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January 25, 2012

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Glad you finally got to try a Leon Millot! Too bad it did not show so well. One of the guys in way upstae NY believes that done well, it could be the cult red of the far north. I still think that blending will be key in all but the better years, but it is one that I like quite a bit. I still have a 2010 put aside for you. Maybe I'd better crack one to see how they are doing. ;)

I actually like this wine alot. I think its nice representation of the grape. Altamont is a winery to look out for. The grape makes a nice wine. I've had some good ones from New Egland.

Leon Millot has been a favorite of mine since I first made it in 1980. Even in an average to bad vintage, it rates at least a 3 out of 5, as it is such an early grape, time can be had to leave it hanging longer on the vine to get ripe before frost if need be.

There are two clones of Leon, the more common Foster clone which I prefer based on experience using, and the Boordy one, which is more rustic from my one experience getting that version in 1981. Keuka Lake Vineyards award winning blend comes from a vineyard planted by Charles Fournier who founded Gold Seal and also brought Dr Konstatin Frank into his fold bringing vinifera to the Finger Lakes Region. The vineyard I am speaking of is at least 60% Boordy clone and the remainder, Foster. So it is no surprise that a bend of the two clones compliment each other well.

As a varietal it has gotten lost in the blends, but I've always made Leon since I discovered it, and was very happy that Mel Goldman happened upon that vineyard and made it what it could be. I've made it in nouveau, pressed juice only, blended with fermented on the skins or totally skin fermented over the past 32 years and as long as the winemaker is judicious in noting the vintage's quirks, it never makes a bad wine in the Foster clone. Again, I only had one experience with the Boordy version.

My personal opinion is that putting any oak with this grape (especially in NYS) could be a huge mistake, as many other red hybrids. It sounds like your tasting of the Altamont version was an example of their trying to put a round peg into a square hole. Oak deflects the fruitiness, and detracts from this grape, and might even promote hybrid-like qualities vs eliminating them...as the blurb in Wikipedia claims, I disagree...I've never found ANY foxy notes in this wine.

Hope this helps enlighten this grape to you, from someone who has played with it for so long!

Greg Smerdon
Butterhill Vineyard
Painted Post, NY

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