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…
The Roc City Tattoo Expo is Upstate NY’s only high end tattoo convention, drawing an impressive roster of international artists each year to our beautiful area.
2016 saw the 8th annual Roc City Expo in a different venue, the addition of more local artists and vendors, and a focus on artwork as opposed to entertainment and contests.
The Hand of Fate has attended every one of these eight years of shows, starting with the first event right after we had opened our business, and relocated to the Finger Lakes. Jet and his crew at Love Hate Tattoo have always focused on bringing the best artists in tattooing, to an area that is often overlooked for larger markets and cities.
Rochester is a fantastic town, larger scale than Ithaca, with an artsy, young, downtown crowd and a flourishing dining and entertainment scene. Due to local Finger Lakes wine trails, breweries, and distilleries being less than an hour away, the locavore movement is strong here, and local vintners and brewers are represented along side menu items, sourced from area farms.
Iron Smoke Whiskey, a small batch distillery located close to home in Fairport, NY, saw the opportunity to join in on the Roc City Expo fun! FINALLY, a local booze producer that saw the potential marketing frenzy that a tattoo convention crowd offers: exposure to an absolute rainbow selection of adults, from all walks of life, that enjoy quality luxuries. A whiskey tasting at a tattoo convention? YES. SO MUCH YES.
Let me say, the whiskey tasting was VERY well received, pouring staff were knowledgeable and answering questions, and I’m sure three days of sales reflected that!
Iron Smoke also seem to have a growing distribution to bars and restaurants in the Upstate area, so make sure to keep your eyes open, or request it by name at your favorite watering hole. Iron Smoke Distillery is run by a contact that goes by the name of Skully, and their labeling and merchandise feature a distinguished skeleton, in a suit, smoking a pipe. Very well suited to a tattoo crowd, to say the least. Lots of teeshirts went out the door with that whiskey….
Back to the actual whiskey tasting and my own impressions. Iron Smoke brought two products with them- Iron Smoke small batch Apple Wood Smoked Whiskey, and their Rattlesnake Rosie’s Apple Pie Whiskey. Both were surprising, and I was shocked that as a local booze hound I had never had the pleasure! Jet and the Roc City crew must have known I was coming, and planned the whiskey accordingly. 🙂
Iron Smoke Apple Wood Smoked Whiskey: small batch, locally sourced grain is mashed and smoked with an apple wood smoking process, before distillation and aging for years in charred, American white oak barrels. With a hint of sweetness on the nose, this smooth amber colored whiskey has a light, smoky, vanilla and apple flavor with a nicely rounded, deep oak finish. Lovely small batch spirit.
Rattlesnake Rosie’s Apple Pie Whiskey: Forbidden Apple Pie recipe of small batch house distilled corn whiskey, blended with all natural upstate NY apple cider, brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Slightly sweet, with the tang of fresh apple cider and a bite of corn whiskey, this potion is delicious on its own, or as a mixer for some beautiful cocktails. Slightly sweet, bright, and luscious long finish. According to their Iron Smoke website, Apple Pie was the winner in the San Fransisco World Spirits Competition–for those of you that follow the medals and events scene!
Once again, huge thank you’s go out to Jet and the entire Love Hate Tattoo Rochester crew for all of the hard work and hoop jumping it takes to have such a great show turnout in this area! Hand of Fate has enjoyed the journey since the beginning, and there is always something surprising to enjoy, along with world class tattooing and artwork. This year, BoozyLife felt especially loved! Want to buy your own bottles of Iron Smoke Whiskey? Check out their website here : Iron Smoke Whiskey website –there are awesome cocktail recipes for your newly aquired local whiskey!
It’s rosé release season in the Finger Lakes! You would never know that from our spring weather, as we currently have very unseasonably frigid temperatures and five inches of snow on the ground for this first week of April. Despite the cold, spring has sprung, and the dry rosé events are kicking off all around the lakes in earnest. Finally!
Full disclosure–I love dry rosé. Last year, my husband and I attended an exclusive tattoo event in the heart of Aix-en-Provence, an area that lives for rosé, in France. By the time we left that summer for our trip, I had developed a love for several local Finger Lakes rosés as well. It took the Finger Lakes wineries a little while to catch on to the dry rosé craze, but once local winemakers realized the demand–they were off and running the bottling lines!
In just a year’s time, rosé release season in early spring has become a flurry of events and tastings in our area. This last weekend, the first Saturday in April, I attended a lovely seated blind tasting at Sheldrake Point Winery. Six of the new favorite FLX 2016 dry rosés were chosen and arranged from driest to sweetest (although all quite dry, happily), and all FLX lake wine trails were represented.
Sheldrake owner Chuck Tauk, head winemaker Dave Breeden, and assistant winemaker Julia Hoyle led us in the tasting. The wines were paired with a light, springy food plate to help enhance and distinguish the flavor differences in each glass.
Asparagus, fresh greens with strawberries, cheddar bacon scones, and a rosé peppercorn goat cheese from Lively Run Goat Dairy in Interlaken were served, not knowing which we wines were trying until the end! ANY ONE of these rosés were gorgeous, food friendly, and stunningly different. We all certainly had our favorites, but truly, the hard eliminations and decisions had already been made for us. It was a delightful representation of FLX rosés–and so, without further ado–the rosés we tasted, and my tasting impressions, from L-R…
1- McGregor Vineyard-100% Cabernet Franc–light acidity, pale salmon blush color, rose (flower) on the finish, 12.1% Alc., cold soak of 24 hours on skins
3-Red Newt Cellars for Kelby James Russell Wines-100% Cabernet Franc–beautiful deep color, definitely more heft and sharper tart, crispness with a light delicate pepper and floral flavor. A lot going on in this one, 11.8%Alc, cold soak on skins FOR 72 HOURS(!!) the longest time in this tasting
4-Damiani Wine Cellars-100% Pinot Noir–deep pinky berry blush color, fruity cherry, strawberry, light fruitiness, and very balanced despite the highest alcohol content, super food friendly, 13.3% Alc, cold soak on skins 14 hours
5-Sheldrake Point Winery-100% Cabernet Franc–very pale salmon color, well rounded flavors of berries and floral notes, nice light bite and very clean finish, 12.5% Alc., cold soak on skins 12-18 hours
6-Atwater Estate Vineyards-81% Cabernet Franc, 19%Pinot Noir–lightest salmon color, slightly higher sugar to balance alcohol and tart acidity, 12.5% Alc., cold soak on skins 4 hours
A big thank you to the entire crew at Sheldrake for putting on one of the most informative and enjoyable tastings I’ve attended so far–and to my tasting partner in crime Melissa B, for
stepping out of the comfort zone and agreeing to come with this blogger for the afternoon of rosé!
Start your own comparison tastings, and let me know which new releases are your favorites! Keep checking back, I’ll be covering as many Finger Lakes Rosés as we can…looking forward to the Rose Soiree in Geneva, June 4th!
Lefty and I are in PR for about a week, while he does an artist guest spot at Senzala Tattoo in Old San Juan! Many talented tattoo artists travel extensively, working out of shops around the world.
Lefty has international clients, and when we met years ago, he was spending a lot of time on the island of Puerto Rico–enough to have a client base and following here. Still does!
It’s been roughly seven years since he’s been here (owning a shop will unintentionally tie you down for a bit), but I definitely foresee trips becoming more frequent. I love seeing the pirate Lefty in his native environment! This is my first time, so I’m getting the full tour from the entire gang of characters here–gracious group of artists, every one.
I have a few boozy excursions planned, not to mention incredible foods, rainforests, and a bioluminescent bay to visit…stay tuned…
Follow along on my BoozyLife FaceBook page, on Twitter as @boozylife or on Instagram @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
I’ve been off the grid! Gentle readers, sometimes business takes it all out of you for a bit, and quite frankly being business owners was rough for a patch. I’m happy to report things are currently fantastic at our tattoo shop, and I’ve been able to once again turn my attentions towards the fields and this year’s harvest bounty.
It’s finally October first, which means lots of the grapes have already been harvested and pressed around the Finger Lakes, and one of the busiest times of year is here! Tasting rooms will be extremely lively on beautiful fall weekends, so if you’re visiting, be civil and expect crowds of other tasters. The good news is, the views are heading towards incredible – enjoy, and don’t be in a rush. The Finger Lakes are all about taking a breath and enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Pick some apples, peep the fall leaves, hike a waterfall, taste some locally made wines, ciders, beers, spirits…chocolates….cheese…
Harvest 2015 is in full swing, with lots of grape picking, pressing, and cellar happenings currently in the works, area wide. My Instagram feed is currently full of grapes being pressed, yeasts going in and fermentation starting, and lots of rain gear the last twenty four hours! It’s been dry and warm the last two weeks, so many growers got their grapes in before rains started in earnest. Our local weather called for over three inches of rain into today, with more over the weekend. Hopefully it dries out so that everyone gets their remaining crops in!
It’s also fun to see the apple farmers harvesting for their upcoming vintages of hard ciders. The movement is growing nationwide, and the Finger Lakes area is at the center of high quality, heirloom farmed fruits, classically made, dry to off-dry, sometimes fermented in bottle, hard apple and pear ciders. This coming weekend (October 3rd and 4th) is the Apple Festival in Ithaca, with FLX Cider Week also kicking off. I’ll be attending some local happenings on that front, so stay tuned! October is going to be fun, and fall is the best time of year to be in this area, in my humble BoozyWife opinion…that’s why we tend to stay local until the snow flies again….
After a long week of jumping through hoops as a tattoo wife and shop owner, it was a pleasure to attend the Wine Boggers Conference 2015 in the Finger Lakes area of NY, or as I like to call it, ‘home.’
Over two hundred and fifty wine writers and bloggers would be participating in a three-day weekend (plus some pre and post excursions!) of wine tasting, exploration, seminars, and networking. I’m an old pro at the tattoo convention scene— but a wine blogger convention? What was that going to be like? I had a few notions, but seeing that it was to be held in our backyard of viticulture in the Finger Lakes area, I couldn’t miss it! This area is exciting, vibrant, and on the cusp of great things…I wanted to see what the OTHER bloggers thought, as a way to see our area (and my ‘hood) through fresh eyes.
All three days were pretty heavily scheduled with events, some as writing workshops, mentoring, and pro panels, excursions to several different wineries and events, and LOTS of wine tasting.
Keynote presenter Karen MacNeil, wine goddess and author of The Wine Bible, was as inspirational as she was fierce. HERE is a woman to idolize, ladies….strong, professional, and absolutely taking no shit from anyone. Honestly, if that was all the conference had for me…Karen’s words would have been enough. She’ll get a post all of her own, because Karen is an incredible spirit– that the women in the wine industry MUST recognize — as a door opener and trail blazer. She may be in Napa now, but she has the heart and fire of a New Yorker. One of my favorite quotes that she dropped on women in the industry during the weekend was, in relation to sexism in the wine industry: “the barrier has never been sex, it is mediocrity. The door is open, walk through it.” ABSOLUTELY!
Tastings were a huge part of the event, and I counted over seventy-three wine tasting notes over two days that I took–not too shabby! LOTS of spitting, kids….don’t try to be a hero. You will fail and quite possibly make an ass of yourself.
The tastings ranged from the normal table and pour, to a “speed dating” version of a tasting (wine makers came to your table with their bottle, gave some wine notes, and had five minutes with you, then it was off to the next table!), to a mystery bus excursion….get on the bus, go to a secret location, have an AMAZING TIME, return later to hash out where we all ended up!
BoozyLife ended up on the bus headed to Element Winery in Arkport, vision of the incredibly talented and hard-working Master Somm Christopher Bates-whose dinner and wines will get their own post as well, because I saw things happening there that DEFINE what the Finger Lakes can and will be to the wine industry, in the near future and beyond.
In short, the weekend was exactly what I was hoping it would be, and it opened my eyes to magic happening right under my nose! BoozyLife can’t wait to share some of the wine makers and their creations with you all, because the Finger Lakes are where it’s all happening right now in New York State.
Now, just let me sort out all of these tasting notes…
The Finger Lakes area is a special place, and a majority of that feeling comes from the people that live and work here, love the land and enjoy sharing their creations and joys. Artists come in many shapes and styles, from winemakers to painters and potters, and are often on hand to share their creations. Due to a love of sharing hand crafted beverages and information, local artisans often take time out of the creation of product to meet and pour for their public.
There is a movement towards farming, the ‘old ways’ of doing things, hand crafted goods, and knowing where things were grown and sourced. Heirloom fruit trees are the base for incredible ciders, and we were lucky enough to attend Cider Maker’s Afternoon with Eve’s Cidery at Finger Lakes Cider House. The beautiful new tasting room area (located near Ithaca in Interlaken) is located at Good Life Farm and is definitely worth checking out if you have the chance. Orchard ciders, along with a gorgeous view (and yummy food pairings) made for a beautiful excursion up the lake on a Sunday afternoon. Awesome cider craftswoman extraordinaire Autumn, of Eve’s Cidery (checkout their website for notes and purchases–they ship!) took a day away from the orchard and tanks to pour a selection of their still, sparkling, and ice ciders. Served with each step of the flight was a special local tasting spread–check out the ciders and pairings we tried! The menu really illustrated the food friendliness and drinkability of dry, champagne style ciders…
Eve’s Cidery Tasting Menu w. Pairings
Summer Blend. Still and Dry. Lemon-lime nose. The mid-palette is airy, tart and juicy, Kumquat, bitter orange peel and chalk. (7.5% ABV, <1% RS) Paired w. Smokey Baba Ganouj, housemade
Scatterseed. Estate grown. Dry. Champagne Style. ML fermentation vintage ’12 blended with ‘13 and bottled with a tirage. Dry, chewy, sparkling cider with aromatic layers of rich earth and ripe fruit. (8.1% ABV, 0.06% RS) Paired w. Peach Salsa, housemade
Darling Creek. Estate grown. Semi-dry. Champagne style. A blend of English and French bittersweets and bittersharps, fruity American cider apples and seedling varieties. The aroma is a play between sweet- honeysuckle, apple blossom and red apple; herbal gin, licorice, and allspice; and green tomato and sapling. The mouthfeel is big and thick with a soft but dry, velvety texture. The finish is full and balanced with lingering notes of sweet sour apricot. (8% ABV, 1.5% RS) Paired w. Rye Bread w. Butter, Wide Awake Bakery, Kriemhild Dairy
Essence. Estate grown. Ice Cider. Aromas of caramel, baked apple, and all spice. A heavy bodied and viscous mouth feel are balanced by a succulent acidity. Sugar and acid find equilibrium in the finish. (10 % ABV, 15.5% RS) Paired w. Ginger Ice Cream, Good Life Farm and housemade.
The Summer Blend was a delicious thirst quencher, aptly named for afternoons at the lake or on the deck. The acidity cut through the richness of the baba ganoush and added to the tanginess. Tough pairing, eggplant can be, but it was quite lovely and bright. I went home with a bottle of the Champagne style Scatterseed, a very dry and velvety sparkling cider with full tannins and a long finish.
Eve’s Ciders are served in NYC at Wassail on Orchard St. as well as scattered retailers in the know at the moment. Check out the website for a full list of shops that carry Eve’s in NYC as well as in the Finger Lakes! You’ll be glad you did, they truly are creating something special with every bottle. Eve’s Cidery Website
Check it out! I posted a link to an article on newyorkupstate.com: 5 Best Finger Lakes Wineries to Visit on Seneca Lake. On a personal note, I’m behind the bar pouring at the Lamoreaux Landing tasting room a couple of days a week–the view is not to be missed, and the wines are all of a high quality that I enjoy being a part of! Enjoy the read and start planning your next trip to the Finger Lakes 😊
I made a special trip up Seneca Lake (after a visit to the first outdoor Ithaca Farmer’s Market of the year) specifically to taste Atwater Estate Vineyards 2014 Rosé of Merlot. I had a haul of root veggies and sunchokes (also called Jerusalem Artichokes, they are the tuber roots of a type of sunflower. Taste just like artichokes, roast or use just like you would potatoes), and was finally starting to readjust to real life and post Europe jet lag and exhaustion. My husband was home, in between a month long tour and going back to work at our home tattoo shop The Hand of Fate Tattoo Parlor, and I felt like making a nice meal and having a lovely bottle of vino to go with the return to our local reality. Pork loin, veggies, and a bottle of rosé…and I already had one in mind. The joy of living in the Finger Lakes! Hop in the car for a quick trip to one of the hundreds of local wineries…
I love the Merlot grape, I always have, and the more styles I try, the more hooked I am. Atwater’s 2014 release of the Rosé of Merlot has taken Double Gold at the 2015 Rosé Competiton at Simi Winery in California, which is a nod for the Finger Lakes area as well! According to the tasting notes: “The first vintage from our young Merlot block, planted in 2011 on the south farm, just above the water’s edge. Hand picked and cold soaked on the skins for two hours before pressing off. Limited to 38 CASES.” I heard from the tasting room that this very first harvest of merlot was almost blended into another wine, and that the rosé was a very happy accident, and incredibly limited in production to thirty-eight cases (twelve bottles per case, people. That’s it!) While I tasted the Rosè of Cabernet Franc (which I enjoyed the very delicate acidity and fruitiness) and their Pinot Bubble (which was fun with strawberry and raspberry notes and slightly sparkling), I left with a bottle of the Rosé of Merlot, even though it wasn’t available at the tasting bar. Limited release doesn’t always afford for pre-tasting! So glad I grabbed one, will be back soon for more. Very soon, considering it’s such a limited bottling! Sometimes the best wines come in th smallest batches, especially in the Finger Lakes. Winemakers here often take risks that would only happen in an up-and-coming area like this, which is still a bit on the wild side….which is more than fine with me. This merlot rosé might just be one of my new favorites!
A very simple oven roasted pork loin over fresh root veggies (and lots of garlic) was a great meal with the rosé. The Merlot was a drier rosé wine than others I had tasted at Atwater, but the light cherry/red fruit flavors and bright acidity was balanced and very complimentary with our meal. It showed very nicely with both the pork and roasted veggies-even the sunchokes! I’m glad I gave it a shot, the best experiments often happen at home around here. Perfect springtime coral pink color against a blue sky, this is a bottle of wine to grab if you have the very limited chance! (BTW Right after I went and tasted, the crew at Atwater refinished the tasting room original wood floor. I’m sure it looks spectacular-make sure to look down next time you’re there!)