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May 17, 2010


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Bryan -

I find much of this piece baffling. The first line of the third graph seemed to come out of nowhere, unrelated to the piece. And the concept of wishing Higgins would make wine with your fruit is almost insulting, no?

Regarding where the best pinot comes from, I'd ask you to think about some vital issues:

1) We're not interested in the pedestrian bottlings; we want to know what the regional pinnacle is, right? Because your focus on the run-of-the-mill Finger Lakes pinots can be said about any region in the world that makes pinot. Yes, even Burgundy.

2) We haven't yet seen the pinnacle, right? We finally have a small handful of pinot-fanatic winemakers who are exploring the best sites and planting on future sites. So declaring a better or best is a tad silly, no?

3) In that regard, NE makes so few wines overall that sample size is so small as to be meaningless, right?

4) I fear you've never heard of the concept of regional bias.

5) You not only live there, but you now make wine there. See point four.

I've had a few bottles of NE pinot but never encountered an autumn leaves aroma. Perhaps it's me.

And regarding art, your conclusion is strange. I'm not one to say that every winemaker is an artist, but isn't it more artistic, not less, to play around creatively with a number of options instead of forcing one set idea on every vintage?

I suppose I sound like a H&H apologist, but that's not the intention. I hope Tom would not be offended to hear me say that as good as his early vintages have been, I hope we still have miles to go with Finger Lakes pinot. I think we do. But I don't expect to know too much about what the real pinnacle of potential is until sometime close to my passing.

Bryan -

Pinot Noir has always been the most expressive grape varietal of place. That is, the flavors and aromatics can change dramatically from site to site. Obviously, the winemaker can also steer it with some nuances, but the core remains in tact.

I'm glad you had the opportunity to taste many of the Pinot Noirs from the Finger Lakes. I've always found it to be fascinating to see all the differences from winery to winery. I think it is an exciting time in the Finger Lakes as we learn how to work with this finicky varietal.

I'm a little confused by the point you were trying to make in the fourth paragraph when discussing the "lighter" soils. Can you talk about the relationship of the "lighter" soils of the Finger Lakes and how this translates into the glass? Also, since you had mentioned the Niagara Escarpment in the previous paragraph, can you describe the soil differences so we all have a better point of reference?

I'm sorry to say, my heart is in the Finger Lakes and I'm not planning on working with Pinot Noir from other parts of NY. We are very happy how it expresses itself here in the Finger Lakes.

The beauty of wine is that there is always something more we can learn - and every time we think we have it down, mother nature changes things up. I look forward to my lifetime of vintages and learning how best to express Pinot Noir from the Finger Lakes.



With my story I tried to give a unique perspective on the wines I tasted at heart and Hands Wine Company. That perspective comes from only a few years working with grapes in my region, several more years tasting Finger Lakes Wines, a few years of tasting Ontario wines and a few years of writing about Niagara wines for the NYCR.

There will be many other writers that claim to not have a bias that will write about their experience at Tastecamp and I am the first to admit that a bias or preconceived idea is with most of them whether they admit it or not. This is why wines are judged in a blind or double blind setting.

Unfortunately my writing skills are not as evolved as my passion for wine. In the third paragraph I had basically written a disclaimer that I came in with that opinion, right or wrong, but in the editing process I made that less clear.

Spinning my desire to see a winemaker use grapes from another region as something that can be insulting to the winemakers region is indeed baffling. I’ve stated that I am experiencing these wines from the perspective as a curious amateur winemaker. In my view a Niagara pinot noir made by Higgins wouldn’t be seen as the pinnacle of the winemaker, yet just the opposite, the pinnacle of a Niagara grown grape. This is only because of anyone I’ve met I think Higgins would make the best wine from a pinot noir crop.


I don’t pretend to be an expert on any of this but my journey to learn as much as I can from as many people as I can hopefully makes my perspective interesting.

As far as my reference to lighter soils, I associate them with sandier, gravelly loams with minimal clay content, usually well drained with moderate to heavy vigor. With these soils I have been given the impression that they make for fruit forward wines with intense aromatics. I associate heavier soils with more clay content and less vigor. When aided by a slope for drainage they produce deeper flavored wines with less juice to skin ratios resulted in richer wines. These are generalities and I know a winemaker can either accentuate or diminish.

The soils of Niagara are also extremely diverse and have yet to fully be investigated in the long term sense. I can only point you to the wines of Ontario to really taste the difference in terroir. In the Niagara Escarpment AVA specifically I am using soils like Hilton, Rhinebeck and Ovid as a frame of reference.

Thanks again for having us at TasteCamp. The Finger Lakes is lucky to have you there.


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