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October 23, 2008


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Interesting. I was just having a conversation with someone about the apparent paucity of Finger Lakes reds. On reading this article I decided to re-check my notes and discovered two items: that indeed there are some excellent reds coming from the region and that I have not tried enough of them. IMHO Red Newt, Hazlitt, and Heron Hill have been the stand outs so far, but it has hardly a scientific sample. I'll be looking forward to the release of the Shaw 05 Merlot. It will be interesting to see what nearly three years in the barrel with some bottle aging thrown in to boot will do.


There are a lot of Finger Lakes wineries and it will be a big quest, but I think you're bound to find some things you like. What I didn't emphasize in the article are the reds currently available from Ravines and Shaws, many of which are worth a try if you're scanning the area.

In addition, I'd say that there are at least a dozen wineries that really seem to "get" the reds and produce good stuff. Some are a little more handicapped by vintage conditions than others, but there is something akin to consistency present year after year.

I think pinot noir, cabernet franc, and the meritages seem to stand out most if you look at the area in general. Don't forget about lemberger or some the unusual vinifera reds that places like McGregor release.

Good luck!

What's the story behind the tirage in the grape lugs?

Well, the guys loading the cases had to drink something!

Actually, it is quite simple--these were waiting under an overhang since all the interior rooms of the facility were stuffed with tanks and barrels. I'm not sure what they were or when they were going to get some corks.

Sure looks like an attempt at making sparkling wine -- if that is the case, it's a really disorganized and slipshod operation in my opinion. Attention to the details is very important in making good sparkling wine.

John--I think one of the risks of making such a sweeping pronouncement based only on a snapshot is that you run the risk of not taking into account some of the realities that exist outside of the border of a limited and temporary image.

Shaw does not make sparkling wine. Morten Hallgren does, but he has yet to release a vintage since he is adhering strictly to the methode champenois and his bottles are aging in a climate controlled cellar as we speak. Also, Hallgren's education as to how to make wines properly is a bit more extensive than most winemakers in many regions in this country. I refer you to this post from last year: http://lennthompson.typepad.com/lenndevours/2007/06/a_delicate_touc.html

In the first two paragraphs describing Morten's background, I think the point is made that slipshod is highly unlikely.

These are not sparkling bottles waiting to be disgorged and dosaged. I think the most simple explanation is that these were bottles that were filled for the sake of expediency but had to wait in line for corking and labeling as the day wore on. Shade was present overhead, and the temperatures were quite mild, so a decision was made for whatever reason to approach the limited bottling and corking time in this manner for this particular lot of wines.

I hope that clears up the confusion. I submitted the photo to Lenn because I thought it was a cool in terms of composition, and he obviously agreed.

Jason --

The closures on the bottles certainly look like crown caps and the glass has the heavy and dark look typical of the slightly over sized sparkling wine bottle. The only place you commonly see crown cap closures used in a winery is in the production of sparkling wine. You cannot apply them to a standard burgundy bottle. I assumed what was in the bottles is tirage and wondered what the story was behind it.

You state what is not in these bottles, but admit you don't know what is. I'll leave it to you to run down the details.

The glass looks darker in the contrast of the photograph that it did in person. Within these typical burgundy bottles, I saw contents that seemed to be still red wine without a great deal of sendiment of yeast. One of the lugs had a pinkish rose wine in it, and I do recall some bottle variation on other parts of the pile. None of the bottles were the very wide and heavy champagne-style bottles.

Also, it occurs to me now that any sparkling wines from the '07 vintage would have been bottled months ago and would be in permanent storage in the hillside cellars in Hammondsport and not piled in queue, outside, next to the bottling truck. When I took this photograph, absolutely none of '08 grapes had been picked.

If I recall, since Ravines has not released any sparklers yet, the production of such would have been far, far less than the scope of the pile shown here. I looked at the other photographs and there are A LOT of bottles: perhaps 400 cases or more. Neither operation makes more than a few thousand cases a year in total.

So, I think I'll stick with my original explanation but I'll let you know if any other evidence comes to light. As for the crown caps, I did a little bit of searching on the good 'ol internet and it seems that variations do exist and have been employed on still wine bottles even for a permanent closure, although these type of crown caps are rare. Maybe it's part of the reality of waiting for the mobile bottling line?

Morten Hallgren says: "What you see in these boxes are indeed bottles of sparkling wine. More specifically, these bottles contain my 2007 Brut and Brut Rose. The bottling for the second fermentation took place in September just as Jason took this picture."

Very interesting--he is making a ton more sparkling wine than I assumed. As to why the 2007's made it all the way back to Shaw's, I'm sure there is a long and winding explanation having something to do with logistics.

Thanks for digging this up, John, as the entire thing did not make much sense. The bottles still look very much like typical bottles in the photographs I have, but I'll take it from the winemaker's mouth!

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