PART 1: New Finger Lakes Arrivals to Get Excited About

When you take a look around, you’ll find some fresh, new energy rifting through the Finger Lakes wine industry.  Young and exploratory winemakers and growers are carving their own unique places in the industry, while also paying homage to those who have spent their careers diligently working to place the region on the global wine map.  

At Red Feet, we strive to engage with local wineries; tasting, visiting, and getting to know these dedicated people, so that you are presented with the best new bottlings throughout the year. We recently had the pleasure of tasting and chatting (on separate occasions) with two winemakers that have been hot on the radar lately, August Deimel of Keuka Spring Vineyards and Christopher Bates of Element Winery.

When you meet August, you are enveloped by his exuberant energy and captivated by his passion.

August Deimel joined Keuka Spring Vineyards in 2012 as head winemaker.   He often speaks in poetic parlance about cool climate, Finger Lakes varieties, especially Gewürztraminer.    As a graduate* of St. John’s College (Santa Fe, New Mexico), Deimel’s persona is undoubtably influenced by his study of the Great Books and the brilliant minds of renowned philosophers.  This mindfulness has likely played a large role in his desire to be somewhat experimental in his approach to winemaking, unafraid of questioning the norm and cultivating his own unique place within the industry.  August is also a Cornell graduate, holding a Master’s Degree in Enology from the university.

Although Deimel has a fond appreciation for and adeptness with Riesling, his passion is for Gewürztraminer, which he calls “a beautiful, if misunderstood, grape.”  I asked August to elaborate on his fascination with Gewürztraminer, to which he replied:

“Often compared to Riesling because it grows in a similar climate and is an aromatic white grape, it is actually quite different.  Whereas Riesling is a medium-weight grape that can trend toward the ethereal, Gewürztraminer wants to be dense and thick.  Whereas Riesling will always be about the nose, its beautiful aromatics carrying it forward, Gewürztraminer is deceptive.  The nose of Gewürztraminer may be what first captures you, but its the texture that makes it truly beautiful.  The mouthfeel of the best cool-climate Gewürztraminer is like nothing else in the white wine world.  It can be weighty without being oppressive and powerful without becoming a caricature. It’s exploring that side of Gewürztraminer that I love.”  

We had the opportunity to taste the classic 2014 bottling from Keuka Spring Vineyards as well as their 2014 Dynamite Vineyard Gewürztraminer recently, and were extremely impressed with the concentration, texture, and purity of each.  You can now find both of these wines on our shelves along with the 2014 Keuka Spring Vineyards Riesling.  (All are perfect matches your upcoming Thanksgiving dinner!)

2014 Keuka Spring Vineyards Dynamite Vineyard Gewurztraminer
Dynamite Vineyard is located on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake, and boasts one of the largest single vineyard plantings of Gewürztraminer in the Finger Lakes.  The name refers to the dynamite once used to break up the dense rocks in the soil in order to put the posts into the ground for the trellis system.  

Much of the texture and depth of this wine comes from fermenting in barrel (45% of the total wine) followed by two months of aging in older oak barrels.  The aromatics are fresh and vibrant, ushering in notes of lemon zest, lychee, pear, and guava.  Texturally, this Gewürztraminer is a star!  An incredibly silky mouthfeel couples with nice weight and depth on the palate.  Mineral, slate, and spice present themselves right away and continue to linger throughout.  Notes of lychee, quince, passionfruit, and lemon pith also come through, backed by well balanced acidity and persisting spice. 

2014 Keuka Spring Vineyards Gewurztraminer
Well-structured with a fresh, floral bouquet and wonderful clarity, this classic bottling from Keuka Spring Vineyards dances along the palate with a delicate, yet focused nature.  It doesn’t carry quite the viscosity of the Dynamite Vineyard bottling, but still reveals a richness that is undeniable.  Almond, candied lemon peel, and ripe stone fruits weave together on the nose, leading to a palate with concentration and complexity.  Stone fruits make an appearance again along with notes of lemon, mineral, and a lingering spicy finish with lively acidity.  Acidity, weight, and spice are all working harmoniously in this bottling, with each component shining through from the entry on the palate to the finish.

 

Check back next Friday for PART 2: New Finger Lakes Arrivals to Get Excited About when we’ll focus on Element Winery and local Sommelier-Chef, Christopher Bates. 

It was at this blind tasting in October that we discovered Chris Bates' beautiful Pinot Noir 2012 (Element Winery).

 

- K. Rose

A Visit to the Standard Bearers — PART 1 (Finger Lakes, NY)

Right after Memorial Day, Empar Sicroff, Red Feet’s Store Manager, and I were able to sneak away from Ithaca for a visit to two of our favorite Finger Lakes wineries, Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyards and Ravines Wine Cellars, both located on the west side of Seneca Lake.  Although we sample the new releases of each vintage as they come out, we like to pay a visit to our winery friends on an annual basis, so we can get a little closer to the process of growing and making wine, educate ourselves, and exchange thoughts with the wineries.  We want to connect with the passion and creativity of these craftspeople, so we can tell their stories.

 

Since our last visit to Wiemer, Fred Merwarth and his partner Oskar Bynke have added on an exciting, sleek, new building which is used as a tasting room and they’ve renovated their retail area.  It’s built in a modern style with clean lines, tall ceilings with exposed beams, stark white walls, copper counter tops and groupings of tall tables that can entertain 4-6 persons each.  We loved the high quality tasting experience that this was designed to produce–a more private contact with the guide and your own cluster of friends, as well as the potential to sample limited release wines.

 

 

 

 

 

The winery has been under Fred and Oskar’s direction since 2007, the same year that Red Feet opened.  It is refreshing to see how they have taken Wiemer’s pioneering efforts to make world class wine to yet another level.  Single vineyard bottlings, new acreage under vine, changes within the production facility, switching over some older plantings to Riesling, expanding their nursery business, ramping up sparkling wine production, selling wine across the United States…these young men haven’t been sitting still!

 

They now have 76 acres under vine and additionally, they lease some acreage, always being sure they farm it themselves and to their standards.  They work almost exclusively on the west side of Seneca Lake and know it intimately.  Though Oskar would take nothing away from the east siders and the ripe, warmth of Hector, Lodi and Burdett, he showed us the pluses they find on the west side.  Oskar feels it’s more about where sites are located in a north-south direction along Seneca Lake that determine the potential of the site.  He says Magdalena, their warmest property, is about half way up Seneca where the lake is at its widest and deepest (thus creating more of the protective warming effect).

 

Because of the large open area to the west of Seneca Lake, Oskar feels they also get a bit less rain on the west side which means that there’s less disease pressure, and in the Finger Lakes, that’s a huge deal.  Disease (as in rot and botrytis) isn’t what people may choose to discuss when it comes to evaluating wine, but it can make quite a determination of how long your grapes can hang (and thus, ripen).  If undesired botrytis has set in, it tends to spread quickly, especially with any warm, humid days that come along, and that forces you to pick sooner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another notable hallmark of Wiemer when it comes to winemaking is that they use entirely natural yeast in their white wines.  They feel these give the wines more density, and from my experience, it’s preferable for the natural aromatics too.  They didn’t move to indigenous yeast in a day; it was a gradual shift of percentages until they finally didn’t need to buy any.  The fermentations can be long and slow, laboring on towards the next summer.  They pick late because things ripen slowly for them and because the grapes are healthy, they can benefit from this gradual ripening.  This means the grapes come in colder when they are harvested (often in November) and fermentations proceed more sluggishly. They allow the fermentations to bubble along and in the end, they tend to leave more sweetness in the finished wines.  This seems to be a preferred style of the Wiemer team which makes sense, considering their founder is German.  The resulting wines are dense, tropical and on the cusp of off-dry (Wiemer’s dry Rieslings measure in around .9% residual sugar).

 

They’ve been learning a great deal more about their sites as they use smaller tanks of 300 gallons to ferment various lots of Riesling.  At harvest, they often sort into several different batches right on the sorting table, depending upon each cluster in hand and its color, taste and level of botrytis.  Then they like to ferment each of those batches separately to see where they end up and to give themselves more blending options later.  In fact, they may all come together again anyway in the final wine, but they’ve learned something along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oskar finds the crisp acid of the 2014 vintage to be very appealing, and yet the fruit was excellent.  He considers the 2013′s to be more round.

Here are the current Hermann J. Wiemer vineyard wines we carry at Red Feet:  Click on the links to find out more about each wine.

Dry Riesling 2014

Reserve Dry Riesling 2013

HJW Vineyard Riesling 2013 (they’ve omitted the word dry on these single vineyard labels now)

Magdalena Vineyard Riesling 2013

Semi-dry Riesling 2013

Late Harvest Riesling 2013

Frost Cuvee 2012

Chardonnay 2013

Gewurztraminer 2013

Cabernet Franc Magdalena Vineyard 2012

Wines we’re bringing into the store after this visit:

Sauvignon Blanc 2012 BA — a berenauslese style dessert wine picked berry by berry

Riesling Magdalena Vineyard 2012 BA — a single vineyard dessert wine reminiscent of nectar, honey, vanilla dessert pastry and baked apples

Field Cuvée 2012–a dry red blend which will be released in July or August

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Look for these wines throughout our FLX section or online!  Stay tuned for “A Visit to the Standard Bearers — PART 2″ on this blog.

Cheers, Dewi Rainey