By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Editor
This is apparently a controversial or surprising thing to say, but I'll say it anyway -- the writers and editors for this blog like hybrid wines from New York state. I have voluntarily purchased vignoles. I have consumed an entire bottle of Cayuga without convulsing. I do not believe that hybrids cause sterility, senility or loss of agility.
There is, however, plenty of room for hybrids to improve.
One way that some local wineries are trying to get more mileage from their hybrids is by going with a much dryer style. That's the plan at Keuka Lake Vineyards on southwestern Keuka Lake, where winemaker Staci Nugent makes a pair of hybrid wines: vignoles and Leon Millet.
"Customers tend to expect hybrid wines to be really sweet," Nugent told me on a gorgeous recent afternoon at the winery. "They're surprised with how dry these wines finish -- especially the vignoles."
Keuka Lake Vineyards' vignoles brings 1.6 RS (residual sugar), and Nugent's right -- it finishes very dry with an emphasis on the acidity instead of the classic, richly sweet vignoles character. In fact, this wine was buzzing so much I later wondered if the acidity had been manually adjusted; it was like putting your cell phone on vibrate, placing it in your mouth, and asking a friend to call you.
"Dry hybrids compare very favorably with dry vinifera wines," Nugent said. "They can show a lot of complexity and personality."
Vignoles is still most often sweeter when made in the Finger Lakes. Anthony Road Wine Company makes luscious dessert wines with the hideously ugly grape (pictured at right). Fulkerson Winery offers a 6.1 RS vignoles (labeled there as its alter ego, Ravat 51).
But other wineries are taking it much dryer. Ravines Wine Cellars makes a blend of vignoles and Cayuga called Keuka Village White that never sees more than 1.0 RS. The list of other dry hybrid wines is getting longer.
After I returned home from my trip to Keuka Lake Vineyards I found myself with several questions. Why does the winery call their inky black red hybrid "Leon Millet" when most others call it "Leon Millot?" Why is vignoles such a wretchedly vile-looking grape when it ripens (the clusters tend to look like multi-colored Rorschach tests, berries varying in size and hue) -- but such a lovely wine in the glass?
I would Google the answers but I'm late for a doctor's appointment. I think I might have swallowed some Seyval last night.