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February 09, 2010

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Bryan: So things went nearly perfect in 2008. What do you (or Duncan) think the potential is for syrah in Niagara in a more "typical" year?

Does he think he'll be able to make red table wines every year, or can he see a situation where he ends up making rose or using it as a blender rather than varietal?

Here on Long Island, the only varietal (red) syrahs that I've enjoyed (a small group) were from vintages like 2005 and 2007. Even those were good-not-great, so I'm looking forward to trying this one from Duncan.

To be honest since I moved here, 2008 was a typical year. It was very wet through most of the summer, then it dried out and luckily there wasn't an early frost. Not everyone got the ripening in 08, I know of a few growers that weren't happy enough to make reds from their CF.

2007 was obviously hot and 2009 was cool, so 2008 wasn't too much of either.

I think he will be able to make reds every year. There are a few Ontario producers that do it consistently but it has to planted at the right site.

In a year like 2009 where a crop was thinned out on purpose or thinned out by disease, I guess a such a small quantity of wine could be used for blending.

Every year is different here- challenging in 2008. It rained 3-4 times per week through July leading to lots of foliage growth, weed growth and the need for many additional sprays. August - October were very nice, making up for the early rain. In 2009 it never warmed up and we lost some Syrah and Merlot to mildew. The other reds were thinned several times and the result was a harvest of 1/3 the capacity of the vineyard in a more favorable year (like 2008 or 2007). The 2009s are very nice in structure and quality, the volume is just low.

There are a number of wineries in Ontario with Syrah planted and a couple that specialize in it. With 100 Canadian wineries in the same geography as the Niagara region USA, I think it's safe to say this area is good for reds every year. Growing techniques like multiple thinning passes are standard practice in Ontario - they have invested heavily in improving viticultural techniques. We all benefit from this research work - especially since they have been working closely with Cornell.

I think the (usually) warmer days and cooler nights lead to unique flavor development as compared to other regions in the state. It's a unique place capable of growing a very wide variety of varietals.

In general, I also think NY reds get an undeserved bad rap because they taste different form warm climate reds. This isn't a warm climate, so the flavors and texture will be different than California, but that doesn't mean the wines are not good. NY is more like Washington State from a flavor profile standpoint than California. Different and Delicious!

Duncan: I don't think that NY reds get that bad rap anymore, so I'm surprised to hear that you do. New York wineries (in general) clearly have nothing to be ashamed of. There are some terrific wines being made.

The NYCR editor were impressed across the board by the Niagara reds we tasted a few weeks ago as well. Yes, those were the best of the best, but they still impressed.

How much cooperation is there between the two Niagara regions?

When doing tastings in stores I often hear "I don't drink red wines from NY, they aren't good" more often that I would like. The response after they taste is always very positive and a bottle or 2 are sold. Unfortunately, it's common attitude or perception.

As for the Niagara samples you reviewed, this is a small region and you have a representative sample of what we produce in vinifera. The wines are very good overall partly because many ventures are new, including new vineyards.

I'd love to know what they are tasting to make them say that. Middling Finger Lakes reds? I doubt many Long Island wines get up there, right?

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