Saturday, December 16, 2017

Trip to the Finger Lakes part IX - Hermann J. Wiemer

Next up was a trip to Herman J Wiemer, where we were given a tasting by an affable Swedish chap who we later learned was Oskar Bynke, one of the co-owners.

We started with the Field White ($16.50) which was a mixture of gruner veltliner and riesling from 2016 along with some vin clair chardonnay from 2015. As I understand it, vin clair is a kind of grape must. This came in at 11% and my notes just say that it was interesting. Must try to make better notes in future!

However, it turned out that they specialise in riesling at Hermann J Wiemer, and we then tasted our way through quite a few.

The Dry Riesling 2016 ($19.50) was off dry and we liked it. Oskar compared it to a trockenbeerenauslese and told us that they carried out 34 pickings over the course of 7 weeks, so they got a mixture of grapes at different levels of ripeness.

Then we tried the Riesling HJW Vineyard 2015 ($39) which is made from grapes from one of their coolest sites. This was less fruity but more sophisticated than the previous wine, but we actually preferred the Dry Riesling especially given that it was half the price. The Riesling Reserve Dry 2015 ($29) was somewhere between the two and had more fruit but still a sense of being "wrought" according to G. He then had a revelation which was that the last two wines had a lot of sulphur, which would explain why we found them less attractive.

The Riesling Magdalena Vineyard 2015 ($36) was from grapes from a riper site by the lake, and had a lovely aromatic nose. We preferred it to the HJW but it was still relatively pricey. The Riesling Josef Vineyard 2015 was considerably sweeter and in a richer style and had a lovely mouthfeel. D mentioned honey.

The Semi-Dry Riesling 2016 ($17.50) is picked earlier and has a lower alcohol level, coming in at 11 to 11.5%. This had lovely aromas and was very Germanic but G found it slightly short and D thought it wasn't as complete as the other wines. The Late Harvest Riesling 2014 ($24.50) was not really botrytised but had a wonderful fruit and sweetness. It got a star from me.

We moved on to a couple of wines which weren't actually rieslings! The Cuvee Brut ($37), which I think was from 2013, was 60% chardonnay and 40% pinot noir. and was very impressive, like a good champagne.

The Field Red ($19.50) was a mixture of blaufrankisch, cabernet franc and a little bit of cabernet sauvignon. This wasn't my cup of tea, possibly because I don't like blaufrankisch. Then again I could have been getting it confused with my nemesis, Spätburgunder... I preferred the Cabernet Franc 2016 ($25) which had low yields. D said that their Cab Franc is consistently good year on year, and he has several vintages of it.

By this stage I think we'd gone completely off the tasting menu and were being offered things gratis which was very kind of Oskar. We finished with two sweet wines. The Noble Select Riesling Magdalena Vineyard 2013 ($75) was made from 100% botrytised riesling and had a lovely thick texture. It was sensational, but the Noble Select Riesling Josef Vineyard 2013 ($115) was even better. This is not only hand picked but extensively sorted and again was quite extraordinary. It had a lovely apricot note, and the finish went on for at least 10 minutes until we arrived at our next destination. It comes with a hefty price tag but perhaps this wasn't extortionate if you compare it to something from Germany and it was certainly a wine built to last. A real highlight to end with.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Trip to the Finger Lakes part VIII - Seneca Shore Wine Cellars

On Friday morning, we drove over to Seneca Lake where our first stop was Seneca Shore Wine Cellars. Here we met David DeMarco, the owner, who happens to be a friend of D.

David was exuberant and charming and gave us a tour of the winery which was very entertaining. I enjoyed hearing about his business model. He sells most of his wine directly to his customers rather than going through the retail trade, and his branding suggests that the wines are medieval in approach i.e. small scale rather than made by some industrial conglomerate in a huge impersonal factory somewhere.

We tasted our way through twelve wines altogether. I was impressed by the Dry Riesling 2016 which had a lovely limey zinginess to it. The Chardonnay Balanced Barrel 2014 was was very good, but the barrel-fermented Chardonnay 2013 was even better, with a golden colour and buttery richness which reminded me of a Meursault. Given that it was $14.99, it was really very impressive.

The Pinot Noir 2012 was smooth, light, easy drinking with good acidity, and had only just been released, while the Cabernet Franc 2012 had oomph, with smoky, tarry notes and would be great with barbecue. There was no sign of stemminess here. Dave told us that cabernet franc is often overcropped and that's when it starts to develop those green pepper and green bean flavours which I can't stand.

But the jewel in the crown was undoubtedly the Kylix Cuvee, which is a cabernet franc from 2007. It was big and rich, with velvety tannins. I liked it very much and it retailed at $24.99, making it an absolute steal in my opinion.

No doubt the medieval angle plays well with your average tourist, but these are not novelty wines by any means. We put together a mixed box to take away with us and not only did Dave refuse to let us pay for them but he added a few more, which was really very generous. This tasting was definitely one of the highlights of the trip!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Trip to the Finger Lakes part VII - Hector Wine Company and Ryan William Vineyard

After lunch, we headed over to Hector Wine Company where we tasted five wines and I don't appear to have taken any photos at all!

The Pinot Blanc 2016 had a floral bouquet and was quite exotic. It had a nice weight and was bigger on the palate than I'd expected from the nose. "Ripe fruit, excellent minerality" said G. I think we all liked it. The Dry Riesling 2015 was pleasant enough but I felt we'd had better elsewhere, while the Gewurztraminer 2015 was a nice pale gold colour and had the classic gewurztraminer perfume.

The Cabernet Franc 2015 was paler than some and almost farmyardy on the nose. I wasn't altogether sure about it but D pointed out that it was very young, so maybe it needs time. The Forge Pinot Noir Classique 2015 meanwhile was a shade darker than some of the pinots we'd seen with nice legs. It delivered a massive amount of chewy tannin and was quite hard going at this stage. I felt it needed at least 5 years while G described it as "classically styled".

Our last visit of the day was to Ryan William Vineyard where we tasted six wines. Possibly I was feeling slightly jaded by this stage, as the Gruner Veltliner 2015 didn't do much for me, although it was appley and had good acidity. Perhaps it needed food. The Dry Riesling 2014 was more my thing, made in an Alsatian style and aromatic. G described it as "very successful." The Gewurztraminer 2014 was also Alsatian in style and had that classic lychee thing, but I found myself wondering how much I actually like gewurztraminer. The Chardonnay 2014 was made 50% in French oak barrels and 50% in stainless steel and was elegant, with a creaminess to it and notes of lemon curd.

Moving on to the reds, the Pinot Noir 2012 came in at 12.4% alcohol (very precise!) and had a delicious fruity nose. Black cherry was mentioned. Again there was a lot of tannin but I felt it had potential. Finally, the Cabernet Franc 2012 was appealing and one couldn't accuse it of being stemmy. They referred to cassis, black plum and cocoa which seemed accurate. "A lot of red for 20 bucks," said G.

I wandered off to make another new friend, this half sized cat which was friendly and let me pick it up... Feline fix acquired, it was time to drive home.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Trip to the Finger Lakes part VI - Knapp Winery

Our next stop was Knapp Winery, also on Cayuga Lake. Here we started with a 2016 Dry Riesling which G described as "pure gas tank" - we were getting the hang of American terms by this stage! I got a whole load of lime marmalade, and we thought it was pretty decent, at $16. Then we tried the Finger Lakes Chardonnay 2016 which is made in a concrete egg thing which gives it more minerality. It reminded me of a Chablis and was only $14. It's made from 93% chardonnay and 7% riesling, and we wondered what it would have been like if it had been 100% chardonnay.

The 2015 Pinot Gris ($15) didn't do much for us and then we tried a 2016 Seyval Blanc ($13) which was lightly oaked. This had interesting tropical fruit on the nose, possibly lychee, but G found it a bit odd, and it had a slightly sweet finish.

Moving on to the reds, the 2016 Unoaked Cabernet Franc ($17) was very purple and had a fresh, fruity nose but turned out to be somewhat green and stemmy on the palate, reminding me of those Loire reds that I don't like very much. I preferred the 2015 Pinot Noir ($18) which had sweet, slightly jammy fruit. It had some similarities to the Norman Hardie pinot which I like, but G was not convinced.

The Meritage 2014 ($25) was a blend of 1/3 Cabernet Sauvignon, 1/3 Cabernet Franc and 1/3 Merlot. This was a much darker colour and quite heavy compared to the previous two wines. We thought it was a serious wine and was already drinking, in contrast to the similar blend we'd tried at Ravines the day before.

Finally, we tried a Trestle Creek Hard Cider which was 5.5% alcohol. This was fizzy and semi-sweet and perfectly pleasant. I didn't bother spitting it out.

We moved across to the restaurant for lunch, and sat on the terrace which had a view of the vineyards but also of a creepy bird-scaring device which billowed about in the wind somewhat alarmingly. I didn't take a photograph, not wishing to give anyone nightmares.

The pulled pork sandwich beckoned once again, although we thought it wasn't quite as good as the one the previous day, and memo to selves, we certainly didn't need to order that basket of chips to go with it!

We did however make a new best friend...

And here's my glass of cider, which turned out to be apple juice, also known as Type 2 diabetes in a glass. I won't be making that mistake again in a hurry!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Trip to the Finger Lakes part V - Hosmer Winery

Our next stop was Hosmer Winery, which had a small tasting room and for some reason I seem to have taken hardly any photos. Possibly this was because the young lady who served us was very engaging and we struck up a good conversation.

We started with the Brut Rose 2013 which was made from 100% pinot noir. This was a very pale colour and I found the nose slightly odd but there was nothing wrong with it on the palate, and it had some enjoyable bready and yeasty notes. It costs $35 and I'd certainly have bought a bottle or two if I lived nearby.

Next we tasted some reds. The 2016 Pinot Noir was possibly lacking complexity and suffered from comparison with the one at Thirsty Owl which we'd tasted a few minutes earlier. But the Cabernet Franc 2016 was very successful with more weight. "Good stuff" I appear to have written. At $20 it seemed very good value too.

I think by this stage the girl had worked out that we were quite serious wine-drinkers, and she offered us a bonus tasting of the Cabernet Franc 2009 which was mature and concentrated, and had become more raisiny.

After that we moved on to the whites. First was a Single Wheel Batonnage Riesling 2016, which is from a specific vineyard and they stir it on the lees apparently using a hockey stick! I found this dry and elegant, and G said it reminded him of a New Zealand riesling on the nose.

We found the 2015 Limited Release Chardonnay elegant but had doubts about how long it would last, while the 2016 semi sweet Riesling was very German in style and had that petrol thing going on. We had another bonus tasting of the 2013 vintage of the same wine, which was sweet and luscious. "This is great. No problem drinking that" I wrote enthusiastically.

Finally, we tasted the 2016 Patrician Verona Riesling which gets its name from a specific vineyard again. This was semi-sweet and I detected mango. It was very good indeed, especially at $17. The girl told us that it went well with peach and goats cheese pasta and I can well believe it!

Altogether this was a very charming tasting and we enjoyed ourselves. The semi sweet Rieslings and the Cabernet Franc particularly stood out and prices seemed keen to me. Another place I would visit frequently if I lived nearby.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Trip to Finger Lakes part IV - Thirsty Owl Wine Company

The next day, we drove out to Cayuga Lake and our first stop was the Thirsty Owl Wine Company. This was perhaps a more touristy operation than the places we'd visited the day before. Once again the formula was to taste six wines for a nominal charge.

We started with a Pinot Gris 2016 which G compared to an Alsatian pinot gris. It was fruity, light and elegant with notes of pineapple and melon.

Then we tried the Riesling 2014 which is made from grapes from a vineyard on the west side of Seneca Lake. My notes say "for NYC drinkers" so somebody must have made that observation, probably G. It had a lovely riesling nose with plenty of lime and was dry and classical. Looking at their website, it's the same price as the Pinot Gris, both $14.95 which seems eminently reasonable to me even considering the exchange rate at the moment.

The Gewurztraminer 2016 had a very classic gewurz nose but wasn't congruent on the palate. I enjoyed the Fujac hard cider which was dry and refreshing. I was amused by the term "hard cider" which made me think of tramps on park benches or possibly reminded me of my seventeen year old self, but apparently this is a language difference - cider in the US means apple juice, and hard cider means what we Brits would just call cider. This only came to light when I ordered a glass of cider at lunchtime! Never mind. One tries to learn from one's mistakes...

The Pinot Noir 2016 was a lovely pale colour and we found it surprisingly sophisticated. It's 100% pinot and aged in Hungarian oak. At $17.95 this would be a strong candidate for house red if I lived nearby. "This may be the only place in the world where you can get a good 18 dollar pinot," said G. It was pretty, light and gluggable, designed to be drunk young.

Finally, we tried the Cabernet Sauvignon Ice Wine 2013 which had an interesting nose. The woman doing the tasting mentioned quince. It was very sweet and reminded me of that membrillo paste you serve with manchego. It was fun but cost $39.95 and we didn't feel the need to buy it.

I have to say that when we walked into the winery and saw the displays of fluffy owls and so on, I didn't have high expectations of Thirsty Owl, but first impressions turned out to misleading. They don't appear to have any showstopping heavyweights in their range but the wines they are making are decent and good value to boot.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Trip to Finger Lakes part III - Domaine LeSeurre

Our next stop was Domaine LeSeurre, run by Céline and Sébastien Leseurre. As the name suggests, they are French and in fact there is a French flag waving outside the winery. We'd had one of their chardonnays before as mentioned here and been impressed with it, so I was looking forward to this visit. We chatted with the girl behind the counter who told us that Sébastien is from Champagne and Céline is from Toulouse, and they met in New Zealand.

First up was a dry riesling from 2014, which was a mere 12% alcohol. This is aged in stainless steel tanks and was actually dry, unlike some. It had good minerality and I found it elegant but the next wine, the 2015 riesling barrel select, was even better. This is aged in French barrels for 11 months, which is unusual for riesling, and was bigger and more concentrated.

Then we moved on to a couple of chardonnays. First the barrel select 2015 which is also aged for 11 months, and was very fine, more classic chardonnay. But the chardonnay barrel select "no 2" 2014 won hands down. It's aged for 22 months and only 24 cases were produced. This is the wine D shared with us in September and it still had the same limey quality and was altogether very fine.

Finally, we tried a couple of reds. Apparently the cabernet franc 2014 is from one particular vineyard, and this is the first year it was bottled separately. This was light and pretty, and generally rather lovely. It went down easily. G made another reference to a charcuterie plate. Then we tried the cabernet franc 2013 which was made from grapes from two different vineyards. This was bigger, spicier, and had a great finish.

Sébastien actually dropped by while we were having the tasting which was nice, although we missed our opportunity to ask him about clones, which is something we'd wondered about with the chardonnay. This winery opened relatively recently and I would certainly say they are one to watch, bringing a French approach to the Finger Lakes vineyards and producing serious, elegant wines.

The view from the winery wasn't too shabby either