Friday, April 22, 2011

Tastings | Finger Lakes: Spring 2011, i

This past weekend, Kat, one of my best friends from university, invited me to go on a wine tasting trip up to the Finger Lakes (located in Upstate New York) with a group of girls (a few include her friends from work) who have informally dubbed themselves Women Who Wine. I absolutely love that! Kat told me that she and the girls went on a similar trip last year (with a few vineyards/wineries in/out of the mix), and they all had a blast. I've never been wine tasting at an actual vineyard when I was of age (before I've visited Beringer in Napa with my family while I was only a teenager and Porto in Portugal a few months before graduating high school), so I was very much looking forward to seeing some East Coast wineries/vineyards and tasting wines that are more "local" to us than California wines.

One of Kat's co-workers, Whitney, organized the whole trip for us (big thank-you shout-out to her!), including this "party bus" which took us from eastern Pennsylvania all the way to Upstate New York, where the Finger Lakes is located (about three-hours each way) and drove us to each of the vineyards, so we didn't have to worry about driving that far out, especially after having tasted many wines. All the girls on the trip packed snacks, goodies, and lots of drinks (cocktails, wine, and all) for us to enjoy during the long drive up.

One of the girls on the trip, Melissa, made personalized wine glasses for each one of the twelve girls on the trip. "Wine tastes better with friends" is written on the back. A big thank you to Melissa for making them for us--they definitely served lots of use (mimosas and wine, for the win!) on the long drive!

The region of the "Finger Lakes" derives its name from their linear shape and the north-south orientation next to one another. The two longest, Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake, are among the deepest in America. These largest lakes resemble the others in shape, which collectively reminded early map-makers of the fingers of a hand, resulting in the "Finger Lakes."

The first stop on our itinerary was to Fox Run Vineyards, located on Torrey Ridge overlooking one of the deepest parts of Seneca Lake. Scott Osborn, the owner of Fox Run, has introduced "a program of minimal intervention wine-making and revitalized the vines by converting to a new trellis system which has had excellent results in Germany, France and Australia." Mr. Osborn is also "a strong advocate of the place of wine in a healthy life-style, and he appreciates the health benefits of garlic as well" as demonstrated by the Vineyard's Annual Garlic Festival, which is committed to pairing a good wine with the fragrant taste of garlic.

Inside Fox Run Vineyards. I like how they used old wine bottles as a vessel for twinkle lights for decoration! I remember seeing how to make these on Wit & Whistle, one of my favorite design blogs, and I've been meaning around to make a few! Just gotta learn how to work a drill, haha.

Inside Fox Run Vineyards.

The tasting bar at Fox Run Vineyards.

The chalkboard detailed the featured wines for that day.

We had a tasting of the six featured wines along with an additional wine from another listing provided to us with our tasting notes. Here is what I tasted at Fox Run (* denotes what I liked):
  • *2008 Reserve Chardonnay (with the option of one aged in stainless steel and the other aged in oak): I had a little taste of both--Kat got the one aged in stainless steel, while I had the one aged in oak. The former had a metallic aftertaste--it wasn't subtle at all. The latter one aged in oak, however, tasted a lot smoother, adding a little more depth of flavor than the strong aftertaste from the former. Definitely strong tastes of apple.
  • 2009 Dry Riesling: I didn't find this to be very sweet, and there was a strong aftertaste of stainless steel, which took away from being able to taste the wine's true flavors (i.e., lemon, ginger, tangerine, lime, and apricot).
  • *"Drink New York" Riesling: I really enjoyed this one--it had aromas of nectarine, mango, and pineapple. It was semi-sweet with a residual sugar of 3%.
  • 2007 Pinot Noir: This is the classic Finger Lakes "Pinot"--it had lots of subtle spices. It was a lot dryer than I had expected which wasn't too favorable for me. Many of the other girls loved it because they tend to lean towards dryer wines.
  • 2007 Cabernet Franc / Lemberger: I found this one to have lots of strong flavors of violets and slight pepper (from the Lemberger variety of grape).
  • *"Drink New York" Merlot: This was the one red wine from Fox Run that I enjoyed. In fact, the Vineyard says this newest wine release delivers immediate appeal.
  • 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon: I selected this as my "wild card" wine (see explanation above). It was a pretty solid Cabernet, rich and soft, full of sweet fruit flavors. Again, this was on the dryer side for me.

I bought a bottle of the 2008 Reserve Chardonnay (seen above). I think the comparison between this (aged in oak) and the other (aged in stainless steel) emphasized the depth of flavor the former had over the latter, which resulted in my purchase!

I just took a quick snapshot of the "Drink New York" Riesling because I liked its play on J. Howard Miller's "We Can Do It!" poster for Westinghouse that was modeled on the middle Michigan factory worker, Geraldine Doyle, in 1942. In retrospect, I wish I had picked up a bottle of this, too--for both its design and taste!

They had stuffed animal foxes in this huge wine glass!

Whitney, Melissa, Penny, and Leann!

Kat, Kala, and Julianne!

Me and Kat!

The second winery on our itinerary was Goose Watch Winery, "situated in a beautifully restored century-old barn nestled within one of the area's only commercial chestnut groves." Its new wines are produced from classic European grape varieties, such as Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Lemberger and Merlot.

Inside Goose Watch Winery, where you can see Cayuga Lake from the tasting room.

The tasting room at Goose Watch Winery.

Women Who Wine at the Goose Watch Winery tasting room!

We had a customized tasting of wines with the choice from selecting up to eight wines in listing provided to us with our tasting notes (with the exception of reserve and ice wine tastings, which were additional). Here is what I tasted at Goose Watch (* denotes what I liked):
  • Pinot Noir sparkling brut rosé: This is a rare brut rosé made from the "king" of champagne grapes. There were tastes of strawberry--both crisp and light.
  • *2009 Traminette: This is made from a premium wine grape developed by Cornell University. It was very dry, with subtle hints of Gewürtztraminer (one of my favorite types of white wine grapes), which is probably why I liked it so much.
  • 2009 Cabernet Franc rosé: This was a dry rosé, which isn't really seen much in the limelight of the wine world (until recently). It had a strong watermelon flavor--very refreshing, but not really up my alley. I love watermelon as a fruit, but just not in my wine.
  • *"Snow Goose": This was the fruitiest white wine made at Goose Watch--it is a white wine blend that is both sweet and crisp. It has strong flavors of peaches and pineapple--very refreshing and the perfect light summer wine.
  • 2007 Merlot: This was a medium-bodied red wine which was very smooth with black pepper aromas and rich berry fruit.
  • 2007 Chambourcin: This was a lighter, but dry, red wine with raspberry aromas that is aged in oak.
  • "Renaissance Red": This is Goose Watch's "new age" style of red wine that makes a great alternative to dry reds with a softer and fruitier sweetness. It is the wine that pairs well with almost everything. I wasn't too crazy about this one--there was too much berry-juice flavors.

Bottles of "Snow Goose"--I enjoyed this one so much that I picked up a bottle of it on our way out! I think it'd be perfect for the perfect white summer sangria with chunks of nectarines and peaches.

Findings: I definitely found visiting the two vineyards/wineries to be a great experience, as we had the opportunity to taste wines before possibly purchasing them (a smart marketing device for them, and a great opportunity for us--the visitors--to discover wines they like before committing to a purchase). I find many times I'm blindly walking into a wine store and hope for the best that the bottle I selected will be to my liking. I usually ask for recommendations, but many times, one's tastes may not align with the suggestions offered by said store associate. I would love to visit the Finger Lakes again when it gets warmer (and when the weather is better) because then we'd be able to get a better view of the entire vineyard--perhaps have an opportunity to go on a proper tour--I think that would make the experience even better! I'd say both Fox Run Vineyards and Goose Watch Winery have several different wine offerings (plus ones that have won many accolades) to accommodate wine drinkers of all kind.

The thing I have noticed at these two vineyards (and the other two that we visited, in the post that follows this one) that the tastings are very informal--you arrive at the tasting room/bar, they pour you your choices, you sip/savor/drink and come up with a verdict for said wines, leave the bar and buy whatever you thought would be worth taking home with you, then you head back to the bus. There's not much interaction between the wine pourers unless you initiate--it's definitely something that you have to be proactive about at the Finger Lakes. I feel like in Napa, there's more dialogue on the proprietor side than there was here. Nevertheless, I had a great time learning about the different grape varieties and wine blends that are grown and bottled in the Finger Lakes.

P. S. I'm working on finishing my blog post for Part II of this trip to the Finger Lakes--it should be up shortly! I will sum up and finalize my findings for all four vineyards in the next post!

Price point: $2 for a tasting of seven Featured Wines at Fox Run Vineyards, $12.99 for a bottle of 2008 oak-aged Fox Run Chardonnay ($10.40 with 20% discount from purchasing a half-case of wines); $2 for a tasting of eight wines at Goose Watch Winery, $12.00 for a bottle of Snow Goose ($9.00 with $3 coupon included with tasting).

--April 16, 2011

Fox Run Vineyards
670 State Route 14
Penn Yan, NY 14527

Goose Watch Winery
5480 Route 89
Romulus NY, 14541

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