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April 06, 2009


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Good to have Peter here in the Finger Lakes. He has the
wisdom of a 90 year old...the spirit of a 30 year old...
and a humble heart which is hard to find in someone
who is as fantastic and successful of a winemaker as him. O.K.....enough "flowers" for now Peter!! Good to be your friend and neighbor!!

He actually LOVES Chardonnay and always appreciates when a bottle is opened in his honor.

Johannes @ Anthony Road

I dont know, after tasting Stoutridge's unfiltered / unfined wines, and quite a few home made wines, Im almost definatly sure I like the mouthfeel better. The taste is different, however subtle. Its like other raw products, there is a difference between raw milk and pasturized, same with apple cider. when you filter and fine, you are quite literally taking something away from the wine.

To clarify, I am not against unfiltered wines per se. There are lots of examples that smell and taste fine. But too often they have a latent Brett infection that gets worse and worse as the wine ages. Is this what the French mean when they say wine is a living thing? Well then so is cholera-laden water.


I assume you bring up the lack of filtration and Brett because their is causation. To clarify, the act of filtering can stave off Brettanomyces?

Evan: One of our winemakers can correct me if I'm wrong, but by filtering the wine, one can remove all of the brett (which is a yeast) and everything else (which is why a lot of winemakers don't like it for reds).

I tend to agree with Rowland's thoughts on mouthfeel, but I know that a lot of winemakers prefer to work clean and not deal with the local flora. Others kinda like what the naturally occurring "bugs" can bring about.

Regardless of what happened to the wine microbiologically before bottling, filtration removes microorganisms -- yeasts and bacteria -- from the wine. They are many thousands of times larger than color and flavor molecules, which sail right on through the filter, I promise you. This means the microbes can't continue to have an effect on the wine. Live Brett cells don't need much in the way of nutrition to keep growing, albeit slowly.

The (many) successful practitioners of unfiltered winemaking have managed to create an environment where the microbes have little or nothing to feed on,and are furthermore hindered by sulfur dioxide, so they die off.

Wild yeast fermenations are like playing Russian Roulette.

"Di sa mau!!"


Peter, David, et al,

The proponents of going without filtration like to argue that filtration does, in fact, strip a wine of some of its character (flavor, etc). I know you disagree, but I'm curious: Why do you think those folks say this? Is it a romantic notion of natural winemaking, or something nefarious?

I think there is a distinct marketing advantage to saying a wine isn't filtered. As Dr. Christian Butzke said at the NY Wine Industry Workshop last week, "Putting 'unfiltered' on the label is catering to the world of uneducated wine writers".

In the other corner are people like Clark Smith, who makes a very compelling argument for the deleterious effects of filtration. He also emphasizes that you REALLY have to know what you're doing if you choose not to filter reds, leaving what he calls a Nutrient Desert in the wine. On Long Island, Eric Fry is one of several who manage to pull that off, but there are other winemakers who consistently churn out Brett bombs, which are predictably often praised by the aforementioned wine writers.

I take a highly empirical approach to most wine making decisions, and after years of trials (it's easy enough to bottle off some wine at various levels of filtration for later evaluation) have come to the conclusion that in my circumstances, filtration does not hurt wine in any way, aside from knocking back the flavors and texture for a month or so.

Perhaps the cynical approach would be to filter your wine, and then say on the label that it's unfiltered. Not so far fetched; that cartoon that has one French wine maker saying to his assistant, "Here comes Robert Parker. Quick, hide the filter!" is not a figment of someone's imagination.

Plus, Peter, the 'unfiltered' is under little or no scrutiny.

I'm with peter on this: I've tasted filtered, unfiltered and probably even worse, and the best i can come with is that those unfiltered ones are a game, a crap shoot not worth entering into--until you roll a seven once in a while.

With filtered wine, you are playing a more friendly game.

Many filter fanatics claim that all the Brett. and such in unfiltered wine is what smart marketing termed as 'terroir.' I take no position on this, just pointing it out.

That so-called Brett-Terroir link always cracks me up. You hear it a lot less these days though.

I think some wine enthusiasts are genuinely interested in unfiltered wines, and I'll take two examples. First you have Alice Feiring, who is a noted terroirist and unapologetically insulting to the vast majority of winemakers on the planet. She is such a "purist" that I think she's probably lost sight of what it means. Then you have Neal Rosenthal, who works with winemakers who have never received the glitz and high scores. Neal asks them not to filter their wines, and he has deep belief in the power of a wine's sense of place. I think he genuinely believes that filtration harms a wine, whether or not it's true.

Evan,''Then you have Robert Parker, who adamantly claims that filtered wine is inferior.

Re, Alice Feiring: She does insult winemakers and viticulturists, who in fact happen to know more about her subject than she. There's is practical, hand-on, and educational knowledge; hers is religion!


... here is one opinion, and he actually sites imperical data.


He talks about it, but he cites no particular study or data for us to look at. I'd rather read the data than use his interpretation (opinion) of it as proof.

But Peter already said that filtering does have an effect on flavor, which, in his opinion, bounces back after a few weeks. That may indicate that both pump and filter stir up molecules that must then get themselves back into place.

Again, where's the data? Peter?

my point is you dont build an entire winery from the ground up (in an unknown region) just so you can use "unfiltered" on your label, its way more than a marketing gimmick.

I also want to add that right now I WISH I HAD FILTERED my wines, since they are starting to referment in the bottle, and two have already blown their corks :(

I didn't realize that you got the impression from this conversation that anyone of us thinks people start their wineries on that basis. I don't think so.

Of course, that doesn't prevent someone from slapping the phrase on a label as the urge strikes. ;)

Hey, I once had to take back a batch of refermenting Riesling that was already in the marketplace. Not because I didn't filter, but because something went wrong in the filter set up that created a not-so-tight fit, and a not-so-thorough filtration! Had to un-bottle, re-filter, and re-cork. The wine was never the same.

Since we have a lot of smart wine people on this thread, here's my question to each of you: How do YOU describe the flavors/aromas of Brett?

I tend to notice it as a barnyard/leather sort of thing, and I'll admit that at low levels, I can enjoy it.

I've also heard words like metallic, clove/spice and earthy to describe it...so I'm wondering what you guys think.

Butt, dirty socks, band aid, horse sweat, rubber tire, and mustiness are some of the other brett smells you could encounter.

Can't say that I've ever smelled/tasted "butt" in a wine, but I have rubber tire and band aid.

Can I assume that you're in the "NO Brett" camp, Peter?

Brett comes in a few strains, all with their brand of aroma, which Peter has covered in his list--maybe a couple more are out there. Notice the decaying, fecal, etc. nature of the aromas.

Rubber tire, however, is one that I associate with reduction.

I'm a huge fan of Brett-In my Orval:)

Lenn, There was a time when I thought barnyard smells were rustic and even appropriate for certain wines from certain places. These days my palate and nose are a little jaded and such aromas distract me too much to enjoy or even to believe that they should be appropriate. I work under one of the most notoriously hygienic winemakers in the business and brett would be a serious downer if it appeared in any of our wines. We keep a clean shop and that is one step in preventing an hospitable environment for brett. I have enjoyed many non filtered wines and I do concur with Peter that Eric Fry and the Lenz wines are great examples of such wines. Thomas - you are correct in the rubber reduction association, I should have better clarified by saying tractor tire covered in a stew of barnyard left overs. This issue of filtered vs. non filtered is an interesting one and does it illustrate differences in in winemaking philosophies between Long Island and the Finger Lakes? What do others think?

What do I think?

I think that I wish as many Long Island winemakers would chime in here as Finger Lakes folks do.

Eric Fry deserves kudos for his wines, filtered or not. This sort of goes back to what I said the other day about Raphael's new "natural wine": I care that a wine is delicious first and foremost.

I don't buy or not buy wine because "Unfiltered" appears on the label.

I'm hopping around here a bit, but there are LI wineries who are known to have serious Brett issues in the past. Not much talked about of course, but it's true.

I think Mr. Bell and some others here are being a bit too judgemental about unfiltered wines and native yeasts. As a burgundy lover, the vast majority of good producers in that region do not filter and, if they do, it is often a light (non-sterile) filtration. While there are estates that have brett problems and make dirty wines, the vast majority do not.

I have also drank many bottles imported by the likes of Becky Wasserman, Neil Rosenthal, Louis-Dressner, et. al., and while there are some Brett bombs, the vast majority of these wines are delicious. Oh, and they often have price/quality ratios that outstrip anything from the Finger Lakes or LI.

This is from someone who loves the FL region and wants the wines to excel. But I do sometimes wonder if the wan and pointless pinot noir (especially) I often encounter in the FL may have some excessively hard filtration in its past.


I remember when confronted with the filter/unfilter argument, Eric Fry used to say the following:

Unfiltered, unfined, unfinished. I don't know what happened--did Eric grow up after he left the Finger Lakes?

Eric...grown up?

Hasn't happened yet. ;)

At issue here, first and foremost, is whether filtration damages or changes a wine. The Rosenthal school says that filtration does indeed change a wine, remove some character and flavor. We'd all be better served to see some kind of empirical analysis in this regard. Barring that, it's hard not to trust the word of highly respected winemakers like Peter Bell. It's equally hard to imagine that someone like Peter would be content to filter a wine knowing that doing so would remove some of its character.

"We'd all be better served to see some kind of empirical analysis in this regard."

Exactly, Evan.

Much of what passes for wine information seems more like opinion rather than fact. A little data might come in handy when trying to prove something objectively.

And to 'Cyclist.'

I'm no apologist for Finger lakes wines, but your comment: the wan and pointless pinot noir...can't be taken seriously until after knowing how many and which Pinoir Noirs you've tasted and also knowing whether or not you have a real name.

"I think that I wish as many Long Island winemakers would chime in here as Finger Lakes folks do." (Lenn)

No comment on that specifically, but I have to say there is a strong dichotomy between these two GREAT regions in terms of their practices. I believe that this is because, for some reason or other, Upstate has a low tolerance for what are considered 'complexing' agents in wine making and are maybe risk-averse when it comes to intervention of uninvited microbes in red wines. Our wines may be accused of being lean and green in some years (though not lately), but we don't believe that these problems can be overcome by layering on bacterial- and yeast-derived flavor compounds.

Peter Becraft said it right when he wrote, (and I paraphrase) "I USED to think of Brett as adding an interesting element".

I started drinking wine long before Brett was identified as as a culprit or accomplice, but even back then could not stomach affected wines. Being a humble neophyte at the time, I assumed that I still had a lot to learn about the pleasures of wine. "Experts" at the time told me as much. Ha.


I do have a real name and have been drinking lots of FL PN, at least since the 1980's. It has been my experience that Dr. Frank is the most reliable producer of PN in the region, with the '89 drinking superbly over 10 years later. Otherwise, the wines seem to range all over the place, even in years with favorable weather. Peter Bell has made a few good ones; most recently I have liked Silver Thread's and Damiani's versions. There are a few otherwise good wineries that should be embarrassed by their Pinot Noirs!

So am I qualified enough to comment here? To the winemakers: what ever happened to the FL Pinot Alliance (or whatever that was called)? I haven't noticed a huge increase in the quality of visibility of FL PN since its founding.


If you've been disappointed by PN in the region for more than 20 years you certainly are persistent, and for that you deserve every ounce of air time. I would have given up a long time ago ;)

It's not a matter of being qualified to comment. It's just that there are an awful lot of people who issue opinions anonymously online just to start up an argument.

Mainly, I agree with you. Pinot Noir here is problematic, but it's problematic everywhere. When they hit the mark in the Finger Lakes, to me, the style is more along the lines of Santenay or Marsannay--lean but elegant. I expect nothing more form them--unless they are part of a cuve...

So, what is your name?

My experience with FL pinot is limited compared to many on this thread (a problem I hope to correct!) but from what I've tasted and heard in talking to winemakers, it's really alllll about yields.

The people who are growing pinot to 4 tons/acre aren't going to make good pinot very often (if ever). But, if you're down to 2 or even lower, it can work. It's just a matter of it being worth it financially.

It's just a matter of it being worth it financially.

There's the rub. People who pay big dollars for big Burgundies or Monster California Pinot Noirs have a hard tiem shelling out for the leaner, soemtimes elegant, soemtimes not, cool cliamte Pinot Noirs.

I said Santeney and Marsannay in my post above, and it's true, but it's probably better to liken most Finger Lakes Pinot Noir either to German Spatburgunder or to Sancerre Rouge, which happens to be produced from Pinot Noir.

Sorry for the typos--in a hurry--got to go stack wood...

Not sure why I just thought of this, but is anyone doing any Gamay in the Finger Lakes?

Sheldrake Point and Bloomer Creek are the two I know of that make a Gamay.

Thanks, Peter. I had actually forgotten about Sheldrake's Gamay.

Know anything about how it grows/ripens in the Finger Lakes?


From the experience at Sheldrake, Gamay is pretty easy to farm--the opposite of the other red Burgundy grape in the Finger Lakes, Pinot Noir. And it does ripen pretty well, at least in the sense of not having rough, astringent tannins or green flavors. But it doesn't, at least for us at Sheldrake, make big wines. Our Gamays tend to be among the lighter of our reds (second only to our Pinot, which tends to be VERY light).

As Peter mentioned. Bloomer Creek on Seneca Lake also makes Gamay, and Atwater is growing it, though I don't know that they've bottled one yet.

The other point about Gamay is that, as with other wines in the Finger Lakes, it's at least as important to think about how easy it is to MARKET the wine as it is to grow it, and there, because no one down here knows what it is, Gamay suffers.



I've tried to like the Gamay from Sheldrake but the style seems to be all over the place. Maybe a work in progress, but consistently low in color and sometimes lacking in fruit. In '07 it should have been easy to ripen this stuff, but the resulting wine was seriously lacking in body and interest, IMO (even in the context of a light rose style wine). The Bloomer Creek was somewhat more interesting, but still sharp and shrill.

Lots of cheap Beaujolais Villages (not to mention the Cru wines) at least have good color and agreeable acid balance. And I'm not talking about Debouf and his estery yeasts....These can be delightful wines. What is going on with FL Gamay?


There are just enough interesting PN wines made in the FL that I keep getting sucked in. With so many variables critical to making a successful pinot (low yields, good site and clones, careful handling, the right barrel regime...etc.) one would think that the FL producers would finally be getting a handle on things. It took awhile in CA, OR, NZ...

This past autumn I tasted at Dr. Frank's and liked their '07 quite a bit. And if the barrel samples I tasted at Damiani translate into the bottle I will be very happy to buy some of that wine.... But there are otherwise good winemakers who consistently offer up pale (not that color is everything), stripped tasting wines, sometimes reeking of dill and vanilla from lousy oak. And it becomes obvious that it is not all the raw material that is at fault.

BTW, for various reasons, I don't want to use my real name here, but I assure you I'm not a troll.


'07 should be good Pinot Noir.

I happen to agree with you also about the Sheldrake Gamay. Don't remember the vintage, but I brought the wine into my wine shop in Manhattan once, because it was quite nice. When the next vintage arrived, it was not even close. But then, isn't that what vintage dating is all about?

Re, the Crus Beaujolais--I doubt they ever get near as dangerous weather patterns as ours. A lot of people don't realize it, but it isn't just having a cold winter that hurts the Finger Lakes reds; it's also having weird temperature swings when we least expect them--or shouldn't have them.

Climate change or not, this still is a marginal viticulture region.

So, the witness protection program allows you a computer???

Hey Cyclist, Thomas,

Far be it from me to rise in defense of Gamay or any other Burgundian grape in the Finger Lakes. Anyone who's spent any amount of time talking with me knows that I think the Burgundy grapes (I'm thinking Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay) are NOT our strong suit here, that we would better spend our time making other wines.

That said, I think I'm only partial agreement with you, Cyclist. I do agree that SPV's Gamay tends to be lighter in color and body, but I find that that's true pretty consistently (as you say above), so I don't agree with you that the "style seems to be all over the place." I do think that there's a change, a positive one, between the Gamay in 2007 and 2008 (and maybe after . . .) and those previous. While all of them are lighter than Bordeaux varietals, I do think that the 2007 and 2008 are bigger in texture and color than those previous. And no, I don't know why. 2007 and 2008 were good years for reds in the Finger Lakes, but we had other good years before and still had really light Gamay.

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see what Vinny and Justin do with the Gamay at Atwater. I think they're both talented winemakers, that there are a lot of good wines coming from Atwater and Billsboro, so maybe they'll figure out something great to do with Gamay besides rip the vines out. And maybe they'll teach me!!


Just a question that popped into my head as I read through this thread: Is it a PROBLEM that a wine is "lighter" in style?

Surely not every wine has to be hugely extracted, broad and hefty...right?

Yep, I agree. But there's "lighter" and then there's "lighter." Our Cab Francs and Cab Sauv's could be said to be "lighter" than some of those California fruit and oak and alcohol monsters, and I take that to be a very good thing.

But it could well be argued that our (at SPV) Gamay and Pinot are so light that they risk of being TOO light, of not having substance or body. Eye of the beholder, obviously.


Dave: Definitely "eye of the beholder." I just wanted to make the point that not every wine need be thick and heavy on the palate :)

I tend to agree that I don't like the SPV Gamay when you compare it to gamay from Beaujolais or even the Loire, but it's easy to bash FL reds as 'light' when that's not necessarily a bad thing.


What are your thoughts on adding color in the winemaking process? I'm not advocating that SPV add color or other elements, but obviously some winemakers have no qualms about manipulating the wine to reach a desired color. Some believe color correlates directly to sales.

Color does directly relate to sales, and that is usually the main issue.

Many can't trust their own palate and like something for what it is, light, dark, or otherwise.

Still, as Dave said, "there's light and there's light."

To me, light (referring to wine) does not mean color only.

Hey Evan,

This may be entirely self-justifying, but I'm not a big fan of adding color. The standard I like to use, when thinking about adding things to wine, is the one that Randall Grahm uses: how do I feel about listing it on the bottle (Randall's new labels list ingredients). I wouldn't feel all that great about listing "mega-red" or "mega-purple" or any of the proprietary coloring agents on my labels. Acid, if needed, I got no problem with, similarly for eggs, or casein, or sugar.

And yes, that's an arbitrary standard, one where I can't articulate a clear bright line to cross or not. So it goes.

Anyway, it's self-justifying for me because the one time I DID try to add color, it all came right back out on the filter pads. :-) Evidently, you have to be a much better winemaker than I to cheat properly.


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