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


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












Finger Lakes Cider House Opening Celebration

From our Hang Time tasting on Thursday, May 28, 2015…

Hard cider is enjoying a renaissance in the imbibing world, and what better place to bring attention to this delicious beverage than New York State – the second largest apple-growing state in the country.  This past Saturday, on the western shore of Cayuga Lake, the Finger Lakes Cider House had their much anticipated grand opening.

Collaboration permeates through this endeavor, bringing five local cideries together in a communal space – complete with acres of perfectly-planted crops, apple trees, and the most magnificent horses you have ever seen – at Good Life Farm.  Featuring tastings, flights, draft pours, and more, patrons can enjoy their favorite ciders from Good Life, Black Diamond, Eve’s, Redbyrd, and South Hill, all in one stop.

Today’s Hang Time tasting features ciders from each Finger Lakes Cider House partner.  You’ll meet Ezra Sherman of Eves Cidery and taste their Darling Creek, a sparkling cider produced in a method akin to champagne. This blend of estate-grown English and French bittersweets and bittersharps, American cider apples, and proprietary seedling varieties shows notes of honeysuckle and apple blossom with a full and velvety mouthfeel.

Eric Shatt will present the fruit-forward Workman Semi-Dry Cider from Redbyrd Orchard Cider.  Force-carbonated and a combination of heirlooms, bittersweets, and sharps, this cider features a well-balanced palate of acid and sweetness, backed by notes of tangerine and red apple skin.

Cider-maker, musician, and luthier, Steve Selin will pour Soundpost from South Hill Cider.  Apples for this cider include American, English, and French cider apples.  Soft bubbles integrate nicely with the fragrant nuances from ageing in mature bourbon barrels.  The minerality on the palate and tannin presence may remind you of sipping on wine.  That’s right; ciders can exhibit many of the same components found in wines, including tannins, acid, and other structural similarities.

Next, stop over and say hello to Ian Merwin of Black Diamond Cider.  The cidery’s Slatestone is a blend of estate-grown European bittersweets and American heirloom sharps.  Concentrated with a mineral-laced core, this dry sparkler is Black Diamond’s expression of Finger Lakes terroir. Our final offering, Good Life Ciders Cazenovia, is produced from estate-grown fruit from Good Life Farm – home to the Finger Lakes Cider House – and named after one of the soil types found on the farm.  Garrett Miller will guide your tasting of this bottle-conditioned blend of European bittersweets, redolent with Bosc pear, citrus fruit, and a persistent sparkling finish.

We thank all of the Finger Lakes Cider House partners for joining us tonight, and congratulate them on their brilliant journey ahead! The Finger Lakes Cider House is open Thurs-Mon 11 am-6 pm.  Visit: http://www.fingerlakesciderhouse.com/ for more info.

–Kristina Rose

Explore the Finger Lakes

From our Hang Time tasting on Thursday, May 21, 2015…

It’s Memorial Day weekend, a holiday for many and Cornell’s graduation.  This is a great time for locals, grads and their families, and tourists to explore the Finger Lakes and local wineries.  And don’t forget—May is Riesling month!

There are 11 Finger Lakes in Central New York, but the wine scene is dominated by three: Cayuga, Seneca, and Keuka.  As an American Viticultural Area (AVA), the Finger Lakes comprises some 2.6 million acres, with more than 10,000 under vine and well over 100 wineries.  The lakes were formed as glaciers retreated beginning some 19,000 years ago, leaving deep gouges and rocky deposits.  The size and depth of these lakes moderates the temperatures of the surrounding land, tempering the cold of winter and the frosts of spring.  They provide large day-night temperature differentials in summer, helping our grapes to ripen slowly and evenly to produce world-class wines.

Today’s tasting features wines from local producers, some a bit off the beaten track. We’ll move from west to east, starting on inverted-Y-shaped Keuka Lake, at an estate winery (one that grows and vinifies its own fruit). The McGregor family was one of the first in the Finger Lakes to grow vinifera grapes, back in 1971; they began making wine in 1980.  We’ll taste the 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling, with lovely stone fruits supported by fresh acidity.  Try this with fusion cuisine.

Onto the west shore of Seneca Lake just below Geneva for a stop at Billsboro, a 28-acre property that owners Vinny and Kim Aliperti have gradually restored.  As well as making his own wines, Vinny is also head winemaker at Atwater.  The 2014 Rosé of Pinot Noir Sawmill Creek Vineyard offers strawberry and watermelon, with hints of pepper and mineral and a spritzy mouthfeel.

Continuing southward around the tip of Seneca Lake, we come to Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, home to six generations of fruit growers; the family began making wine commercially in 1985. The Cabernet Franc 2012 is a ripe wine from a ripe vintage, offering black cherries, blackberries, and plums with a suggestion of rhubarb.  Try this with spicy Indian cuisine.

Moving northward on Seneca Lake’s eastern shore, we’ll pause at Silver Thread Vineyard, founded in 1982 by organic enthusiast Richard Figiel and acquired by Paul and Shannon Brock in 2011, who keep the sustainable tradition growing.  Their Pinot Noir 2013 comes from 18-year-old estate vines; grapes are harvested by hand and the wine is aged eight months in French oak.  Pair with salmon.

Our final stop is here on Cayuga Lake’s northeast corner, at family-owned Heart and Hands Winery.  Tom and Susan Higgins scoured the region looking for just the right soils to produce Pinot Noir and Riesling; they completed their winery in 2008.  The 2013 Dry Riesling contains fruit sourced from three vineyards on three different lakes (Seneca, Cayuga, and Skaneateles) and fermented slowly in tank.  It offers orange peel, jasmine, peach, green apple, and key lime fruit with slate notes.

–M.P. Rouse