Category Archives: Wine Makers

I’ve Gone Gewurz at Keuka Spring Vineyards 2014!

Wine goes here

Wine goes here

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View from the Tasting Room View from the Tasting Room

This past Saturday, I attended a very fun and interesting special tasting at Keuka Spring Winery , focused on tasting different styles of Gewürztraminer and the differences between the 2012 and 2013 growing seasons. Keuka Spring’s head wine maker August Deimel and assistant winemaker Meg Tipton led the tasting, which was intimate and outside, away from the tasting room in a tent overlooking Keuka Lake. This winemaking team is also holds the coveted Govenor’s Cup Award for the BEST WINE in New York State with their 2012 Riesling! Not too shabby.

Medals, medals, everywhere....

Medals, medals, everywhere….

I met August and his lovely wife Sara through the Finger Lakes wine industry a few years ago, and am proud to say his talent has not gone unnoticed in our area and beyond! August called our Going Gewurz session “…everything you wanted to know about Gewurz but we’re afraid to ask”–and our group of tasters were very inquisitive about growing, the winemaking process, and we were given a first hand look at the creation of one of the Finger Lakes most underrated, and unique wines.

August and I Go Gewurz

August and I Go Gewurz

Everyone knows about Riesling, and in the Finger Lakes area we make fantastic Riesling wines. The Gewürztraminer grape is also a cold hearty variety, and does very well in our area. It is also extremely reflective of the location in which it is grown, weather, and conditions of the season. Gewurz is still “the Wild West” according to August, and with winemakers not held to certain industry standards, wines are very different from winery to winery. The process of making Gewürztraminer differs from most white production in that the grape must is held in a cold soak of fifty degrees for around eighteen hours. The winemakers at Keuka Spring actually use dry ice to drop the grapes to temperature and maintain the temperature integrity throughout. That essentially means that the grapes need to be picked at exactly the right time, because the skins hold most of the phenols that will be leeched out and give the wine it’s character. what the hell is a phenol? According to Wiki, and this is cool–

“The phenolic content in wine refers to the phenolic compounds—natural phenol and polyphenols—in wine, which include a large group of several hundred chemical compounds that affect the taste, color and mouthfeel of wine. These compounds include phenolic acids, stilbenoids, flavonols, dihydroflavonols, anthocyanins, flavanol monomers (catechins) and flavanol polymers (proanthocyanidins). This large group of natural phenols can be broadly separated into two categories, flavonoids and non-flavonoids. Flavonoids include the anthocyanins and tannins which contribute to the color and mouthfeel of the wine.[1] The non-flavonoids include the stilbenoids such as resveratrol and phenolic acids such as benzoic, caffeic and cinnamic acids.” ….essentially, tannins and flavors that are held in the skin of the grape.

So, pick too soon, and you get underripe grapes that will release phenols that might be bitter or tannic. Too late, and you end up with rot, yeasts, and unclean grapes. Hours can make the difference between the two, and wine makers are often found in the fields babysitting their Gewurz until it’s agreed that they are ready for harvest. Once they’re harvested, it’s up to the wine makers to handle the winemaking process, from timing, to yeasts added, and all steps in between. Some vintners prefer a rustic, almost rugged style of wine; others enjoy a more refined presentation of the grape. Both are perfectly good wines, just different and whichever you prefer, you will find one you like.

Our tasting sample plate

Our tasting sample plate

We tasted the Gewürztraminer 2012 and 2013 side by side, very different growing seasons, as we’re the flavors. 2012 was a great season for growers, and the Keuka Spring 2012 Gewürztraminer won BEST Gewurz in New York State at the Food and Wine Classic. It was the vineyards earliest Gewürztraminer harvest in its history, with the grapes coming in on September 11, almost a month earlier than usual. The 2012 has a smooth, balanced acidity, apricot and lychee, a soft finish. Now, 2013 was very different for growers. It was difficult weather, colder and less ripening, and the wine is quite a bit different. There is more of a citrus, a spiciness (I even got a little bit of anise), less of the mellow flavors that we’re present in the 2012, and it even tasted a little sweeter- which was due to a higher alcohol content.

We also compared the 2012 and 2013 Pre-Emption Vineyard Gewürztraminer, which came solely from one vineyard and one harvest with no blending. There were only 150 cases each of these wines made, and the vineyard was chosen for their location, with cross breezes helping to keep the ripening grapes clean of unwanted yeasts as an added bonus. The 2012 was ripe with passion fruit, lychee, and a slight acidity that would make it delicious with a spicy Asian meal, like Thai food. Always hard to pair with takeout, but try it and you will thank me. Promise! 2013 was a bit less sweet, but more crisp with citrus notes and a slight sparkle. It was quite the tasting, because each of us had a preference, and no one was wrong!

Our last sample was labeled with ??? And here is the announcement: Keuka Springs is releasing small lots of a SERIES of EXPERIMENTAL wines, under the heading KSV RND– Keuka Springs Vineyard Research And Development. Our preview tasting was of the first oak barrel aged Gewurtztraminer in the Finger Lakes! It was very young at six months in the barrel (August equated it to a ‘screaming infant’ as to its age) and still needed to be filtered and ‘cleaned up’. As for the preview taste? Spicy, smooth, a hint of the oak, but still held fruity character, unlike many Chardonnay. So cool! Quantities of these wines will be limited to fifteen cases (15!!!), so if you’re not a local, check out the Keuka Spring Vineyard KSV Wine Club for access to special releases as well as lots of other goodies delivered right to your door!

The screaming infant of Gewurz

The screaming infant of Gewurz

Our tasting also featured a lovely tasting plate (menu posted with local farms) with local cheeses, asparagus, radishes, pork tenderloin, and even a mango chutney! The idea is that wine exists with food, and therefore trying different styles of Gewürztraminer with different foods helped really taste the wines. Food always adds a different dynamic to wines, especially depending on the flavors. Great opportunity to pair Gewurz with pork, sweet chutney, and asparagus which is often a difficult flavor to match wines to. Overall really a fun experience, even if I did eat almost all my cheese curds before the second wine was poured–it was an early lunch time, after all 🙂

Tasting Plate menu and local producers

Tasting Plate menu and local producers

A huge thank you goes out to August and Meg, along with the entire Keuka Spring Vineyard crew! It was a fantastic morning for Going Gewurz, and your winery is a beautiful location, along with an exciting spot to develop new wines. Don’t miss KSV if you’re in the Finger Lakes, these folks really focus on their product–and love what they do!

Saturday morning Gewürztraminer tasting at Keuka Spring Vineyard tomorrow!

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Very excited that tomorrow morning (11am…don’t judge me) I will be attending the ‘I’ve Gone Gewurz’ tasting at Keuka Springs Winery (follow the link to check out their website)! From their page-‘ Enjoy a tasting of our Gewürztraminers side by side, paired with an exquisite tasting plate.’ I am quite a fan of Keuka Springs wines, and on a personal note, met their talented winemaker August Deimel years ago through his lovely wife! Looking forward to seeing him tomorrow on his home turf.

As for the wine tasting….what the hell is a Gewürztraminer, you might wonder? It’s a type of grape, and Wiki is nice enough to help you with pronunciation– don’t be afraid, give it a try–
Name “Gewürztraminer” is pronounced as “guh-Verts-trah-Meen-er”. It’s a grape that is used in making white wine, and grows well in a cooler climate. More nerdy grape info from Wiki here:

Gewürztraminer is an aromatic wine grape variety, used in white wines, and performs best in cooler climates. It is sometimes referred to colloquially as Gewürz, and in French it is written Gewurztraminer (without the umlaut). Gewürztraminer is a variety with a pink to red skin colour, which makes it a “white wine grape” as opposed to the blue to black-skinned varieties commonly referred to as “red wine grapes”. The variety has high natural sugar and the wines are white and usually off-dry, with a flamboyant bouquet of lychees. Indeed, Gewürztraminer and lychees share the same aroma compounds. Dry Gewürztraminers may also have aromas of roses, passion fruit and floral notes. It is not uncommon to notice some spritz (fine bubbles on the inside of the glass).

Lychee? Passion Fruit? Now can you see why I am such a fan?!? Riesling might be king of our region, but Gewurz is a gem of a wine, and often overlooked.

Full report with live tweets tomorrow! Follow along with my Gewurz tasting on Twitter @BoozyLife 🙂

Boundary Breaks Vineyard-Outstanding Rieslings, Sunchokes, and a Locavore Celebrates the Arrival of Spring

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Saturday morning was one of my favorite anticipated days living in this area-first nice Saturday to visit Ithaca Farmers Market on the waterfront of Cayuga inlet. It was chilly down by the water, but the sun and blue sky gave enough promise for spring, so we bundled up and headed downtown.

20140421-101932.jpg Our new friend Kees Stapel, vineyard manager for Boundary Breaks Vineyard in Lodi, NY, had his table set up and was all ready to pour their vast array of Rieslings. They focus on and produce only Riesling wines, from drier styles to the sweeter, and even a silky late harvest. Check out their gorgeous website here: Boundary Breaks Vineyard Their web presence is only surpassed by the quality of the wines produced. The crew at BB take an amazing amount of pride in their vines, fruit, and creative process…and the hands on knowledge shows, along with the dedication they pour with. I went back after the tasting and grabbed the Ovid Line 2012 Riesling. It’s a semi-dry made from a blend of different Riesling grape clones, and is the only blended source wine they make. Bright apple, apricot, lychee favors, with a slight acidic complexity and sweetness make this a very food friendly, flexible wine; the acidity is well balanced and the sweetness not at all overpowering. I am an admitted dry wine drinker, but living in the Finger Lakes has helped to open my mind (and palate) to all of the hidden gems sourced from our area. I recommend checking them out, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast sure have!

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Excitingly, spring has sprung and some of our local farmers braved the chilly air to bring the first of their veggies as well. A time ago I read an article about foraging in the wild, and recalled fiddleheads and sunchokes mentioned as springtime delicacies. I’ve had the opportunity to taste (as well as bring back) fiddleheads from Nova Scotia, and we use them from the freezer stock throughout the year. Sunchokes (also called Jerusalem Artichokes) are the tuber root of a type of sunflower, and a cousin to the artichoke most of us are familiar with. WiKi sunchoke info It looks a bit like a potato or ginger root, and the skin can be peeled but is edible. Raw, the consistency was that of a sweet water chestnut. They can be roasted, added to salads raw, or cooked into a multitude of soups. I excitedly grabbed a pound of the sunchokes in various sizes (along with a bag of kale for roasted kale chips), my bottle of wine, and looked forward to a creative night in my kitchen!

Had to open the bottle of wine first, of course, but the actual dinner prep was a breeze. I treated the sunchokes like simple potatoes-washed of dirt and chopped, tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and roasted in a 375 degree oven until they were browned (about half an hour, 45 minutes). I added F. Oliver’s white truffle oil to finish the dish–I love that stuff way too much. I also roasted my kale with the same ingredients (minus the truffle oil), for about 15 minutes in the same 375 oven. Keep your eye on kale, chips become cinders quickly if you’re not paying attention!

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The results? A locally sourced, adventurous and delicious meal! Once roasted, the sunchokes had the flavor of a sweet, nutty roasted artichoke minus leaves–maybe think just the stem, with a bit more potato-y density and starch. The flavor is mild and quite delicate. The wine was a lovely accompaniment to the flavor. Now, I was made aware that some people have digestive issues with the sunchoke, and the reaction can be the same as too much dairy or fiber…(the nickname ”fartichoke” came up once I did a bit more….ummm…research). I had no major noticeable issues, but this might not be the dish to impress a first date with 🙂 On that note, get out to your local farmers market, grab a veggie you’ve never tried, and experiment–you’ll be glad you did! Enjoy locavore adventures in your area!

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Six Mile Creek Vineyard creates a locally distilled, Gold Medal Gin!

20130406-143235.jpgSix Mile Creek Vineyard is an often overlooked boutique winery & distillery, located close to downtown Ithaca on Route 79. Beautiful grounds reveal over six acres of white grapes on gently sloping fields, backed up to the Six Mile Creek Gorge. I will say, first off, that I worked at SMC for years, and it is a place close to my heart. The Spirits by Battistella line of production expanded in my time there, and I admit my (now) husband had to retrieve me after a few nights of Gin sample tests. Celler Master and all around awesome wine maker Paul King was most often the caralyst for my blind tastings, and I thoroughly enjoyed the process of highlight and elimination.

Gin by Battistella is made with finished Chardonnay wine as the distillate base. The wine is processed through a small copper pot still, creating a small yield of a very high alcohol product. The pot still method is historical, laborious, and allows for complete quality control by the distiller. A little mini-still is displayed in the tasting room below.
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This high proof base is then infused with a carefully selected recipe of ingredients, ranging from traditional juniper berries to Italian herbs and botanicals. I have had afternoons of working in the winery, with the scent of that Gin wafting up from the cellar below. It’s a clean nose, with hint of citrus, a touch of violet. I miss those afternoons….

Recently, The Fifty Best held a blind tasting of 36 International gins. Battistella was in one of the three flights, of seven gins, each round. I attached the link below so you can investigate as you would like…Six Mile Creek Gin by Battistella was awarded a Gold Medal! Congrats to our local Ithaca boutique distillery!

Gin by Battistella was reviewed by the site as having a palate of “lemongrass, citrus, orange blossom” but also “butterscotch and creamy vanilla.” The use of a finished Chardonnay creates this buttery vanilla character with citrus notes. It is a rare and elegant gin.

Does it sound like you need to try this delicious treat? It’s only sold out of the SMC tasting room, with very little distribution locally. These small batches of gin are produced in a very labor intensive and time consuming process, creating a small amount of product each run. Local distilleries are springing up all over, and even more wineries are starting to invest in running a tandem distillery. Have you tried any locally produced spirits? What are YOUR favorites?

Check out the full Gin Tasting HERE: The Fifty Best-gin