Thursday, October 12, 2017

Trip to Finger Lakes part I - Ravines Wine Cellars

G and I are back from our visit to the Finger Lakes, and we had an absolutely amazing time. We stayed with D who lives in the middle of nowhere with no internet or mobile phone signal, just lots of woods, peace and quiet. I can see why he likes it there so much.

We arrived on Tuesday evening and the next day, we drove out to the Finger Lakes for what turned out to be the first of three days of intensive wine tasting. Heaven! On our first day, we visited Keuka Lake and our first stop was Ravines Wine Cellars, which is run by Morten and Lisa Hallgren, who are friends of D. We were treated to a tour of the winery by Morten. This was on 20th Sept and they were in the middle of the harvest so it was very kind of him to make the time.

The winery was very impressive with its state of the art equipment and enormous stainless steel tanks, and we discovered that Morten had been to the wine school in Montpellier and spent a year at Cos d'Estournel. He's all about making wines for the long term.

Then we were treated to a tasting of eight wines and I can honestly say they were all excellent. The Finger Lakes are perhaps known best for their rieslings and we tried three of these.

The 2015 dry riesling had a lovely floral, limey nose and was zingy with good acidity, elegant and serious, with a great finish. I thought it would go very well with oily fish and at just 12.5% nothing to frighten the horses. The 2015 from the White Springs vineyard was richer, with peach and citrus and was very special, with a finish which lasted for minutes.

Then we got to try a 2007 riesling, which was very Germanic on the nose. Apparently 2007 was a warm vintage and this was close to its peak at 10 yars. It had a wonderful line of acidity down the middle, a great backbone, and showed that these wines are built to last.

Next up was a barrel-fermented chardonnay 2015 and Morten explained to us that he has a special technique with this, and 15% of the grapes went through a dehydration process. For me this had nuttiness and notes of toasted bread, almost brioche.

Then we moved on to cabernet franc. Morten told us they are trying to make the Finger Lakes synonymous with cabernet franc and put the area on the map. Apparently it's overtaken pinot noir as the leading red in the area, possibly because it's more forgiving. More on that later... The 2015 was certainly a great example of the genre, dark purple with lovely juicy fruit. G said it was crying out for goat's cheese, while Morten mentioned a charcuterie plate. It was lively and croquant now but could easily be put away for 5 years. I see Morten actually said it could be put away for 10 years!

After that, we had a cabernet blend from 2005. We subsequently found out that many wineries in the area make a blend like this and it's usually called "Meritage", some weird invented name which I'd never come across before. The example at Ravines was made from 50% cabernet franc, 30% cabernet sauvignon and 20% merlot. My notes read that it smelled divine and G said it was "wholly successful" as a claret substitute. It had a cedary thing going on, lovely fruit and elegance. Morten said that they couldn't pursue the newer, more luscious style in the Finger Lakes and he's not interested in competing with Chile or Australia. Not arguing with that. This wine still seemed very young, and I reckon you could keep it another 10 or maybe 20 years.

Next we had another chardonnay, from 2014, which was unoaked. This was from the Argetsinger vineyard. It had a gentle florality on the nose and I detected apricots and stone fruit on the palate. Again it had an amazing finish. It struck me as being a gastronomic wine and we brought a bottle back which we had at lunch on Sunday, when its elegance really struck me again and it reminded us of an Auxey-Duresses. It went brilliantly with smoked salmon and was generally very classy indeed.

Finally, we tried this 2013 late harvest vignoles. This is a botrytised wine and they only make it when the conditions are right. It had a lovely nose of apricot jam and an amazing gooey, velvety texture. It had great acidity to balance the sweetness and again the finish was extraordinary. "Good god" said G. Morten told us that their chef was enjoying himself making things to go with it. I wanted some blue cheese right there and then. If I tell you that we bought two halves to bring back with us, that gives some indication of how fabulous this wine was.

This was a really impressive tasting and enormous thanks to Morten for taking time off to show us the range. I just wish we could get them in the UK...

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