Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to attend a very special tasting at Dano’s Heuriger overlooking Seneca Lake. The restaurant is a lovely space, despite the easily missed exterior of the seemingly smaller building-naturally modern, with a warm feel and unassumingly elegant decor. The breathtaking lake views are the main attraction, aside from the traditional Viennese cuisine. Don’t miss Dano’s if you visit the area–it’s a local gem, owned by Dano Hutnik and his wife Karen. Both are accomplished chefs (she in pastry), and Dano’s experience living as a ballet dancer in Vienna adds to the authenticity of the locally sourced menu.
The concept behind this tasting event was a very exciting one–a tasting of two wines, one white (Grüner Veltliner), one red (Blaufränkisch aka Lemberger). Several different wineries from the Finger Lakes, along with producers from Germany, Spain, and even Washington State US were represented. Both grape varietals are native to Austria, and both grow exceedingly well in our cooler, Finger Lakes climate. Grüner wines are white, and tend to have a light, floral, citrus or peachy flavor, highlighted often by a peppery or even white pepper notes. Blaufränkisch (Lemberger) wines are red, and have a red, ripe, jammy character–think red currants and dark, ripe cherries. Oak aging can help tame acidity and tannins, but many retain their bright flavors.
All the while, Dano’s had a beautiful array of appetizers and light bites to go with the Austrian themed wine pairings. The menu included artichoke tarts with a delicate pastry, asparagus wraps, smoked fish spread, hard salami, sausage and schnitzel bites over homemade sour kraut, and smoked fish
So, let the tasting notes begin! I really enjoyed having the opportunity to taste several Grüners in a row, something I have never had the chance to do, let alone with several Finger Lakes wineries in the mix. My limited palate knowledge on this grape is that it’s white, fruity, and light, often peppery, and is usually made in a dry style very complimentary to delicate foods. I had no idea how different the wines produced in the Finger Lakes would be, especially from each other.
The 2013 Grüner from Hazlitt was soft, had a light acidity, peachy and a bit of time on the lees. Very different, the 2014 Grüner from Anthony Road was tart, dry, and had a balanced structure with lemons and tropical fruits. Dr. Konstantin Frank Grüner 2014 came with the 2015 Jefferson Cup that they had recently been awarded–with good reason. This beautiful Grüner has a peachy nose, beautiful, bright acidity, and a dry but lasting finish of subtle honey and light spice.
Lamoreaux Landing 2013 Grüner is very light and dry white, food friendly, with hints of white pepper. Bloomer Creek 2013 Auten Vineyard was a HUGE surprise after the others, with a yellow gold color, crazy and long lasting finish of honey, right from the comb. The honey finish had me grabbing my tasting friends, and forcing them return to it by holding my glass under their nose….sometimes, I get excited over a sampling, and decorum goes out the window. No apologies!
Over to red! A few of my favorite FLX wineries brought their Lembergers, which was exciting since I am such a red wine lover. I definitely had more knowledge on this side of the room on what to expect going in. Herman J. Wiemer 2013 Lemberger – cherry nose, dark red fruit, currant, bright acidity, light and rounded tannins. Lip smacking, tart finish. Fox Run Vineyards 2013 Lemberger had a bit of heat on the nose, red fruit, clove spice, nicely balanced, and very quaffable indeed. Red Tail Ridge 2013 Blaufränkisch was a bit more oaky tannin focused, with higher acidity, and leaner structure.
Damiani Wine Cellars 2014 was also lean, with baland dark fruit, oak, and a still crunchy acidity. To round out the tasting, I also tried Glatzer Blaufränkisch 2014 from Austria–chewy, tannic red, much lower acidity and jammy ripe red fruits. Not crazy about Schatz 2006 Acinopo Lemberger Ronda, Spain–a bit higher RS, licorice, smokey oak and finish. Very different than others, and not my favorite by a long shot.
All in all, a fantastic way to spend a Sunday afternoon in the Finger Lakes. I took away quite a bit of information about two grapes that I was relatively unfamiliar with, and tasted several different styles of wines made with them. For me, the best part was meeting the winemakers and having them answer questions about their wines, process, and craft — along with the commeraderie of the afternoon! Get out of your comfort zone, say yes to trying new wines, and you’ll be genuinely surprised at what you find you might love.