Well, that’s pretty much it! Harvest 2016, for the Finger Lakes wine area of upstate NY, is in the bag. Winemakers are busy in the cellars, but the backbreaking labor of bringing in the fruit is over.
The drought of summer 2016, along with hot late summer temperatures, created a harvest situation different than in years past. Usually, whites ripen first, and there is a window of staggered time to pick the grapes. This year, almost every variety was ready to pick at once, creating a push for helping hands–as well as a more aggressive grape seller’s market. Winemakers that buy grapes had to make fast decisions or be priced out to the next highest bidder. ‘Time crunch’ was the big term of this year’s harvest.
I had the opportunity once again to get my hands dirty and hand pick for a few different, local, smaller FLX grape growers. First-hand knowledge of grapes and fields make for a more educated taster and pourer of wines, so I take the chance where and when I can.
I exclusively hand picked on Seneca Lake this year-Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc. As always, I learned so much from the people I worked with, the experience alone was worth the labor put in. Long hours, little pay (mostly), but you really get out of it what you put into it, and the access you get to the winemakers will absolutely change how you think about making (and drinking!) wine.
Look for 2016 vintage FLX reds as well to be exceptional–the extensive drought and heat really created an intense, smaller crop of beautiful fruit. I’ll be back in NY from California next year to try some of the Rieslings, Cabernet Francs, and Gewurtztraminers, that I helped pick, for sure…
Living in the Finger Lakes, I have the advantage of being close to the action. I’ve been around enough crews of our local FLX winemakers to understand what drives so many of them to work the crazy hours, blast through times of backbreaking labor, and essentially do whatever they have to do. Passion, and maybe a little bit of good crazy, seem to be common threads.
Winemakers and tattoo artists are similar animals; they are artists working with a living palette, creatives, and once they have mastered the foundation rules, they might just knowingly and happily bend them. Sometimes, that’s when fun things happen, and I get involved whenever and wherever I can!
Barry Family Cellars is a family affair, with winemakers (and brothers) Ian and Brian establishing as one of the first micro-wineries in New York State, according to their BFC website. The focus is on minimally invasive, small batch wines, sometimes unfiltered and unrefined-which are turning out to be some of my favorite styles!
While creeping the interwebs today, I saw that Ian was in the process of bottling what he was calling ‘weird wine’-a SPARKLING, light cherry colored Cabernet Franc blend! I was running around Ithaca getting husband ready for a tattoo trip, and happily Ian and his assistant kiddo Declan were also in our neck of the woods! They were nice enough to swing by Hand of Fate with a bottle of the goods for me to try out. WHOOP!!
A Sparkling Cabernet blend is what happens when two winemaker brothers are sitting, tasting their goods…and one says he’s “not sure what to do with it” (Ian talking about this lighter, almost fruity Cab Franc they had) and in response, (Brian) “This might sound crazy, but….sparkling?” And there we have it!
So, my preview bottle! Dry, tart, yet fruity for a Cabernet Franc-lighter, pretty cherry red color and of course, bubbles. Lots of cherry, pomegranate, strawberry-think jammy, but not weighty or heavy. I put a light chill on the bottle, and we had a very quaffable, different, fun and enjoyable style of red! Husband mused it almost reminded him of a dry hard cider from the long finish.
It would be a fantastic warm weather (think picnic) wine, easily pairing with pizza, appetizers, especially delicious with chocolate. Elegant but unassuming. When you want something with a little more ‘oomph’ and heft than a rosé, this would do the tric nicely!
I believe Ian said BFC will be releasing this bad boy in May, so keep checking their website link above for updates…small batch wineries are a jewel of the Finger Lakes, but you can’t sleep on it when new releases appear! Those in the know, know…and good wine in small batches sells fast.
Thank you for meeting up, Ian! The wine, and the visit, were a pleasure as always…stop by the tattoo shop, anytime. 🙂
Occasionally, worlds collide in the smallest, yet most impactful of ways. The lives of incredibly tiny, but unquestionably strong individuals, and the actions that they cause, can touch so many.
I recently had the opportunity to get a preview tasting at Damiani Wine Cellars for a very special limited release Riesling – totaling only 192 cases. The wine is made from Riesling grapes from a single field, that survived difficult conditions, but produced something incredible. A hail storm damaged much of the crop, but what was left hanging had truly unique character.
From Damiani notes– SPECIAL NOTE: In late July of 2014 our DWC Riesling vineyard was struck by hail, badly bruising more than half of the fruit, but we were determined to do our best to save the damaged grapes. After fermentation with native yeasts, we found that not only did the fruit survive a seemingly catastrophic event, but the juice thrived and became something truly different and unique. In deference to this miraculous transformation and as a heart-felt thank you to the countless medical professionals who had a hand in the healing of our winemaker’s young son Rhys, who was born with a congenital heart defect, a portion of the proceeds from each bottle sold will be donated to help fund children’s cardiac research.
The wine truly is something special, with such elegant floral and peachy notes that sing through, and a beautiful golden color. I was very impressed with the delicate structure, as well as the sentiment. It was the perfect Finger Lakes wine to share with another very special part of our extended tattoo family in Canada, that also had a pediatric cardiology journey of their own!
Lucas and Jayme Ford are an incredibly visually talented couple, he a tattoo artist/ machine builder and she a photographer in Red Deer, Alberta Canada. They are the owners of Classic Tattoo Co. and also the proud parents of beautiful boys. Recently, their little guy Hudson went through his own cardiac journey…and the folks around him rallied, came together, and created the Hudson Heart Project. Classic Tattoo Red Deer –Hudson Heart Project blog post excerpt from mama Jayme’s 2015 event, that raised over $30k–
Hudson is a very special little boy and he would not be here had it been for the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation. I stood back a few times during the event and was completely overwhelmed by how much everyone put into this…how much time the volunteers put in to set up, how far some of them drove (up to 4 hours one way), the incredible tattooers that drove long distances and donated their talent & 15 hours their time (one of whom had just got back from France, slept and then drove up from Calgary to help), the volunteers that took time out of their weekend, the local businesses that donated food, coffee, snacks, hair cuts, etc….just completely overwhelmed with love. Haylen’s Ice-Cream Shop raised over $250 selling $2 popsicles for the Ronald Mcdonald House here in town, bringing his total to $1255!and last but absolutely not least….YOU. All 180 of you that got tattooed & the ones that simply donated out of the kindness of your hearts. To everyone that got up early, drove hours, waited in line patiently, you ALL are just so incredible, the vibe at the shop was so happy and every one was there for the right reasons. There was not one complaint.So again, I want to express my gratitude to everyone involved. We did it…..$30,459!!!!!!- Jayme Ford and the CTC CREW
These two little boys have brought so much love, fight and support to this world! Rhys and Hudson are responsible for helping many other children and parents, in two different countries, on separate coastlines–and will continue to bring hope to others on the same road. I absolutely had to grab a couple of bottles of Dry Rhysling from Damiani…which are now on their way to Red Deer, and the Ford crew! Perfect way to connect my love of the Finger Lakes wine community, and our international tattoo family….they have more in common than I ever could have realized.
Frigid February is here, and the Finger Lakes have you covered for celebrating romance (and everything else) with bubbles! Champagne can only be truly CALLED Champagne unless it’s made from certain grapes, and produced in a regulated area in the region of Champagne, France. Anything made here in the US will be called sparkling wine–however, the methods in which the bubbles are created are sometimes different.
A bottle of Finger Lakes or local bubbly might be marked with Méthode Champenoise, which translates to the traditional Champagne Method of hand turning bottles while aging (called riddling), aging the wine in the bottle on the lees (left over or dead yeasts), or the traditional, natural way to create the bubbles! In regular, or ‘still’ winemaking, carbon dioxide escapes when fermentation occurs. In traditional champagne making, they add a little and sugar to the yeast fermentation is in the bottle, trapping the bubbles–that’s where the ‘POP’ comes from when you pop the bottle! On the other hand, cheaper or non-traditionally created sparkling wines are often simply injected with a little bit of carbon dioxide gas, similar to a bottle of Coca-Cola soda…not quite as fancy a process.
While we can’t call sparkling wine Champagne locally, the Finger Lakes are producing some fantastic bubbles for all of your celebrations, romantic or otherwise. I stopped into our local liquor store in Ithaca, Triphammer Wines and Spirits, to see what they had on hand from Finger Lakes producers. You should be able to find several of these in the NY State area, including Manhattan wine stores in the know–have a look!
Chateau Frank– Bubbly house producers from Dr. Konstantin Frank on Keuka Lake. They make a couple of different styles of bubbles–easiest to find will probably be their Blanc de Blanc (made all of Chardonnay grapes) or Brut (means dry or raw in French). Both are lighter, crisp flavors, quite dry. The Célébre from Chateau Franc is a sparkling Riesling that’s a fun change from the usual! Price points go from mid $20’s with the Riesling just under $20 retail.
Herman J. Wiemer– Cuvée Brut 2011– the cuvée is a French term for the tank, and often refers to the best juice from a grape pressing. Brut is on the dryer side, and this is a beautiful representation of a traditionally crafted Finger Lakes sparkling wine in a very traditional style. Retails for @$30 per bottle.
Red Tail Ridge Estate Bubbles– Blanc de Noir and Sparkling Rosé –Blanc de Noir means essentially “white from black” in French, and is usually a white sparkling wine, made from RED Pinot Noir grapes. No skin contact keeps the wine clear, or not colored. A sparkling rosé can be made from several different red grapes, usually Pinot Noir or Cabernet Franc. This one is drier, with a lovely fruity, strawberry nose and blush color. Retail @ $35 per bottle.
Sweedish Hill 2006 Brut, Blanc de Blanc, Riesling Cuvée– winery on the north end of Cayuga Lake. Dry traditional Brut, and a very popular semi-sweet sparkling Riesling. Retails From $25 to under $20 for the sweeter sparklers.
Glenora Winery–vintage and Non-vintage Brut produced on Seneca Lake. Non-Vintage is a great value retails around $18 per bottle or less! Also produces a sweeter fruit (peach and raspberry) sparkling Spumante for a fun spritzer.
Lamoreaux Landing Blanc de Blanc and Brut–dry, traditionally produced champagne style bubbly, lovely delicate bubbles. Estate grown and bottled. Priced at mid $30 range retail.
Hazlitt White Cat Fizz–sweet, fruity, sparkling style white wine. Not champagne, but very popular and well distributed! Picnic wine.
It’s getting easier to find Finger Lakes sparklers for every occasion! Have fun looking for your next taste, and shoot me a comment with your favorites–the Finger Lakes is a beautiful place to Taste NY ❤️ Enjoy your Valentines Day!
NY hard Apple ciders are finally getting the recognition they so deserve, and once again the Finger Lakes area is a leader the trend towards producing dry, heirloom sparkling (and still or no bubble) hard ciders. Autumn Stoscheck, of Eve’s Cidery here in the Finger Lakes, was recently featured as a NY Tastemaker for her incredible, hand made adult ciders! Check out her question and answer with Lenn Thompson of New York Cork Report here: http://newyorkcorkreport.com/blog/2016/02/02/new-york-tastemaker-autumn-stoscheck-eves-cidery/
Last year, I was lucky enough to attend a tasting with Autumn and partake in some of her incredible ciders! You can read up on my visit to the Finger Lakes Cider House and tasting with Autumn here: http://boozylife.com/2015/0809/cider-makers-afternoon-with-autumn-of-eves-cidery-finger-lakes-cider-house/
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.
Happy New Year, dear wine and tattoo aficionados! 2016 is starting off with a MUCH MORE local (for me) focus. My husband and I live and have a business in Ithaca, NY, home to Cornell University, Ithaca College, and centrally located in the heart of the Fingerlakes wine region. We did a LOT of international travel last year, and I ran into quite a bit of excitement and interest about our little nook of Upstate NY.
We live in the land of Finger Lakes bounty; this January I’ve decided to refocus and explore more wineries, vineyards, winemakers, distillers, and cider producers in the Finger Lakes area. Winter is a fantastic time to hit the trails and do some tasting, as long as the weather is cooperative– lots of one on one time at tasting bars, minimal crowds, and a beautiful change in the summer landscape. Wine trail events are plentiful, as winemakers get out of the cellars and enjoy time with their fans (yes, fans…winemakers are like rock stars to some of us).
Tomorrow, we’re headed up to Dano’s Heuriger on Seneca for a first of its kind in the FLX tasting! Austrian grape varietals grow quite well in our area, and some of our best winemakers are producing wines from them. Two of these grapes will be highlighted–Grüner Veltliner (white grape), and Blaufränkisch (red grape, also called Lemberger…which seems a less terrifying spelling, due to the lack of umlauts…). Check out the event breakdown flier–I’ll be live tweeting and spamming social media along the way, before the full wrap up post here! You can follow along on Twitter at @boozylife, on my FB BoozyLife page, or on Instagram as @missusmolina…..
This summer, I was a part of the Wine Blogger Conference –this year located in the Finger Lakes region, or my back yard. I felt like I needed to go because it was so close to home…however, I unexpectedly ran into some incredible local winemakers that were doing things their own way. I made a point of it to explore this back yard of mine in earnest! Arkport, NY just kept coming up, over and over. There are incredibly interesting things happening off the lakes, about an hour away from Corning, NY. I took the ride, and it was totally worth it.
The French were the first to use the term ‘Gagariste’ in terms of winemaking–these were the mavericks, making wines off the grid and outside of a very regulated system. Although they were not in the system, the French had to agree that the small batch, artisanal products coming from these tiny producers were interesting, and sometimes ground breaking. Justin Recktenwald and his startup, Wild Brute Winery in Arkport, NY, fit the definition of garagiste winemaking perfectly–right here in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate NY. Justin has the pedigree -Graduated Cornell Viticulture program, worked and learned under Dr. Constantine Frank sparkling masters, and has travelled extensively to learn, and apply the knowledge at home.
Wild Brute Winery (follow the link for their website) is a family affair. Justin Recktenwald is the owner and winemaker, along with a crew of many-fiancé Kyleigh, mom Wendy, dad Mark, and brother Cody all have a hand in the production process. This family knows farming, and Arkport, and Justin’s knowledge and winemaking skill has turned family farm property into a wine bar and production facility. Currently, aside from publicized weekend events and music shows, the Arkport tasting room is by appointment (although during the nicer weather there is an outside open tasting bar.)
I was invited up to do a tasting, and I really can’t say enough about the feeling I left with. I brought my husband, and we were met by Justin, his family, and a beautiful spread of artisanal chocolate bonbons from Angelica’s Sweet Shop-about fifteen minutes away! I was already a fan of Wild Brute’s 2013 Unfiltered Cabernet Franc…but this time, we got to sample the entire lot…and it was quite a showing of what’s happening beyond the wine trails on the lake shores!
*Wild Brute 2014 Chardonnay–Bright acidity and a balanced oak finish, vanilla, caramel, green apple, smooth mouthfeel. Grab it if you see it!
*Wild Brute 2013 Unfiltered Cabernet Franc–Dark plum color, red fruit, figs, warm oak, light warm acidity. One of my favorite Cabs in the FLX…seriously. It’s special because it’s so different from anything else.
*Wild Brute 2013 Unfiltered Single Barrel Reserve–Super Limited, dark jammy red fruit, a bit younger bite of acidity. Gorgeous dark plum color, lasting finish. Oak adds a warm rounded depth without overpowering the fruit.
*Wild Brute 2013 Off-Dry Riesling–Bright nose, floral, pear, peach, honey, green apple. Light acidity is balanced with hint of sweetness and a lasting honey finish
*Barrel tastings of WB Hard Apple Cider (YUM), wild ferment, heirloom apples.
If you see a bottle of Wild Brute, grab it. If you’re headed through Horse Heads/Corning and want a bottle, they have a limited stock in the general area. This coming spring, I forsee LOTS of events starting up through the he summer at the Wild Brute wine bar–here’s their FaceBook Wild Brute Business Page–Wild Brute Winery on FaceBook–go give them a Like, and know what events are coming up…music, wine, and local flavor, Finger Lakes style…off the lakes! Make an afternoon drive that you won’t regret! #goingrogue
FLX Wine Region-Beyond ‘Crappy’ Hybrids by L.M. Archer
A few weeks ago, I attended WBC15, a conference dedicated to wine writers and bloggers checking out the Finger Lakes wine region. It was incredible insight for me personally, as a Finger Lakes local, to hear what others had to say about our wine region. We are pretty isolated here in the FLX, and a group of wine writers from all over the world would only help to spread the word.
We were taken on ‘secret’ bus excursions one afternoon, and I ended up on a bus headed to Arkport, NY and Element Winery. Also on our bus was writer L.M. Archer, creator of the Red Thread, BinNotes blog, and several other wine and travel publications. She was also a LOT of fun, and we spent a lovely weekend enjoying and comparing notes, especially on Kelby Russell’s rosé. I believe a bottle was grabbed from table 15 at the dinner, but no proof remains….
Her article is a great overview of who was there, what we drank, and what she took away from the weekend in the FLX. I’m listed in her Thank You’s as a ‘partner in crime’ for the weekend, which makes me blush–it was my pleasure! Have a read, the link is embedded here~~~>FLX Wine Region — Beyond ‘Crappy’ Hybrids