Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Finger Lakes Winery Visit: Shaw Vineyard Winery

A recent “zip trip” through the Finger Lakes provided us the opportunity to make a return visit to Shaw Vineyard’s Seneca Lake tasting room. The small. unpretentious tasting room has an eclectic funkiness and gives visitors an intimate opportunity to sample some outstanding limited production wine.

Our previous visit to Shaw Vineyard was memorable, but for all the wrong reasons. This time it was a pleasurable experience we’re happy to recommend to others.

The tasting room is a simple wood structure that contrasts mightily with some of the temple-like structures erected by some of the larger Finger Lakes wineries. It’s a one-room affair with
a central tasting bar and a scattering of colorful, abstract oil paintings.

This visit to the tasting room had the most important decoration of all: a friendly and knowledgeable server! I’m typically in a jovial mood when I’m wine tasting in the Finger Lakes and I was given even more reason to smile when we entered the tasting room and I heard the strains of Neil Young from one of my favorite albums, Zuma.

After a quick tasting of an enjoyable Li Bella Pinot Grigio, we turned our focus to the reds. Winemaker Steve Shaw is known for his painstaking attention to detail with his wines. Whenever possible the grapes are worked by hand or with low-pressure processes so as to ensure every subtle nuance of the grapes is maintained. He has tried to utilize many of the techniques he observed during travels to Burgundy and Napa while adapting his practices to the cooler climate of the Finger Lakes. The wines also see considerable time in the barrel. We sampled the 2006 vintages of the Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir.

The Finger Lakes area is known for its outstanding Riesling and Cabernet Franc, but not so much for its Pinot Noir. Pinot is a finicky grape that can test the mettle of the best winemaker. Some Finger Lake Pinots are one dimensional: You get the varietal fingerprint, but not the subtleties that can elevate Pinot Noir to the ethereal.

The first swirl and sniff of the Shaw Pinot Noir revealed an unexpected complexity. The wine has smooth tannins with bright cherry flavors with flavors of earthiness and spice. This is a hand-crafted Pinot to savor.

Steve Shaw’s unique approach to winemaking creates some awesome wines and a great stop for you on your next visit to the Finger Lakes.
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