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May 26, 2010


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I spent a good bit of the weekend talking to Neil and we had some great discussions about the region. It is obvious from his answers that he really has a handle on the area and a vast amount of knowledge.

It's funny that he mentions Julia because I also got the same immediate impression from her that she is headed for a lifetime of total wine geekiness and I say that as a compliment!

Couldn't agree more about the dinner at Stonecat--very bland. But all of the other foods served (the dinner at Red Newt, those unbelievable crackers at Ravines, the best potato chips I have ever eaten at Fox Run, not to mention the aged gouda and Humbolt Fog Cheeses at Heart and Hands) made up for it.

Great to meet you Neil. Give me a call when you are next in Jersey!


Your take on the reds you tasted is appreciated. I found that my favorite reds were from producers that didn't add tannin and abuse new oak.

It seems that Anthony Road, Wiemer, Heart and Hands and a few others are approaching reds in a more restrained manner that highlights the cool climate style.

Regarding tannins: I think this is the first time I can recall someone describing Finger Lakes reds as "tannic." Even with added tannin, that description does not show up very often. I imagine the reds you're referring to have clumsily added tannin, but I don't know offhand.

Sometimes it's difficult to distinguish between acidity and astringency. High acid is often perceived as astringent, so it may be less about tannin addition and more about the natural acidity.

Some harsher tannins can come from oak, though. Maybe a science post about this would clear things up a bit.

It is very telling, that we are even discussing these issues pertaining to cool climate reds.
About the vineyard/winery importance issue, I can think of a very simple way to look at the relative importance( if this idea even makes sense). The vineyard(site,management, Harvest decision...) determines the quality potential of the grapes arriving at the winery. There is nothing a winemaker can do to improve, what he is given. There are many ways, he can make it something less. This does not mean, however, that there is nothing to be done in the cellar. As a winemaker, you have to make absolutely certain that every operation, every balance maximizes the quality potential. This means evaluating extraction levels, tannin levels ( qualitative and quantitative), use of barrels, acidity, alcohol...
Wine is an acidic beverage and in cool climates we expect the acidity to be noticeable. Barrel aging was actually invented for cool climate regions, not mediterranean regions. Our wines, if balanced right, have potential to age beautifully, softening in the process and develop interesting tertiary aromas. The reason we need to be careful with oak is that, combined with acidity, it creates an impression of sharpness, of imbalance. Tannins are a very useful tool in the Finger Lakes. Think of it as the skeleton of the wine to hang color, aromas and polysaccharides on. Too little and the wine will have little interest. Too bare and the wine will taste lean and astringent.

Neil (and Sue), thanks for your kind words! It was a pleasure meeting you. Stressing the Vine is my favorite of the blogs I discovered through TasteCamp.

I have to say I too found many of the Finger Lakes reds to be heavy on oak tannin and light on "depth of fruit" (good way of putting it). When I taste a red that is new-oaky on the nose, thinly fruity and acidic on the palate, and all oak tannin on the finish, I find it unsatisfying - as if the wine has no unique voice. I did thoroughly enjoy the personality and character of the reds made by Anthony Road, Atwater, and Heart and Hands.

I don't get to taste many aged Finger Lakes reds, but I truly enjoyed the Sheldrake Point 2004 Cabernet Franc poured at the Sunday morning tasting.

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