellarTracker.com has added a new channel to it's list of integrated channels -- a LENNDEVOURS channel. That's right, my New York wine reviews will now appear on CellarTracker.com
As you can see, the list of channel owners is impressive with publications like Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, Lyle Fass of Rockss and Fruit, John Gillman's View From the Cellar, and of course everyone's favorite wine vlogger, Gary Vaynerchuk from Wine Library TV.
Best of all, the fine folks at CellarTracker didn't even ask me to join the 100-point scoring wave. My 5-star system remains and is what CT users will see with my reviews.
You can also see all of my reviews and ratings on a single page, if you're interested. New reviews will be added every month or so.
This week's Q&A victim is Staci Nugent, the winemaker for Keuka Lake Vineyards in Hammondsport, NY. She's a Finger Lakes native and a studied genetics in grad school, before discovering wine as her true calling.
What (and where) was the first bottle of wine you remember drinking?
Back in my college days at Cornell, I was a huge fan of the Bartles & James wine coolers. Do they count?
I don't remember my first one, but I'm sure something like wild berry was my favorite varietal. My senior year I took the "Introduction to Wines" class and remember being blown away by the Hermann J. Weimer semi-dry Riesling. Sweet like a wine cooloer, but, well, it tasted like actual fruit. I stuck with the rieslings from that point forward.
What event/bottle/etc. made you decide that you wanted to be in the wine industry?
It was while on a camping trip in Paso Robles, California. I had recently ditched graduate school in genetics and was working full-time playing with gene chips in Silicon Valley and conducting wine tastings at Thomas Kruse Winery in Gilroy part-time. I knew I didn't want to be white-coat-wearing laboratory rat for much longer, but hadn't decided on a new direction.
That's when my best friend and I headed on this trip south to tour wineries and to cook bacon over a series of camp fires. While tasting at an Edna Valley winery, Claiborne & Churchill, I met an assistant winemaker who had a science background nearly identical to my own. He had jumped ship and gone into winemaking. I applied shortly thereafter to the wine program at UC Davis.
Which of your current wines is your favorite and why?
Keuka Lake Vineyards 2007 Reserve Vignoles. Typically Vignoles is made in a late harvest or dessert wine style, but ours is vinted as a table wine with only a touch of residual sugar. There's a special intensity of flavor and fruit on the palate of this wine that makes it simply delicious.
What has surprised you most about being a member of the Finger Lakes wine community?
I wasn't expecting the time it takes to travel to our various tastings, meetings, and conferences. As much as the Finger Lakes are beautiful and crucial in enabling grape growing in our climate, they sure are a pain in the butt to drive around.
Other than your own wines, what wine/beer/liquor most often fills your glass?
Friends come over to my place quite often for meals, so I typically find myself enjoying the wines they have made or picked up. Otherwise, a rather shocking percentage of my disposable income is spent supporting Ithaca bars and restaurants, where I imbibe wine and hard cider. A current favorite is Bellwether's Liberty Spy Cider, which is made here in the Finger Lakes and is now wonderfully accessible on tap at a favorite hangout, Pixel Lounge in Collegetown.
Is there a 'classic' wine or wine and food pairing that you just can't make yourself enjoy?
No. I decided a decade ago that my food dislikes were all in my head. It took a fair deal of mental effort to convince myself that I loved, say, olives, but I did manage to negate all my food and drink aversions. Now I like to think I am able to enjoy anything. Even those inexpensive, highly extracted reds from New World countries.
Wine enjoyment is about more than just the wine itself. Describe the combination of wine, locations, food, company, etc. that would make (or has made) for the ultimate wine-drinking experience.
It happens nearly every week. I figure out what I'd like to make from the never-ending stream of fresh produce from my local CSA and invite friends over for dinner. I cook the meal, we open the bottles, and together sit down to enjoy the food, wine, and one another's company.
Continuing with the white blend theme from yesterday, today's review is for Martha Clara Vineyards' 2007 Five-O White ($18), yet another wine that displays the potential of these wines for Long island.
Winemaker Juan Micieli-Martinez used a bit of every white grape MCV grows for this blend, which is 32% sauvignon blanc, 25% viognier, 15% chardonnay, 10% semillon, 8% riesling, 7% pinot grigio and 3% Gewurztraminer. It might sound like a 'kitchen sink' wine, but don't be fooled. Each grape brings something unique to the table and the result is delicous.
The nose is aromatic and somewhat riesling-like with scents of lime and peach accented by floral undertones. The similarities to riesling carry over somewhat to the palate as well with flavors of lime, grapefruit and peach showing first. As the wine warms a bit, some candied orange peel and light almond flavors peek through and become more pronounced.
This medium-weight white has some residual sugar (3 g/L) but terrific, almost electric, acidity balances it very well. The finish is clean a little tart and medium-long.
If the Bedell blend is spring in a bottle, this wine is summer in a bottle.
Grape(s): 32% sauvignon blanc, 25% viognier, 15% chardonnay, 10% semillon, 8% riesling, 7% pinot grigio and 3% Gewurztraminer Producer:Martha Clara Vineyards AVA: North Fork of Long Island ABV: 13% Price: $18 Rating:
(3 out of 5 | Recommended) (Ratings Guide)
Chardonnay is the most-planted white grape on Long Island, covering around 30% of local vineyard land. That's a lot of chardonnay, relative to the white grape that I think holds the most potential for the region, sauvignon blanc, which covers far less than 5%. That's also a lot of mediocre chardonnay. A lot of chardonnay that (usually) isn't going to do much more than fill the white wine columns on tasting room sheets.
Don't get wrong, there are some outstanding, well-made Long Island chardonnays -- made both with and without barrels -- but Long Island is never going to be known for its chardonnay. The reds will always be top of mind and I think other white varieties -- sauvignon blanc and even riesling -- are already deserving of more attention than most local chardonnay.
One way that some local wineries have started to leverage their chardonnay plantings, but still make distinctive, classy wines, is through blending, and this Bedell Cellars 2007 "TASTE" White ($30) is a fine example. It captures the essence of Long Island white wine and also proves that the whole really can be greater than the sum of the parts.
Made with 59% chardonnay, 16% sauvignon blanc, 14% viognier and 11% Gewürztraminer, this elegant, lively white wine is reminiscent of spring on the nose, with aromas of white flowers, sweet and savory herbs, fresh grapefruit and lemon zest.
The palate is seamless and medium bodied, with flavors that move from bright lemon and grapefruit, to fresh-cut flowers, grass and hay, to melon and -- as it warms a bit -- subtle Gewurzt-driven spice. A interesting vanilla cream component emerges as the wine moves from chilled to room temperature as well. The mouthfeel is faintly oily on the mid-palate but still lively with a tingle of acidity on a long, melony finish.
Producer: Bedell Cellars AVA: North Fork of Long Island Price: $30 Rating:
(3.5 out of 5 | Very good-to-Delicious)
As part of PALATE's programming, I'll be co-hosting a tasting with winemaker Vinny Aliperti on Wednesday, February 18 at 11 a.m at Atwater Estate Vineyards in Hector, NY. Vinny is Atwater's winemaker and also owns Billsboro Winery in Geneva.
We'll be doing a comparative tasting of wines made from the same varieties, from the same years, by the same winemaker -- but from different vineyards. It will be interesting to see how the wines differ and are similar when tasting Atwater Estate Vineyards and Billsboro Winery offerings side-by-side.
Specifically, we'll compare the following from each winery:
2007 Dry Riesling
2008 Dry Riesling (tank samples)
2007 Cabernet Franc
2007 Pinot Noir
Admission is free and exclusive for those with PALATE passes. You can purchase tickets online or call 800.813.2958.
The details haven't been hammered out yet, but it looks as though two more LENNDEVOURS contributors, Jason Feulner and Evan Dawson, may be co-hosting more tastings later in the week. Stay tuned for more information.
My blog buddy Rob over at Finger Lakes Weekend Wino will be co-hosting a tasting with his 2008 Winery of the Year, Shaw Vineyards, later in the week as well.
Some interesting events coming up in wine Long Island wine country this month that are worth noting:
Lieb Family Cellars will be doing wine and chocolate pairings at its Mattituck tasting room every Saturday and Sunday in February from noon - 5 p.m. The pairings will include 5 handmade chocolates by Bon Bon Chocolatier in Huntington, NY with five of Lieb's wines.
As you may have guessed, LENNDEVOURS headquarters is closed today to celebrate one of the most important holidays of all -- a Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl appearance. Steelers fans travel well, so I'm thinking that it may feel like a home game for the Black and Gold.
Regularly scheduled programing will resume tomorrow morning. Hopefully with a celebratory tone.