Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Finger Lakes Report: Silver Thread Vineyard

FINGER LAKES REPORT -- Continuing our series of fall winery visit reports.

The Silver Thread Vineyard had piqued our interest during our visit a year ago but we never made it to this low profile winery. We say low profile in a positive way, as in quirky, organic and with a good reputation known to a small group of insiders.. We were in the middle of our final day of wine tasting in the Finger Lakes and had just run smack into busloads of tourists and several "girlfriend" outings at some of the larger wineries. We needed a change of pace and Silver Thread seemed just the thing.

The day was bright and sunny as we rumbled down the gravel road to Silver Thread. Several times during our approach we wondered if we should turn back, but just before we did we saw another sign urging us on. This is no road for low slung sportsters. We crossed a ditch with a warning sign and the winery came into view.

The winery was established in the early 1980s on a hillside that once was a huge peach orchard tended by the Iroquois. Once specializing only in the traditional European grape varieties of Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the winery has since expanded to include Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grunerveltliner. This is an artisan winery with 10 acres of estate vineyards.

2009_1004fingerlks20049 The winery practices sustainable farming by using mulch, compost and cover crops instead of chemical fertilizers. The winery is set into the hillside to take advantage of the natural temperature control. The winery also uses gravity to flow water from a nearby spring.

Silver Thread is off limits to tour buses -- they could never make it down the road. The tasting room is also a small affair with a couple tables and counter space for four to six friendly people.

We opened with the 2007 Good Earth White, a light, citrusy Chardonnay blend. The 2008 Chardonnay I found much more interesting. The Chard is fermented in French oak and has a complex nutty flavor that is intriguing.

2009_1004fingerlks20051 The 2007 Gewürztraminer was very spicy and had rose-floral notes. This we found to be the most interesting white. The 2007 Off-Dry Riesling we found to be nothing special. This has 1.2% residual sugar, so it is a little sweeter than we prefer. In the Finger Lakes, land of some of the best Rieslings in the country, this bottle didn't earn a top spot for us.

Among the reds, we tried the 2006 Good Earth Red. This is a dry fruity red made in the style of French Beaujolais. This also missed the mark with us, lacking complexity. More enjoyable for us was the 2006 Blackbird, which is a blend of 2/3 Cab Franc and 1/3 Cab Sauvignon. This had a strong tannic structure and delightful blackberry aroma and flavors.

We wrapped up with the 2007 Pinot Noir, the highest priced bottle on the Silver Thread price list at $22. This had a medium body with herbal notes. Black cherry was the predominate flavor.

While we enjoyed our visit, some of the wines fell short. However, our visit was enjoyable enough that we'd like to go back and taste the wines once again. The wines here are a real value. The Good Earth White and Good Earth Red are just $9 and $12 respectively. So for less than the mass marketed commercial vino, you can enjoy an organic wine that has some soul.

The grounds are enchanting and just the thing for a romantic picnic for two. There is a small porch off the back of the tasting room that is also an ideal setting for a photo. Silver Thread is a handcrafted experience. There's no glossy, high dollar tasting room -- just real people serving up genuine wines created in harmony with the ecosystem.

If you go, and we'd suggest that you do, check the Web site and call ahead. Silver Thread is only open on weekends from Memorial Day to the weekend before Thanksgiving.
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