Monday, September 21, 2015

Verticals In The Vineyard Delight At Finger Lakes Event

The mystery excursions always delight at the Wine Bloggers Conference. This year the experience was much more than we could ever hope.

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We Are Whisked Away To An Unknown Location

Last month’s Wine Bloggers Conference highlighted the Finger Lakes, our favorite wine region. The scenery, people and outstanding wines and wineries made an impression on the hundreds of bloggers who attended the event. This was our sixth WBC and the very best part is always the excursions.

Part of the appeal is that you board a bus and are whisked away to an unknown location. You then enjoy an incredible food and wine experience hosted by wineries and winemakers.

20150814_171045We boarded the bus and some of the suspense was gone. One of our hosts was wearing a Lakewood Vineyard T-shirt. This, of course, was great news since Lakewood is one of our favorite Finger Lakes wineries.

The winery has nearly 100 acres of grapes and produces about 33,000 cases of wine annually. Their spacious tasting room also features perhaps the longest tasting bar on Seneca Lake. But as the bus arrived, we learned we wouldn’t be spending time in the tasting room.

On A Hayride To Heaven

When the bus pulled up to Lakewood, we learned that Bellangelo Winery, Keuka Spring Vineyards and Prejean Winery were also our hosts for the evening. “Pechooom!” (That’s the sound effect for our minds being blown!) We boarded a hay wagon pulled by a tractor to travel down to the vineyard where our tasting and dinner would take place.

Hayride At Lakewood courtesy of Lakewood Vnyd

Amidst the vines, four shelters were standing with wines and a larger tent for our dinner. We learned that our evening would be “Verticals in the Vineyard” hosted by four wonderful family owned and operated Finger Lakes wineries. A vertical is a tasting of different vintages of the same wine. This allows you to taste the subtle differences from year to year.

Prejean Highlights Outstanding Array of Riesling

Prejean Winery opened in 1986 and is now run by the second generation, Tom and Amy Prejean. The winery has 53 acres of land overlooking Seneca Lake. It is a favorite stop during our Finger Lakes visits and has the best Marechal Foch in the region.

On the tasting list was the 2012 Dry Riesling, 2012 Semi-Sweet Riesling, 2013 Goldfinch Vineyard Riesling and the 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling. Each was an example of why the Finger Lakes produces some of the best Riesling in the US. The Dry Riesling and Goldfinch were crisp and minerally while the Semi-Dry and Semi-Sweet had round fuller flavors with a rich body. The Goldfinch Riesling distinguished itself with a splash of citrus notes. It was one of the finest Rieslings tasted during our trip.

Keuka Spring Raises The Bar On Gewürztraminer

20150814_180846If Riesling is the King of Finger Lakes wine, Gewürztraminer must certainly be the queen. This grape flourishes in the region and is light-years ahead of almost all California Gewürztraminer. Keuka Spring, which was the site of one of our best wine tastings ever, not only produces award-winning Riesling, but is excelling in single vineyard Gerwurz.

Owners Len and Judy Wiltberger opened a tasting room in the mid-‘80s next to their vineyards. The Wiltbergers designed and constructed their winery on Keuka Lake, which opened in 2004. It was a delight to have them pour and talk about their wines.

We sampled the 2013 and 2014 Gewürztraminer and the 2014 Dynamite Vineyard Gewürztraminer. Winemaker August Deimel continues to do a “dynamite” job with Keuka Springs wines.

For the Dynamite Vineyard Gerwurz, it was 45% barrel fermented and then aged for two months in old oak. This treatment gives it complexity and depth. The wine has floral aromatics and light refreshing body.

An Encore Presentation By Bellangelo Winery

20150814_173559We had a chance to visit Bellangelo Winery for the first time during our pre-conference tour. It has leapt to a place in the pantheon of really great Finger Lakes wineries.

We were pleased that genial owner Chris Missick was able to be part of the Verticals event, pouring his 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 Semi-Dry Riesling. Wow!

The 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling has 2.6% residual sugar, so it is not an overwhelming sweetness. In fact, I have grown to appreciate semi-dry Riesling for it’s ability to display a full spectrum of flavors. This is an excellent wine and just part of the expansive Riesling lineup offered by Bellangelo.

How Old Can You Go? Aged Lakewood Vineyard Pinot

20150814_181559In general, my impression is that Finger Lakes reds aren’t for aging. That’s not a bad thing, like reds from France’s Loire Valley, they are made to be consumed while relatively young. I may have to re-evaluate that after our tasting in the vineyard with Lakewood wines.

Lakewood served up 2012, 2010, 2007 and 1998 Pinot Noir vintages. I have to say I’m surprised. I look at American Pinot Noir as not having as long a shelf life as a Cabernet. As I pressed forward with my tasting glass I thought these wines are, well, old.

Another urban myth smashed! The 2012 and 2010 were drinking well with expressive cherry flavors. The 2007 remained solid. With the 1998, the palette of flavors had noticeably changed. In the glass the wine took on some brick red color. On the tongue red fruit was still discernable, but with a more rustic,earthy feel. I now consider myself enlightened. I quite liked it!

20150814_182032We closed our our experience with a farm-to-table dinner provided by Ahhh La Cart. There were a multitude of exquisite open bottles. Each bite could be accompanied by a different sip. As we watched clouds and sunlight dance over the waters of Seneca, we finished with a goat cheese cheesecake by Lively Run.

I don’t know about the other buses, but I can’t imagine a more wonderful setting or a better organized event! This is a sampling of what’s available for visitors to the Finger Lakes, not just superb wine, but beautiful scenery, outdoor activities, great people and cuisine fit for foodies. What are you waiting for?

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