Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Finger Lakes Ice Wine and Sparklers Show Delicious Versatility

Quick, name a Finger Lakes grape variety! Chances are you said, “Riesling.” Riesling is the grape most associated with New York’s premier winemaking region – but the vintners in the Finger Lakes have talents that culminate in a spectrum of wines – from the driest sparklers to sweet dessert wines.

The TWAV tasting team gathered recently to take part in a virtual tasting to sample four ice style wines and three sparkling wines. The lineup included:
  • Atwater Estate Vineyard 2008 Cuvée Sparkling Wine
  • McGregor Vineyard 2008 Blanc de Noir
  • Swedish Hill Winery Riesling Cuvée
  • Casa Larga Vineyards 2008 Vidal Ice Wine
  • Lucas Vineyards 2010 Vidal Iced Wine
  • Knapp Winery 2010 Vidal Ice Wine
  • Standing Stone Vineyards 2010 Gewurztraminer Ice
The Atwater Cuvée is a sparkling wine from the Seneca Lake appellation made with 66% Pinot Noir and 34% Chardonnay. It is handcrafted every two years using the traditional méthode champenoise. Atwater is known for their consistently clean, well defined white wines. The winery has an awesome view from their deck and it is one of the closest to the B&B we typically stay at while visiting the Finger Lakes.

The Cuvée was a crowd pleaser. The delicate bubbles were a treat. The wine was smooth with the Chardonnay being apparent on the nose. This is a versatile food wine.

The second sparkler was the McGregor 2008 Blanc de Noir. As the name suggests, this white wine is made with Pinot Noir grapes that typically yield a light red wine. A total of 1,800 bottles were made using the time-consuming méthode champenoise. The McGregor has 0.5% residual sugar but remains dry.

The Blanc de Noir was less effervescent than the Atwater and had a light nose. This is a pleasing wine from a seriously cool winery.

Swedish Hill Winery’s Riesling Cuvée rounded out the trio of sparkling wines. Swedish Hill is one of the largest wineries in the Finger Lakes. They regularly earn recognition on the state, national and international levels.

This Cuvée was the only one to have noticeable sugar (at 3.4%). There were 750 cases produced and it has 12% alcohol. Our tasting team detected peach on the nose and enjoyed the hint of sweetness on the palate. This is a good choice to appeal to both the sweet and dry wine lovers.

The second flight was ice wines, although I would term two of them ice-style wines since the grapes are frozen after harvest. Casa Larga’s 2008 Fiori Vidal Blanc Ice Wine led off the flight.

Casa Larga uses traditional German Eiswein techniques, harvesting the grapes late in December when the temperature drops below freezing for an extended period of time.

The body is thick with a pleasant nose. There is a bright sweetness with butterscotch and stone fruit flavors. This is a highly awarded wine. Although great ice wine can be made with a variety of grapes, Vidal seems ideally suited for this style.

Lucas Vineyards is the oldest winery on Cayuga Lake and they produce elegant fruit-driven Rieslings and a wide range of other wines. The Lucas 2010 Vidal Blanc Iced is not a traditional ice wine. The grapes are frozen post harvest. The result is certainly delightful.

This wine is honey on the tongue and the body is less syrupy than most ice wines, giving it almost a fruit juice quality. The aroma is most fragrant and the taste is like a refreshing pear. This was the team choice for best ice wine.

Standing Stone Vineyards specializes in Riesling and Gewürztraminer. The grapes for their 2010 Gewürztraminer Ice comes from their oldest Gerwurz vineyard. This is a non-traditional ice wine, with the grapes frozen post harvest.

The Gerwurz ice brings a bushel of unique flavors including spicy nutmeg and pumpkin. The bouquet is floral and perfumed. This luxurious wine will be perfect to accompany dessert after a hot Asian meal.

Knapp is a groundbreaking Finger Lakes winery. They were the first to plant Cabernet Franc (bless you!) and the first winery restaurant on Cayuga Lake. Their white wine program emphasizes fruit driven flavors with full bodied complexity in the mouth.

Rounding out the tasting was the Knapp 2010 Vidal Ice Wine. This has a whopping 23% residual sugar and a thick consistency. The grapes were harvested when it was 13 degrees Fahrenheit. On the nose there is white grape and sherry. On the palate there is a charming honey citrus flavor. It is a complete package of sweet goodness.

Our tasting left us with a great appreciation of the skill of Finger Lakes winemakers. The ice wines are simply superb, rivaling the best we have sampled. The sparkling wines show great promise and help demonstrate that the Finger Lakes is a wine lover’s dream destination, no matter what style you prefer.
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