Friday, May 10, 2013

The beautiful Belhurst Castle and winery on Seneca Lake

My last day at the Finger Lakes was spent checking out of the Belhurst Castle on Seneca Lake. Belhurst is also a winery so of course I had to hit one last tasting before hitting the road. 
Belhurst Castle & Winery Finger Lakes

Belhurst stands for “beautiful forest” and indeed this property is absolutely gorgeous as you can see from some of my pictures. It took 4 years to build from 1885 to 1889 and switched ownership many times throughout the years. The facilities today have the old castle where folks can stay as well as the inn with beautiful rooms overlooking the lake. They have a spa on-site, 2 ballrooms that are filled with weddings on the weekends as well as two restaurants on-site. I highly recommend staying here. They have produced many award winning wines over the years, but not being able to keep up with the production of their vineyard site at the Finger Lakes they involve other wineries in the NY state regions.

For me I thought some of the wines here were priced higher than some of the other wineries in the area. I found their whites to be a drier style, but I enjoyed the 10 month oaked age Chardonnay, the nicely structured Dry Riesling and the “Neptune” blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc and Gewurztraminer. The reds were on the heavier side including the two Cab Francs with the '09 having a bigger fruit profile and tobacco taste and the Merlot having nice ripe red fruit and bright acidity. 
Belhurst Castle Seneca Lake
I must mention that they also do wine dinners here where you get personal one-on-one attention with a wine expert, we highly recommend Heather. They are over 3 hour long dinners where you are served about 5 courses and a different wine paired for each course along with a background on the wine for only $50-70 depending on which you choose.
Belhurst Castle on Seneca Lake
There is so much more information to share about the Finger Lakes and I'm happy to answer any questions or share further my experiences if you'd like to contact me. The ride up to the Finger Lakes is well worth visiting this beautiful region and the food, activities and the hospitality make for an unforgettable time.  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Lamoreaux Landing, Atwater Vineyards, Red Newt, Lakewood & Hermann Wiemer

Lamoreaux Landing Finger LakesBoy have I been lucky visiting this gorgeous region. The weather has been absolutely perfect still. Today I traveled down the eastern side of Seneca Lake with my first stop at a consistent quality producer, Lamoreaux Landing. They were voted by Wine & Spirits top 100 winery of the world. They have many different styles of Rieslings and Chardonnays to try due to them having over a 100 acres and 20 different vineyards sites. You really can't go wrong with many of the wines here including their variety of Rieslings, as well as their Gewurztraminer and different selection of Cabernet Franc both stainless and oak aged. 
Atwater Estate Vineyards Finger Lakes
View from Atwater Estate Vineyards

Today I added another new winery to my list, Atwater Estate Vineyards, just south of Lamoreaux. Atwater began its establishment back in 2000, but had been producing wine for many years previously under different owners and winery names. They had some interesting blends here including a Riesling/Gewurztraminer blend that continuously changed in your mouth with typical characteristics of each of these grapes. They also had some interesting red blends including a Stone Bridge Red dominated by the Marechal Foch grape and including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot and Blaufrankisch, being the Austrian name, but also known as Lemberger.  
Atwater Estate winery Finger Lakes
View from Atwater Estate Vineyards
After an enjoyable lunch on the patio at my next stop, Red Newt Bistro, I stayed to taste their wines for my second time around. They have proved to be another reliable source for some well made wines including their semi-dry Riesling and their Gewurztraminer. Their specialty here are their single vineyard Rieslings. They had about 4-5 different kinds that come from all different vineyard sites. This winery is also one of the producers involved in the Tierce Riesling that I had mentioned when I discussed Anthony Road and Fox Run Vineyards on my first day here. You may be able to find Red Newt in a local town near you as they have many locations that you can find on their website. Let me know if you need any suggestions as I tried many of them and I can vouch that they were also very good in their own way depending on what you are looking for. 

Lakewood Vineyards Wine Tasting room
Lakewood Vineyards
Next I revisited an oldie, that I don't remember that well, but it was a pleasant refresher, Lakewood Vineyards. They can be found in Watkins Glen heading up the western side of Seneca Lake. They had a couple different flights, both dry and sweet, with the sweet being very sweet including the Catawba, Delaware and Concord grapes, where I found the drier flight much more enjoyable, but everyone has their own opinions.
Lakewood Vineyards
This winery opened its doors to the public in 1989, but had been producing and selling grapes since the 50's to Welchs Juice Company and Taylor Wine Company. The winery had previously served as an apple and peach orchard. I found the 2011 Valvin Muscat one of the most enjoyable wines here and this was their first year of production. It was just released at the end of April. It had a very floral bouquet with nice acidity to round it out on the palate.  

Lastly, we went to Hermann Wiemer. In my opinion I would put him right at the top of my list with Dr. Konstantin Frank. It's understandable knowing his history in the wine making business. His first planting in the Finger Lakes was in 1976. He had lived in Bernkastel Germany where both of his parents were involved in the wine industry. His mother's family had been making wine more than 300 years in the Mosel region of Germany, one of the more famous areas in Germany known for producing high quality Rieslings. While in Germany he attended a prestigious institute for viticultural research. 
Herman J. Wiemer Vineyard

This winery in 2010 was featured Wine Spectators 100 Wines in the World. Also, for the last few years, they have also been in Wine & Spirits Top 100 Estates. Their tasting room here is great as you get to sample these fantastic wines right in one of the rooms where the tanks are located. It definitely adds to the atmosphere. They have some of the highest quality Rieslings and Gewurztraminers in the area with also some nice red and white blends, Frost Cuvee and Field Cuvee. Hermann Wiemer retired in 2007 and the winery is now run by one of his apprentices, Fred Merwarth, that took over in 2007 along with co-owner Oskar Bynke. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Keuka Lake Wineries: Hunt Country , Dr. Konstantin Frank and Heron Hill

What a gorgeous 2nd day at the Finger Lakes! You can't beat a beautiful 74 degree day touring another one of the Finger Lakes, Lake Keuka. Lake Keuka is different than Seneca in the fact that it's Y-shaped that is 20 miles long and as much as 2 miles wide. Lake Seneca is more narrow and long and is 38 miles long and 3 miles wide. Seneca hosts more than 50+ wineries with Keuka containing around 10 wineries.

The special attraction to Lake Keuka is that the famous Dr. Konstantin Frank, whom brought wine making to the east coast. I think it's important to address such a historical figure that in 1962 he founded Vinifera Wine Cellars, now known Dr. Konstantin Frank Cellars in Hammondsport, NY. He was originally from the Ukraine and believed strongly in growing the vitis vinifera grapes, which are native grapes to Europe. These grapes had never succeeded prior to him coming to the Finger Lakes region because of what was believe to be the cold climate here. Growing up in the Ukraine he knew that this was not the reason for their lack of success in growing at the Finger Lakes. Thankfully through his efforts and expertise the revolution of wine making of the vitis vinifera spread throughout the region and the east coast of the US.
Hunt Country Vineyards Finger Lakes
Hunt Country Vineyards
My first stop today was at Hunt Country Vineyards at the top of Lake Keuka. The pleasant piece about being here on a weekday is the personal attention. I mean who doesn't want to drink and chat about wine at 10am? One of the neat things about this vineyard is their sustainability through the geothermal process of drilling wells and circulating water mixed with alcohol and using the earths cool and warm temperatures to heat and cool the winery. In addition they use the leftover seeds, stems and skins and combining it with manure to add it back into the vineyard and the soils releasing lots of minerals and nutrients back into the vineyard. 
Hunt Country Vineyards Keuka Lake Finger Lakes
I found their Valvin Muscat to have a beautiful floral bouquet. I always tend to enjoy this grape that was actually developed by Cornell University in the 60's. Another wine of interest that is a huge seller for them is the Alchemy wine, which is a Bordeaux style blend with another Cornell grape added, Noiret. This was a smooth, medium bodied wine with some oak hints and a little cherry and pepper throughout on the palate. 
Dr. Konstantin Frank vineyards Finger Lakes
Our next stop was Dr. Konstantin Frank that I previously talked about. It's hard to go wrong with many of the fine wines from this establishment. Our wine server, Alan, made this another enjoyable experience, but they always have had fantastic staff here. I'm not a fan of real dry whites, but their pinot blanc and rkatsiteli were really great with mouthwatering acidity, the Rkatsiteli having a more tropical flavor profile. The Rkasiteli grape cannot be found in many places within the US making it even more a pleasure to be able to sample it here. 

Again, enjoying the Muscat Ottenel here, which is just one of the major variations of muscat, predominantly known to others to be the same grape to make Moscato d'Asti in Italy. Some of the notable reds tasted today were the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, both full bodied and fantastic with a steak. I typically tend to drink wines that I can enjoy on their own, including the Pinot Noir here and their Salmon Run Meritage. The Salmon Run line at Dr. Frank are grapes that are sourced from local farmers to the area. This is a more affordable line, still of quality, but not as much obviously as the Dr. Frank line itself. Just so you know I have found some of the Salmon Run wines available at the State NH liquor store and random wine shops throughout MA. I even brought it into Martignetti's myself years ago when I worked in the North End. 
Dr. Konstantin Frank Keuka Lake

My last stop today was Heron Hill Winery. I have been here many times, but this was my most impressive time here. Maybe partially because I had more time to chat with our wonderful wine server, Tammy, or the quality was just that much better. Today we had tried some of the wines from their Ingle Vineyard line, which are the personal vineyards at the owners estate. Some of these were great including the Pinot Noir. I was torn here between the whites and reds since many of them were so great. The reds, including the Eclipse red, a Bordeaux style blend, and the classic Cabernet Franc were such well made wines that continued to develop in your mouth with every taste. Their classic Muscat, Semi-dry Riesling. where the fruit profiles exploded in your mouth at first taste. Of course we topped it off with a Late harvest Vidal Blanc, lighter in style than some other late harvests, but highly enjoyable. Enjoy over pancakes we were told. Yummy!  

Heron Hill winery Keuka Lake Finger Lakes
Heron Hill Winery
Stay tuned for later today when we visit the other southern side of Lake Seneca!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Seneca Lake Wineries: Billsboro, Anthony Road, White Springs & Fox Run Vineyards

I usually take an annual trip to the Finger Lakes in upstate NY and have come all times of the year. If you have never been, boy are you missing out. 
Finger Lakes wineries on Seneca Lake
My good friend introduced me to this area years ago and I am so glad he did! I started off going up to the Finger Lakes when Fox Run Vineyards used to host an annual garlic dinner during the summer that was a 5 course meal with unlimited wine paired with each course. They set up a beautiful tent right in the middle of their vineyard site overlooking beautiful Seneca Lake. It was a beautiful evening, but even they have stopped that event it hasn't stopped me from coming to this beautiful land. I then started coming in the fall months during peak season when all of the wines were being harvested. Such a great time to come! Tastings right out of the barrel if you're lucky, boxes full of grapes packed in the backs of the trucks that are being unloaded and some beautiful, juicy grapes still sitting on the vine waiting for the optimal time to be picked. This year I'm experiencing it in the spring due my wedding later this year, a good enough reason to move our visit; )

Due to the 6 hour ride from Boston and it being a Sunday I was only able to fit in 4 wineries in a few hours, which is pretty aggressive, but these wineries are some of my favorites so it's just trying some of the new vintages out. Today I visited a newbie, White Springs, and then proceeded on to Billsboro, Anthony Road and lastly, Fox Run Vineyards.

White Springs Winery had a fantastic new release of their recent bronze medal winner of 2011 Sauvignon Blanc that was recommended to me by the wine server. It was such an interesting wine because it was dry, but had such beautiful fruit with a solid acidity as a the backbone. They also had a delicious ice wine (and who doesn't love ice wine!)  

Billsboro Winery I have loved in the past, especially their cabernet franc, cabernet/syrah blend, pinot gris and their ice wine. My favorite here today was the dry riesling though. Even though it's stated as a dry riesling it still had a .9% residual sugar. It had the citrus, drier tones up front, but rounded out to some melon tones and finishing with bright acidity. I wouldn't say they were up to par with my past experiences, but they're still tasty! 

Anthony Road Winery Company, another consistent vineyard that I enjoy, did not disappoint, except
for their gewurztraminer, which I have always been a fan of in previous years, except this year. For me my most enjoyable wines here were the pinot noir, which was lighter in style for a nice summer day when you're still wanting that red wine without the body of it. Their vignoles wine was also very nice with a 5.2% residual sugar so definitely on the sweeter side, but balanced out with nice acidity to the pineapple and grapefruit tones.
Fox Run Vineyards Finger Lakes
I finished the day with one of my favorites, Fox Run, where I tasted the drier flight of wines that they have. Fox Run Vineyards produces such consistent, quality wines. I really enjoyed their chardonnay (non barrel aged), Sable (which is a bordeaux style blend) and a pinot noir. Just a tidbit, but Fox Run, Anthony Road and Red Newt (another winery we will be traveling to) produce a Tierce Riesling together that was served at Obama's Inauguration.
Fox Run Vineyards Finger Lakes
Fox Run Vineyards
I could write so much more and I think I will share more information about the Finger Lakes later as many are probably not even familiar with it and definitely should be. It's a beautiful country with miles and miles of farmland with over 100+ beautiful wineries and tasting rooms surrounding the three most popular lakes up here, Seneca, Cayuga and Keuka. Tomorrow we hit the southern tip and other side of Seneca.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Cliff Lede - 2004 Stags Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

2004 Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon Napa ValleyCliff Lede
Napa Valley
Stags Leap District
2004 Cabernet Sauvignon

I truly enjoyed this wine. For a 2004 I felt this wine is still in great shape and could have even sat longer. Decanting this wine helped smooth it out and open it up a little bit as well, which I would definitely recommend doing. I'm not a big fan of Californian wines as I love to explore outside the US, especially Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South America, but this was a very pleasant experience for me. Plus, coming from the Stags Leap District you can't go wrong! Luckily my perks of working part time previously paid off as I had been storing this wine from back then and had got it for only for $4.99 and it retails for over $60.

The Stags Leap district became official in 1989. Cliff Lede is a newer winery that was established in 2002 in the famous Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. It's located in Yountville in the eastern side of Napa. There are stories of where the name Stags Leap came from, but legend has it that a stag used to jump or leap from rocky mountain top to mountain top. I always find it interesting where these names of wines and wineries come from.

The wineries from this district must use at least 85% of the varietal listed on the bottle. Cabernet is the premier grape in this district, but you will also find some of the other Bordeaux varietals here like Merlot and Petite Syrah that are blended into some of these wines.

Coming out of the glass was an overwhelming display of juicy raspberries that matched the taste on the palate as well. It was a beautiful balanced, structured, full bodied wine with zingy acidity that smoothed out once it had a chance to aerate. It had a very nice, length finish as well.