Friday, October 19, 2012

Finger Lakes Wine Country Goes Sparkling and Icy

This week we participated in a Finger Lakes Wine Country Finger Lakes Wine Virtual Tasting Series tasting on Dessert, Sparkling, & Ice Wines. We were sent samples from seven Finger Lakes wineries - specifically three sparkling wines and four dessert or ice wines.during the tasting several bloggers shared their insight on the wines via Twitter (#FLXWineVT), submitted questions to the winemakers, and watched real time as the winemakers discussed their wines. 

We started with the sparkling wines and while tasting learned that this style is a "Labor of Love" for the winemakers and also, the the Finger Lakes cooler climate allows for more intense flavors at a lower brix measurement.  We started with the Atwater Estate Vineyards 2008 Sparkling Cuvee ($30), which is a
66% Pinot Noir and 34% Chardonnay blend. The grapes ripened at the same time, which allowed them to be co-fermented after being whole clustered pressed. The winery then follows the traditional Champagne Methodoise where the the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle with active riddling so that the lees do not settle in one area. The lees are removed during disgorging, more sugar and wine added during dosage, and then sealed with a champagne-style cork closure. The result is an impressive sparkling wines - full of green apple flavor, a strong mid-palette, and a refreshing lemon finish.

We moved next to the 100% Pinot Noir 2008 Blanc de Noir ($30) from McGregor Vineyard Winery. This wine was created because winemaker Jeff Dencenburg wanted to experiment with a 100% PN. My feelings is that the wine is just not on par, particularly when following the Atwater Cuvee. Yes this wine had a decent mouth feel, but the flavor was bland and not exciting. Many of the other bloggers disagreed, proving that no two palettes are the same.

The final sparkling wine was the Swedish Hill Winery Riesling Cuvee ($18) - a most interesting wine fermented to 3.5% R.S. and reminding many of us as a Proseco - with more flavor. The Riesling juice was tank fermented in order to retain the inherent flavor of the grape. The result is a food friendly sparkler with a strong amount of lychee on the nose and a nice balance between sugar and acidity at the tail. Nicely done.

Round two consisted of the dessert and ice wines and these were all well received. We started with the Casa Larga Vineyards 2008 Fiori Vidal Blanc Ice Wine ($45). The name translates to Flower of Stars in Italian and is what the harvest workers view in the dead of night when harvesting the frozen grapes. Yes, true German style Eiswein are produced from grapes harvested when completely frozen in the middle of night - usually in late December or early January. As expected, the volume at harvest is much lower than for grapes harvested on a normal schedule resulting in 1/4 less yield (1 ton of grapes = 160 gallons vs 1 ton of grapes = 40 gallons). The Eiswein juice is then cold fermented and the result is a slightly syrupy sweet nectar. And the beauty of using Vidal Blanc is the natural acidity and the grape balances the concentrated sugar in the wine. The is a very nice apricot flavored wine - perfectly balanced between sweetness and acidity.

The other true "Eiswein" was the Knapp Vineyards Winery 2010 Vidal Ice Wine ($25). The was my preferred dessert wine of the evening showcasing an orange aroma, followed by a full - full apricot profile, finishing with refreshing acidity.  This reminded of the famed Hungarian Tokaji wines - with a high puttonyos. And at $25 a bargain.

The last two wines were produced in an ice wine style where the grapes were harvested late and then immediately frozen in order to concentrate the sugars. The Lucas Vineyards 2010 Vidal Blanc Iced ($25) was very similar to the Knapp, without the orange aroma, but a very similar apricot flavor profile. Just a tad lighter - but a very nice wine. The Standing Stone Vineyards 2010 Gewurztraminer Ice ($25) is an excellent alternative to the Vidal, emanating a more lychee flavor profile with a spicy finish. Gewurztraminer is an interesting grape to use for an ice styled wine since its low level of acids would be difficult to balance the concentrated sugar. Yet freezing the grapes solves this problem by concentrating the acids in addition to the sugar. The result is a balanced wine.

Cheers to the Finger Lakes - there's more than just Riesling.

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