Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Finger Lakes Update

This year's visit to the Finger Lakes in early July revealed the following themes: 

Barrels at Anthony Road Wine Company
  • Finger Lakes winemakers strive for balance. Although this region has been known for producing wines of extremely high acidity, this year was the first time we heard winemakers talking about how wince can be crisp, but still well-balanced with fruitiness. We encountered several examples of this.
  • Finger Lakes winemakers are using native varietals less. Once a kitschy part of any trip to the area, visitors will find native-to-New-York varietals (like Cayuga White, Niagara, Delaware, etc.) less than they had in past. Perhaps, in the past, winemakers felt pressured into working with those varietals. Today, they are proudly producing wine from the noble grapes you've come to know by household name (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, etc.)  According to Scott Osborn, President of Fox Run Vineyards:

    I am guessing the [wine from] Labrusca doesn’t sell too much anymore. Most visitors are looking for Vinifera wines and most of the higher quality producers are only making Vinifera wines with some good hybrid’s thrown in there. Niagara, Delaware, and Concord wines tend not to move on a wine list and if you keep them to long like a year they tend to go bad. That said there are a few producers who still grow those varieties and make wines out of them.
  • Finger Lakes winemakers are increasingly placing emphasis on treating the grape less during production. To compete on an international stage, the winemakers from this region know that whatever they produce has to maintain highest standards of quality. This starts by working with what they have in their vineyards, and they are beginning to grow fewer varietals overall but focusing on the quality of those they do. Then, the least amount of treatment the grapes get in the wine-making process, the better, in these winemakers opinions.  
  • Finger Lakes winemakers are using Lemberger as a blending grape to round out Cabernet Franc (and other wines). Blending is very common in Europe (a red Bordeaux is, after all, the blending of typically three grapes), but less favored in the U.S. for many reasons. While Lemberger still exists as a standalone in the Finger Lakes, we saw it more and more blended into other wines. A great use of the not-so-commonly-known grape.
  • 2007 was a great vintage. If you can find a 2007 wine from the Finger Lakes, you will not be disappointed. The weather was perfect in terms of allowing the grapes to ripen at the most preferred pace.
We were impressed by the wines this year--even more since last year's visit--and credit this to the changes we're starting to see in the Finger Lakes. There's a lot going on in the Finger Lakes. If you have never tried wine from this area, do so now!

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