Thursday, June 27, 2013

Quick Review: Dr Konstantin Frank Lemberger 2009

US, New York, Finger Lakes, Dr. Konstantin Frank, Lemberger, 2009
+ // Spicy // Cherry, Chocolate // Cherry, Red apple, Pepper, Leather // Medium bodied

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What Is With All These Crazy Grape Names?

According the 2010 US Wine Report, the top ten varietals in the United States are Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot, Pinot Noir, French Colombard, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Rubired. Of those, I have never heard of French Colombard or Rubired. This just goes to show that while someone with some wine knowledge might recognize the common varietals, there is a huge world of wine grapes out there, and one struggles to know all of them. With rare grapes from regions of the Old World that seldom see export, to new crossbreeds being developed, don't be startled if you are unsure about the varietal. Give it a try, and you may find some new and secret treasure!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Quick Review: McGregor Black Russian Red 2008

US, NY, Finger Lakes, McGregor Vineyards Black Russian Red 2008
++ // Funky // White Pepper, Plum, Earth // Straw, Mushroom, Leather, Ripe purple plum // Med-Full

Made from a blend of two rare grapes, Saperavi and Sereksiaya, the result is a bigger red than most Finger Lakes. Well suited to a heart steak dinner

Monday, June 24, 2013

Big Red Wine For "Big" Daddy

A big man needs a big wine. I may not actually be a big man, but I am -- in comparison to our newborn. So I get to pretend on this very first Father's Day for our newly expanded family. I decided to be entirely cliche, and make a hearty steak dinner to celebrate. And we had just the bottle of wine to match. While a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon or a Argentinian Malbec would have been the standard option, for my preference it was nice to have something different.

Given the cool climate, most red wines out of the Finger Lakes tend to be a bit less aggressive. While a good Cabernet Franc or Pinot Noir can develop some interesting flavors, it's rare to find anything with big, ripe fruit flavors or anything that can stand up to much time aging in wood to give it any strong spice and leather notes. Thankfully, one winemaker has thought a bit outside the box, and created a wine with some unusual grapes suited to the cool climate of New York State. In 1980, McGregor Vineyard planted varieties from Eastern Europe, Saperavi and Sereksiya Charni. Since 1991, they have been creating blends of these two grapes, with their Black Russian Red. With deep, rich, plum flavors, these grapes have a strong flavor that is served well be over two years of aging in barrels, creating a mouthful of flavor that is entirely unique in the region.

At a grand total of 377 cases of the 2008 vintage, we've never had a chance to try this wine, but thanks to Black Russian Red's cult following, we had a good idea what to expect. We knew it should be strong enough in flavor to complement a meal of steak, but that it also had some unique, funky flavors that might be suited to other big flavors. Some grilled potatoes and a salad with blue cheese dressing rounded out the simple meal, and made the home grilling feel like a steakhouse dinner. The big, bold red worked well, bringing its own sweet, spice, and funkiness to bear against each part of the dish. The celebratory dinner was something special, and the wine went a long way to adding to that.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Quick Review: Red Tail Ridge Pinot Noir 2009

US, NY, Finger Lakes, Red Tail Ridge Pinot Noir 2009
+ // Fruity (tart) // Inky, Grass // Ink, Berry, Cranberry // Medium - Full

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What Does "Single Vineyard" Mean?

Integral to the concept of high quality wine is the idea of "terrior", or sense of place. In the most famous of Old World wines, this is defined by small vineyards, defined by monks in centuries past. In New World wines, wine-makers are beginning to think about this. According to US wine laws, so long as 95% of the grapes come from a specific vineyard, the wine can be labeled as Single Vineyard or by the name of the vineyard.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Quick Review: Heron Hill Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009

US, NY, Finger Lakes, Heron Hill Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009
++ // Earthy // Forrest floor, Blueberry, Leather // Mushroom, Slate, Cherry cola, Cinnamon // Medium

Monday, June 10, 2013

Knowing Your Pinot

One of the benefits of knowing details about a wine is that it makes it so much easier to figure out the perfect meal to pair it with. Pinot Noir comes in a wide range of styles, so knowing a bit about it beforehand can let you craft a dinner to really showcase the flavors in the bottle. The wines of Burgundy tend to be both rich in ripe fruit and earthy flavors, while the Pinot Noirs of California tend toward bright, red fruit, while the ones coming out of Oregon tend toward more subdued berries.

Knowing we had a bottle of Heron Hill Pinot Noir from the Finger Lakes, I had a good idea of what to look forward to. While we haven't had the chance to try the newest vintage, we enjoyed the release last year, so I had agood idea that we would find a heart, earthy wine, with hints of tart fruit. With this in mind, I headed to the local farmers market to buy the ingredients for a simple, tasty Saturday dinner.

Its still early for some of the best produce, but knowing the market helps. Some greens, just coming into season for some freshness with just a hint of bitterness to match the stone flavors. Sometomatoes from the first harvest fromthe hothouses of New Jersey, sweet and firm, almost like the fruit flavors of the wine. To serve as the base of the meal, some mushrooms to match the earthiness so typical of the best new New York Pinots. With the addition of some black beans cooked in honey and molasses and the aid of some time in the backyard with my grill, some sweet and smokey notes were added to an easy dinner of veggie burritos, and we had an excellent complement to our excellent wine. I only wish I had a second bottle, that I could have enjoyed by itself as I sat in the summer sun preparing dinner.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Summer in a Glass

Its amazing the effect a glass of wine can have on us. We often talk about the smells and flavors, and what they mean for the wine or how they pair with food. But smell is the strongest link to memory.

One flavor that always stands out to me in our favorite Rieslings from the Finger Lakes is the mineral note that provides part of the strong crisp backbone. Dry to sweet, no matter what style the wine takes, the hint of minerality always lingers at the back of a Finger Lakes Riesling.

For me, that flavor sends my memory back through the years, to a time well before I even started thinking about wine. Summers of my youth were spent hiking and camping in the Finger Lakes. That smell of wet slate takes me back to warm afternoons, sitting in some quiet ravine chatting with friends and listening to the streams babble. Its amazing what seemingly unrelated memories the flavors of a wine can invoke, and the simple pleasures they can remind us of.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Quick Review: Fulkerson Dry Riesling 2010

US, NY, FL, Fulkerson Winery Dry Riesling 2010
+ // Crisp // Lemon, Honey // Grapefruit, Slate // Light

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why is Riesling a Great Introductory Wine?

We talk about Riesling alot, and why we think it makes such a great wine, but the wine-makers of the Finger Lakes have some great things to say about it as well:

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Quick Review: Goose Watch Riesling Gewurtztraminer 2011

US, NY, FL, Goose Watch Winery, Riesling Gewurztraminer 2011
+ // Crisp // Lemon, Floral, Stone // Lemon, Flowers, Slate, Pepper // Light

Monday, June 3, 2013

Wines of Summer

Its that time of year, as wine makers start to release their new vintages. We had a chance try a few new wines from The Finger Lakes, and its just whet our appetite to see what the new year has to offer from our favorite wine region.

We had a chance to enjoy a virtual tasting of some new releases, sharing our thoughts about a few bottles with some folks on Twitter. We opened a bottle of Reisling Gewurtraminer blend from Goose Watch Winery, and a Reisling from Fulkerson.

Goose Watch is the sister winery to Swedish Hill, a winery we are familiar with and fond of. It was great to see the same quality carrying over. The blend combined some of our favorite aspects of two great grapes from the region. The strong mineral and citrus backbone of the Riesling make the perfect scaffold for the more delicate spice and floral notes of the Gewurztraminer. The flavors combined to make a great early summer wine, with flavors that perfectly complement the first delicate vegetables of the year.

Of course, summer is also a great for a glass of crisp wine to be enjoyed on its own.  Bright, clear flavors that shine through even when chilled. Most wines lose their flavor as you drop their temperature, but a wine like Fulkerson Dry Riesling with an agressive acidity can stand to be chilled, almost deserving a cube of ice to bring it right to the edge of freezing. Its an odd recommendation for a wine, but somtimes you are just looking for a glass to share with friends over a long warm afternoon in the garden.

We have a few more bottles to try, and look forward to sharing what we find out, as we explore this new vintage from some great wineries of the Finger Lakes.