The Manhattino – your new favorite fall cocktail

Ever wondered how to include an Amaro in your favorite cocktail recipes? Check out this original creation by our very own spirits guru, Jeff!

“Manhattino”
- 2 parts Myer Farm Distillers Rye Whiskey
- 1 part Amaro Nonino Quintessentia
- 2 dashes Angostura or aromatic bitters
- Lemon peel

Stir the whiskey, amaro, and bitters with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or serve over ice, your preference. Garnish with a wide strip of lemon peel, first running the peel around the rim of the glass. And ENJOY!

Grenache and Grenache Blends

From our Hang Time on October 29, 2015…

Grenache, or Garnacha, originated in Spain and was dispersed around the western Mediterranean, mainly under the kingdom of Aragón during the 13th to17th centuries. It’s a survivor—long-lived, it thrives in poor, stony soil, and withstands high heat and near-drought conditions. In addition, it is highly productive and disease resistant. In general, it is a very woody, upright grower, well suited for bush cultivation (rather than trellising) in hot, windy areas; this growth pattern makes harvesting by hand the norm, especially from old vines. Grenache buds early and ripens late, so it needs a long growing season to achieve the high sugar (and alcohol) levels it’s capable of reaching. Wines based on Grenache have strong, sweet fruit, but may lack structure, so the grape is often blended with firmer grapes such as Tempranillo or Syrah. We think of Grenache as a red grape—and it is—but it also comes in gray (Gris) and white (Blanc). The most common red variety (Noir/Tinta) has dark skin but pale flesh, resulting in lighter colored, almost translucent wines; it also makes great rosé.

In homage to the grape’s origins, we’ll look first at the Spanish examples, both 100% Garnacha. Bodegas Máximo Garnacha Edición Limitada 2012 comes from Don Quixote country where things are hot and dry during the growing season. The winery was established in 2002 and boasts state of the art facilities; grapes are sourced from mostly old vineyards. This wine offers bright red fruit with notes of chocolate and spice. Bodegas Ateca Atteca Old Vines Garnacha 2013 comes from Calatayud, a little further north, where Garnacha accounts for about two thirds of the DO’s wine. This is a weightier, more serious offering featuring darker fruit with touches of smoke and sassafras. It ages for 10 months in French oak.

Two of our wines come from France; both are blends. Saint Cosme Little James’ Basket Press Rouge is mostly Grenache, but half comes from the 2014 vintage, half from a solera-system blend of all preceding vintages (15 and counting). It offers macerated cherries and oriental spices, as much fun as the label suggests. Clos Bagatelle A l’Origine 2013 comes from Saint-Chinian in the Languedoc; it is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, and Mourvèdre. Dry and spicy with a broad palate, this is a wine that can age a few years.

Washington State also provides a wine: Owen Roe Sinister Hand 2013, which we’re pouring from half bottles. This blend of four varieties is rich and complex, offering blackberry, plum jam, dried blueberry, even chocolate covered pomegranate. Unfortunately, the production of this vintage was about 80% below normal.

So, what do you eat with all these wines? All these examples were made from low-yielding vineyards, so the wines are quite concentrated and fruity, with soft tannins. They go well with slightly aged soft or semi-hard cheeses, lamb, barbecue, spicy burgers or chili. They’re also pleasurable as a stand-alone wine to take the chill off on a cold day. Grenache is a versatile wine, so don’t be afraid to get creative!

- M.P. Rouse

The Pinot Family

From our Hang time Tasting on October 22, 2015…

Noirien is the name commonly given to this family of grapes, which includes the millennia-old progenitor, Pinot Noir, as well as Pinot Blanc/Bianco, Pinot Gris/Grigio, Auxerrois, Chardonnay, and Gamay.

The main red grape in France’s Burgundy, Pinot Noir is known for its sweet fruitiness and sensitivity to terroir. It grows best in limestone soil and prefers cool weather. It is hard to grow—it buds early, and so is susceptible to spring frosts; it’s very thin-skinned, so it’s prone to mildew, rot, and viruses; it’s low yielding; and it has a tendency to mutate spontaneously. These and other features make Pinot Noir a challenge to growers and winemakers. However, when well handled, its wine is often called feminine, sensual, ethereal, offering cherry, earth, rose, and tea aromas and flavors. Pinot Noir is a cool-climate grape, widely planted in Oregon; California’s Russian River, Carneros, and Santa Barbara areas; New Zealand; and our own Finger Lakes. Pinot Noir can often be pricey, but Red Feet recently discovered an inexpensive one from the south of Burgundy, Collin-Bourisset La Romaine Pinot Noir 2014. Its earthy red fruit, light spice, and silky texture mark it as decidedly French. Pair with soft cheeses, or make a classic coq-au-vin. Kings Ridge Pinot Noir 2013 comes from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. This was a good vintage, producing ripe wines with good concentration and structure. Grapes from several vineyards were fermented by lot and aged 10 months in both tank and wood, producing intense red fruit and floral notes. Partner with salmon, duck, or tuna. Pinot Noir is the proverbial “bridge” wine, reflecting its versatility at the table.

Pinot Blanc/Pinot Bianco is a white mutation of Pinot Gris first noted in Burgundy in the 19th century. Its greenish-yellow berries resemble Chardonnay grapes, and for many years no distinction was made between the two. Its wines tend to full body and softness. Pinot Blanc is grown in Alsace, Italy (Bianco), Germany (Rülander), and Austria (Weissburgunder). Castel Sallegg Prey Pinot Bianco 2013 is 100% Pinot Bianco from a single vineyard in the Südtirol region of northeast Italy. The majority of the grapes are fermented cool in steel; and aged in tank on the fine lees, but 5% sees oak for both processes. Pair with seafood, light pasta with cream sauce, or vegetable dishes.
Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio is the result of a centuries-old mutation of Pinot Noir. Its berries range from grayish-blue to pinkish brown, often within the same bunch. Widely grown in Alsace and northeastern Italy, this grape is vinified in styles ranging from round, soft, gently perfumed wines to those with zingy citrus and minerality. Cantine Gabriele Pinot Grigio 2014 comes from near Rome (an unusual source), but it’s definitely Italian in style, zippy and fresh. Try with trout or crab cakes.

Back to Pinot Noir, this time in bubbly form: Secco Italian Bubbles Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2014, for brunch, caviar, or Chinese take-out. Its bright strawberry and morello cherry are accented by a touch of biscotti—cheers!

- M.P. Rouse

Weeknight Wines

From our Hang time Tasting on October 15, 2015…

Today’s tasting is all about everyday wine, versatile and food friendly, at a value price—like our Wines of the Moment. Weeknight wines pair with a variety of daily foods, or no foods at all— but they definitely pair with the cook!  Here are five wines to put a smile on your face without putting a dent in your wallet.

Our whites today come from Spain and California.  El Coto Rioja Blanco 2014 is 100% Viura, aka Macabeo, the dominant white variety in Rioja.  Its crisp pear and citrus notes stand alone as an aperitif and also pair well with seafood and salad. Line 39 Chardonnay 2014 is named for the 39th parallel that runs through the heart of California wine country.  Fermented in both tank and barrel and aged in oak, the wine offers bright tropical fruit along with moderate toast and butter.  This nicely balanced wine is a good partner for squash soup or chicken.

Fall is definitely here, and many of us are reaching for red wines; we’ll taste three today.  Italy’s Bindi Segrardi La Boncia Chianti 2014 is 100% Sangiovese from a property that has been in the same family since 1349.  The farm produces durum wheat, maize, olive oil, and raises indigenous Chianina cattle as well as making wine.  The grapes for this bottling are fermented and aged in steel to preserve the freshness and aromas of the fruit. Serve this with pasta topped with the red sauce of your choice, pizza, or a plate of cheese.  Dom. de Boède Le Pavillon 2014 is a blend of sustainably farmed Cinsault (aged in tank) and Syrah (aged in oak) from the Languedoc region in southern France.  This is an aromatic wine, reflecting the spicy garrigue of the Mediterranean; its flavors include cherries, violets, and ripe, juicy berries.  It’s fairly soft, with enough rusticity to make it a winner with pâté or herbed olive oil and hearty bread.  Try some sausage or a lentil dish and reach for those Mediterranean herbs!

Our final stop is Chile; we’ll taste Origen Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013.  Made by the seventh winemaking generation of the del Pedregal family using estate fruit, it’s aged for 10 months in French oak and spends eight months in bottle before release.  The result is a well-integrated, nicely developed wine of ripe dark fruit, gentle toast and vanilla notes, firm structure, and a long finish.  Don’t put away your grill yet—fire it up one more time, toss on a steak or any type of burgers, some mushrooms, an eggplant or two, and chow down.

Five wines, five weekdays; add a sixth for the weekend and get a 10% discount on them all.  Try the new Wines for the Harvest Demi-Sac or our Wines of the Moment.  Don’t forget about the Errand Runner’s Special—from noon-2 pm on weekdays, get the case discount whether you buy one bottle or 12.

–M.P. Rouse

DeCIDE on Cider – Finger Lakes Cider Week

From our Hang Time tasting on Thursday October 8, 2015…

It’s Fall again, and the apple harvest is in full swing, so we celebrate by raising a glass of cider! Cider apples aren’t like the sweeter, less tannic apples we are eating this harvest. They have high sugar levels too, but the cultivars for cider-making have higher acid and tannin.  Much of a cider’s character can be attributed to the apple varieties in it. In European cider making regions, apple varieties have been selected for their fermentation qualities.  On a very basic level, the balance of a cider is defined by sugar, acid and tannins. Thus, cider apples are classified by their tannin and acid levels:

 Bittersweets: tannin levels > .2% and acid levels < .45%
Bittersharps: tannin levels > .2% and acid levels >.45%
Sweets: tannin levels < .2% and acid levels < .45%
Sharps: tannin levels < .2% and acid levels > .45%

Sparkling ciders obtain their bubbles in several ways:  with a second fermentation in bottle like Champagne which produces very fine and persistent bubbles, in tank like Prosecco, or  by injecting CO2 like soft drinks. All six ciders in today’s tasting are sparkling.

We will be joined today by Ezra Sherman of Eve’s Cidery and Garrett Miller of the Good Life Farm.  Eve’s Cidery was started in 2002 and owns over 20 acres of organically-farmed apple orchards.  Good Life is a certified-organic, mixed-agriculture, CSA-running farm as well as host to the Finger Lakes Cider House – a tasting room in Interlaken, NY that showcases five outstanding producers of local cider.  Open five days a week, they offer their own bottles, along with Eve’s, Black Diamond, Redbyrd, and South Hill Ciders. Now, about the ciders…

Eve’s Cidery is sharing three ciders with us today. All of them have been fermented in steel and undergo a secondary fermentation in bottle (à la Champagne) to achieve carbonation. Their Northern Spy is a dry cider made from this single variety which originated in the area in the 1800′s. It’s fresh, tart, and mineral-laced. The next cider is Scatterseed, a blend of two vintages — a field blend of Ellis Bitter and Akane with a lees-aged bittersweet blend. This is also dry, but richer and more savory.  Try it with aged cheeses.  The final offering from Eve’s is the Autumn’s Gold, a complex and delicious blend of traditional cider varieties, harvested in the year 2014.

Good Life Cider brings three options with a range of sweetness.  Cazenovia is an off-dry, bottle-conditioned cider made from bittersweet (Dabinett, Chisel Jersey) and American Heirloom (Golden Russet, Newtown Pippin) apples from 2014. The Barrel Rye is also off-dry, is stirred with the lees for one month and spends 3 to 4 weeks aging in once-used Rye Whiskey barrels from Finger Lakes Distilling. Good Life’s Honeoye, named for a type of soil prevalent on the farm, is the sweetest of the lot. It’s made from sharp and heirloom apples fermented to dryness, then back-sweetened with cold concentrated fresh juice.

A big thanks to our guest stars this week. Enjoy the ciders, everyone, and the rest of FLX Cider Week!  Events are happening around the area, so be sure to visit www.ciderweekflx.com for more information. Cheers!

–Jeff Faraday

Bordeaux and Bordeaux Blends

From our Hang time tasting on October 1, 2015…

Bordeaux, in southwest France, comprises the Gironde estuary and its tributary rivers, the Garonne and the Dordogne. Its approximately 900 million bottles a year are mostly about blended red wines—a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon (the bones), Merlot (the flesh), Cabernet Franc (the seasoning) and Petit Verdot and Malbec (the correctors).  Cabernet Sauvignon dominates the left bank of the Garonne; its blackcurrant flavors provide 60-70% of most red blends.  The most famous regions are the Médoc/Haut Médoc, St.-Estephe, Pauillac, Pessac-Leognan, and Graves.  The right bank of the Gironde and Dodogne is home to Merlot’s plum notes, and to a lesser degree, Cabernet Franc’s spice.  Here, the most well-known areas are Pomerol, St-Emilion, and Fronsac.  Between the two rivers lies Entre-Deux-Mers, an AOC known for white wines based on Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle.  Bordeaux is also home to the Sauternes and Barsac districts, which produce sweet white wines of incomparable quality.

Bordeaux has a maritime climate, tempered by the Atlantic, the rivers, and numerous streams; to the south and west, pine forests protect from the wind.  The soil is gravel over limestone, with clay mixed in on the right bank.  Drainage is important, since the region is rather flat.  It has been a source of grapes since Roman times.  In 1152, Eleanor of Aquitaine (including Bordeaux) married Henry II of England, and for three centuries, Bordeaux wines were exported there; later, the Dutch and cities in the Hanseatic League were favored buyers. Today, the world is its market, with Asia a major consumer. The wines are known for their elegance, structure, and intense flavors, rather than sheer, massive power, and the wines age well.  Alcohol levels are comparatively low.

Not until the 19th century did Bordeaux start to become the modern entity we know today.  In 1855, 61 left-bank red-wine-producing chateaux (60 in the Médoc and one in Graves) were classified into five different quality levels, ranging from Premier cru (First growth) to Fifth growth.  This classification has been revised and expanded a few times; while useful, it is not completely reliable.  Some right bank areas (notably St-Emilion) have also been classified, using a different system, but many properties are grouped into other categories—Bordeaux superior and cru bourgeois—while others have never been classified (including all of Pomerol, one of the best regions).  Quality improved massively in the 1950s, when many vineyards were very densely replanted and modern equipment was introduced, especially in the cellar.

The success of the dominant blends—Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc—has attracted producers worldwide.  In the US, red blends are sometimes called Meritage®, a proprietary name derived from “merit” + “heritage.”

Today, we have one white, Fleur du Roi 2014, crisp and food friendly.  We also have a local offering, Treleaven Meritage 2012, well made with room to grow.  Argentina chimes in with Kallune Mendoza Blend 2011, with warm-climate richness.  Two classic French wines from lesser-known regions offer great values: Ch de Musset Lalande de Pomerol 2011, from a satellite appellation or Pomerol, and L’Eglise Saint-Hilaire 2011 from Entre-Deux-Mers.  Both are Merlot dominated, classic Right Bank wines.  All the reds are firmly structured and taste better at the table than alone.

–M.P. Rouse

Riesling from Around the World

From our Hang Time tasting on Thursday September 24, 2015…

Riesling is one of the six noble grape varieties.  In many minds, it’s linked to sweet, vapid wines, pleasant enough to be sure, but not really ready for the big leagues. That image is far from the truth, as today’s tasting will show.  Riesling is a cold-hardy grape that makes wine in a variety of styles, from the driest dry to the sweetest sweet. The best wines have intense aromas and a magical transparency—vibrant flavor and a dynamic tension between fruit and acidity.  It is this acidity that allows Riesling to age very well. The vine grows upright in compact bunches of small grapes and ripens fairly early.  It pairs well with so many foods—apples, cheese (from blue to Brie), Asian food, curries, chicken, ham, pork, salads, seafood, and moderately spicy dishes.

Here in the Finger Lakes, Riesling is what we do best.  Ravines Wine Cellars Dry Riesling 2013 is complex with floral, citrus, peach, and apple supported by a focused, acidic backbone.  Made from mostly hand-harvested grapes and fermented very slowly, it softens on the fine lees over the winter, giving it a pleasantly round texture. Winemaker Morten Hallgren looks for a combination of ripeness and firm acidity from his growers to make long-lived cool-climate wines.

Ann and John Martini began growing grapes and raising their family on 100 acres overlooking Seneca Lake back in 1973.  They sold grapes until 1990, when they released their first wine.  We’ll taste their Anthony Road Semi-Sweet Riesling 2013. Its residual sugar is nicely balanced by substantial acidity.

Austria also produces fine Riesling. Gobelsburger Riesling 2013 comes from a former monastery in the Kamptal. The winery also makes other whites as well as reds under the skillful hand of “Michi” Moosbrugger, a young visionary who farms organically and lets each of his vineyards express itself.  This wine has flavors of pear, peach, tropical fruits, and crisp acidity.

Germany’s vineyards are as far north as grapes can ripen, the same latitude as Newfoundland.  The rocky soil of these vineyards, coupled with the cool climate, means that full ripeness is rare, resulting in wines that are low in alcohol but high in acidity. Weingut Pauly Generations Riesling Feinherb 2014 is a testament to the slate soils and steep terraces of the Mosel.  It’s off dry, with subtle fruit and slate balanced by tangy acid.

French Riesling comes from Alsace near the German border.  As in the rest of the country, the best vineyard sites receive the “Grand Cru” designation; the Willm Kirchberg de Barr 2013 is an example.  Expect a great deal of complexity from this wine—stone, orchard fruit, savory notes, and a touch of tropical fruit.  Despite its youth, it offers beautiful balance, integration, and texture; it will easily continue to develop in the coming years.

–M.P. Rouse