Tag Archives: grapes

#WBC15 WineBloggers Invade the Finger Lakes! A Brief Overview of #WBC2015

imageAfter 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.

Karen MacNeil and women in wine
Karen MacNeil and women in wine

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!

a few of my favorites
a few of my favorites

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!

Element Winery is taking things to a new level in the Flx
Element Winery is taking things to a new level in the Flx

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…

New York State Finger Lakes Bubbles To Ring In the New Year

Chardonnay vines in the snowAre you looking for some bubbles to bring in the new year, but, as always, you want to drink locally made NY booze? The Finger Lakes region is LOADED WITH local wineries that produce world-class sparkling wines (it’s only called Champagne when the booze is made in the Champagne province of Northern France, with certain grapes…your wine nerd moment for the day. The more you know, right?) Grape varieties vary from traditional Chardonnay to blends utilizing hybrids like Cayuga White, and styles range from dry and off dry to sweeter with crisp acidity. There is such a range of flavors, from fun and fruity to dry and slate stone–everyone can find something to drink happily.

These are some of the BoozyLife’s favorites, but there are LOTS to try now, so let me know if you loved one I didn’t mention. I’m always looking out for YOUR recommendations too! Click on the blue link for each winery–it’ll take you to their Sparkling Wines menus. You can also find MANY of these in your local wine shop. Ask around, and if they DON’T carry something you’d like, MENTION it to a manager! The Finger Lakes sections of our wine stores are growing, thanks to the interest and exposure of the area. Hey, if we’re good enough for the New York Times… 😉 Here are a few of my faves!

Dr. Frank Sparkling list. Traditional double fermentation in bottle- labor intensive process and delicate, beautiful bubbles.

Sweedish Hill Styles styles range from dry to sweeter, one of my very favorites is the Blanc de Blanc-crisp, off dry, with a light citrus and green apple nose.

Lamoreaux Landing Very traditional, standout sparkler. Only one style, and it is damn good. 2007 Blanc de Blanc still on shelves, made from 100% Chardonnay grapes-crisp acidity, mellow creamy finish.

Damiani Wine Cellars Traditional Sparkling Wine, as well as a fun Italian style Prosecco sparkler – 2012 Bollicini.

Red Tail Ridge Winery produce a few different styles of sparkling wine, including one of my faves, the Sparkling Teroldego-a sparkling red with jammy, juicy red fruit and black raspberry notes. Only 53 cases of the 2011 vintage produced, so grab it while the getting is good!

HAPPY 2015 to all of my new readers, as well as everyone that’s supported this venture along the way! I can’t wait to get this new year going, so many things in the BoozyLife works….Stay tuned!

Introducing Aromella, a wine release EXCLUSIVE to the Finger Lakes (and only ONE WINERY!!)

Ah, Cornell. We in the Finger Lakes have often heard of cold temperature tolerant grapes, created hybrids by Cornell Agriculture. Some of these hybrid grape varieties, such as the Seyval and Vignoles, have become stapes while on our wine trails. The hybrid grapes are less delicate, can withstand our growing climate, and often need less pesticides to be protected.

With that in mind, I’ve heard the Finger Lakes described as the Wild West, where anything can still happen, and the risks are taken along with gains and losses. Dave Peterson, owner of Sweedish Hill, Goose Watch, and Penguin Bay wineries, decided to take one of those risks in 2005. He planted Aromella in one of his Cayuga Lake vineyards–and it took eight years for those vines to produce fruit, plus another year in production before the wine would be released. The Aromella release is a limited two hundred cases, and can be found ONLY at Goose Watch Winery on Cayuga lake. Great reason for me to take a quick drive up the lake! I love trying things that are out of the mainstream, and what better wine to try than one that is made exclusively in one place?

Just so you, reader, know what we’re dealing with, Aromella is a white hybrid grape, and parents are also hybrids-Traminette (of Gewurtztraminer lineage), and Ravat 34. It is similar to a Moscato, but less sweet and as more grapefruit and spice characteristics from the Traminette parentage.

The 2013 Aromella from Goose Watch run down: 2.7 percent RS (residual sugar), 11.5 percent alcohol. ONLY available at Goose Watch, 200 cases limited run. Tasting-Aromella was light, with notes of peaches and lychee (I’ll say tropical fruit because I am slightly lychee obsessed!). I was surprised that at 2.7 RS, the wine still wasn’t sweet, and the balance of the wine was crisp and pleasant. A really nice sipper, actually. I love my dry wines, but Aromella has enough Traminette influence to take the fruity notes and mellow them with spice and citrus. Quite lovely, and I’m very glad we took the little adventure. A few bottles came home with us, along with another favorite of mine-Dry Cabernet Franc Rosé, because, well….wine.

Living in a fast growing wine area like this is exciting, and there are new grapes and experimental wine creations happening all over the Finger Lakes area. These vinters have talent, balls (especially the ladies, ahem) and are ready to take risks to forward the craft. How could you not think that the tattoo and wine worlds are very complimentary to one and other? Gotta love the risk takers, they’re the ones that really make strides.

Read more about Aromella on Syracuse.com, Aromella is the Newest Finger Lakes Wine. If you get the chance to try it, let me know what you think in the comments below! Enjoy 😉

New York Apples and the Hard Cider Revolution (and how BoozyLife was ahead of the curve)

Harvest season
Harvest season

Last week, the New York Times posted an article that really caught my attention. Article link: Sips from a Cider Spree in New York State. The local hard cider scene has been jumping since we moved to the Ithaca area eight years ago-what’s different is that people are more open minded and willing to taste local creations.

Local hard ciders have a special place in my heart. Personal boozy story: On a visit home to the upstate NY area almost ten years ago, my mom wanted to take me to a new winery that had opened relatively close to our neck of the woods. Black Bear Winery is a spot off of the beaten path and ‘wine trails proper’, but they specialize in hard ciders, meads, and fruit wines. After a tasting, I concluded that I liked the ciders, and particularly the Cracklin’ Maple Hard Cider was delicious. Hard apple cider, blended with house made maple syrup. Tart, mellow, slight sweetness, autumn in a glass. I bought a couple of refillable growlers, and have refilled them several times since. Black Bear has grown from a by appointment and event farm rental spot, to open year round and quite successful! At least five years after that first tasting at Black Bear, I married my husband at the end of September, here in Ithaca. We served Black Bear’s Cracklin’ Maple Hard Cider for the toast at our wedding, instead of the traditional champagne. The cider had more meaning, and it was so reminiscent of the fall in upstate NY that I wanted our guests from all over the world to experience that flavor; champagne was too formal for our outdoor waterfall ceremony, and the cider was truly a hit!

Cracklin' Maple Hard Cider from Black Bear for our toast
Cracklin’ Maple Hard Cider from Black Bear for our toast

In the NY Time’s article I mentioned, the author Freda Moon tours the Upstate NY Apple growing areas about five hours from NYC. She hit several local cider stops, and even gave a quick run down of her time spent in Ithaca:

“Ithaca was a decadent couple of days in which cider seemed to appear in every possible form. We had a cider flight with dinner at the too-popular Just a Taste tapas restaurant, where our wait was over an hour. The next day, at Maxie’s Supper Club and Oyster Bar, I ordered a Cider Sidecar of Maker’s Mark, Cointreau, a Finger Lakes Distilling’s Maplejack liqueur and an unspecified local cider before a spectacular three-course cider pairing dinner at Hazelnut Kitchen in Trumansburg.”

The guys at Finger Lakes Distilling are also making some incredible products, and I was glad to see she sampled some of their wares at Maxie’s Supper Club, one of our favorite spots in Ithaca. The Cider Sidecar is a drink that is an anxiously awaited seasonal cocktail, signaling that fall has officially arrived. Sweet and tart, with a mellow maple kick, sitting in Maxie’s listening to live music on the outdoor deck, watching the world go by. I love living here in fall.

October in the Finger Lakes – Grape Harvest 2014

Cayuga Lake from Goose Watch Winery
Cayuga Lake from Goose Watch Winery

Fall in the Finger Lakes area of Upstate Ny is magic. Leaves change colors against perfect blue skies, fall harvests of grapes, apples, and pumpkins showcase the bounty of the area, and the vintners can be found along with crews in the rows of grapevines.

Fall in the vineyard
Fall in the vineyard

It was a tough winter, with well below average temperatures, a late and chilly spring, a few freak hail storms in late summer, and now one of the sunniest and warmest September grape ripening seasons ever. Insane but inspiring: The 2014 grape harvest might be light due to damages along the way, but what DID make it through looks to be pretty damn spectacular!

October looks to be busy at BoozyLife, so keep checking in-lots of harvest info, talks with a few vintners, tours of a few press pads, and a trip down to the Hudson Valley for Taste Camp 2014 (NY Cork Report) . THIS is why I love living in the Finger Lakes…

Colors of fall in the Finger Lakes-my favorite ti
Colors of fall in the Finger Lakes-my favorite time of year, in one of my favorite places

The reality of farming in the Finger Lakes- an insider’s look from Forge Cellars

Cool climate Riesling grapes
Cool climate Riesling grapes

Wine grower Rick Rainey of Forge Cellars posted an entry about the recent hail storm that they endured on Seneca Lake. The job of vineyard manager is sometimes a heartbreaking one, and he relays the joys and sorrows of living and farming in this climate. Check out his post here: A real connection with Burgundy-of not a good sort. Mother Nature can be heartless as much as beautiful, and the journey of growing here shows the love for the craft these men have.

One of the BEST RIESLING REVIEWS EVER-and it’s for a Finger Lakes GEM

Epicurious just released an article Best Rieslings Under $20 (follow the link for the entire link), highlighting stand out Rieslings from around the world. The selection from the Finger LakesArea is from our friends at Boundary Breaks Vineyard— and we are so happy to see them recognized for their accomplishments!

Article author Paul Grieco, General Manager of Hearth Restaurant NYC said of the 2012 Boundary Breaks Riesling Geisenheim No. 239, Finger Lakes, New York ($20) “Long and lean in frame but with colors bursting from the canvas…think David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust days.”

Are you kidding me? Comparing that wine to Bowie? PERFECT-they’re a group of young, hardcore Riesling rock stars over there! Not to mention a few of the vineyard crew are rocking tattoos by my husband-vineyard Manager Kees Staple is working on a custom Riesling sleeve that will be awesome when complete, adding to the rocker status. 😉 Congrats guys–now go grab a bottle of this gem, kids…it’s BoozyWife approved! 🙂


It’s not the grape, it’s the climate that you like!


Grapes love warm weather and sunshine, ripening them to a high sugar fruit with rich, deep colors from amber to purple. A few grape varieties are considered ‘hearty’ in a cooler climate, including Riesling, Seyval Blanc, and Gewürztraminer. While our Finger Lakes provide temperate zones around the lakes for growing some spectacular whites, red grapes are more difficult to ripen and have to be planted more diligently in temperate areas. Moreover, the reds have different characteristics when growing here than in ‘big red zones’ such as California. Comparing grapes and wines from the two climates is easy, right? Heavy reds are good, light are bad. Right? Sort of…but not really.

Depending on what you personally enjoy, you might have a preference where your vino comes from. There’s a REASON certain wines come from certain areas. In many European regions, wine making is steeped in old tradition, and there are rules maintained to continue and preserve the old ways. The particular variety of grape has grown well throughout the ages, and the artistry has been passed down from grower to grower. The soil content has what the vines need, the climate is perfect for ripening on schedule. Each season is different, but the benchmark has essentially been reached. There are expectations, guidelines, and very structured rules.

Comparatively, our Finger Lakes are the wild, wild West of winemaking! Viticulture (study of grape growing) is relatively new to our area. Cornell has had a huge hand in our latest grape developments (pun intended-tip of the hat to Cory Ferguson, tattooist and pun maker extraordinaire), from creating a new hybrid named Cayuga White, to helping to educate growers on battling pests and mold. Red grapes have a much shorter growing season here, which completely changes the style of red wines produced. Finger Lakes Pinot Noir is completely different than Pinot from Washington State. Our Pinot grapes often ripen with lighter colors, less sugar, and make a much softer red wine. Lighter does NOT MEAN BAD, just different. Taste, let your palate decide for you! WINE TASTING IS LIKE LIFE ITSELF, and if you get too stuck on rules, you will miss out on crazy, adventurous, and often wonderful shit.

Wine rules in the end are just that, and rules were meant to be broken. Vintners in our area have structure, form, and education…but they also have adventurous spirit, a love for the land, and the balls (women included) to work outside of the comfort zone. New blends! New hybrids! Bold new wines!