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December 16, 2008


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Well said, Jason. It's exciting to spend time at places like Red Tail Ridge that are embracing the advantages of our climate and terrain.

Great writeup Jason!!

I didn't even know Dr Franks did a Sparkling wine, goes to show how limited my knowledge of the region is! :(
I need to try it, I know they have distribution down here so hopefully I can find their bubbly.

I'm sure they'll gladly ship you some if you call or order online...although I wouldn't be shocked if you could find their sparklers somewhere in a store in VA.

Nice article Jason, always good to see FL sparklers in the press, and the process information is fascinating. It's easy for me to run out of superlatives when talking about Dr. Frank's sparklers (the 2000 Blanc de Noirs is a personal favorite)

I've tried to do my bit to make them profitable ;-)

[As nearly all Finger Lakes...growers can let grapes hang just a little longer to enhance ripeness and flavor without sacrificing the crisp acidity necessary for good sparklers.]

To the contrary, you don't want enhanced ripeness or flavor in making sparkling wine. You actually want to dilute the flavors by running the tonnage per acre up. You pick early when the pH, sugar, and flavors are low, and the acid is high.

[If done properly, at least five years can pass between the harvest and the release of the wine.]

Most Champagne is produced in a much shorter cycle -- minimally about 18 months for non-vintage offerings, and four years for the limited and more expensive vintage dated bottlings for "methode champenoise" production.

[If a cadre of patient investors...greater extent than its rieslings.]

I doubt that. Sparkling wine has been made in the Finger Lakes since the 1860's. It has made a lot of money for many producers and even won some awards. There's lots of land and vineyard available to produce decent sparkling wine, and a much smaller amount where the terroir can produce quality comparable to the better Champagne houses. Still, Finger Lakes sparkling wine has achieved no real visibility in the wine world. Sparkling Wine and Champagne tends to be a celebratory drink. When people buy it, they opt for the real thing from France where the government spends a ton of money supporting the industry and fighting for the exclusive right to use the terms "Champagne" and "Methode Champenoise" on their products.

Finger Lakes Riesling as well is still pretty obscure on the world stage. Will it's fate be any different in fifty or a hundred years?

I don't really understand your first point in that I'm not advocating that you have high sugar content and intense flavors in sparkling wine, which doesn't make sense, but simply that as you look at the variables on the curve toward ideal harvest for any wine product, a cooler climate allows for balance as you enhance (aka tweak) the flavors you are looking for. If you wait too long to pick in a warmer climate problems can develop, hence my language about harvest windows.

Five years was the information provided to me by the winemakers...I realize that it can be done more quickly, but this is what Dr. Frank's adheres to. I'm certainly no expert on Champagne itself and don't pretend to be.

As for the latter part, it is simply my opinion. I would not say that the Finger Lakes has been making sparklers since the 1860s without a great deal of qualification. The sparklers in the 1860s were Catawba-based without vinifera and this was the case for some time. Prohibition killed off whatever sparkling business existed, and then after that period Fournier experimented a little bit, along with others, but from what I've ever seen the overall effect was sporadic (as was much of the industry for decades). Chateau Frank has only been in existence since '85.

I did not say that the Finger Lakes would be world-renowned for sparkling wine, but that this product has the possbility to attract a fair amount of praise, attention, and consumers, which is what its rieslings accomplish today. This is hardly a prediction of world domination, but just an assumption that someone out there is looking for good bubbly at a fair price.

As for how riesling or any other wine in the Finger Lakes will be appraised 50 or 100 years from now I have no idea, and I really don't care. I think there are some good wines to drink right now, so I'm having fun with it.

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