Friday, May 24, 2013

Hunt Country Vineyards: Finger Lakes Winery Visit

Hunt Country Vineyards will always have a warm place in our hearts. It was the first Finger Lakes winery we ever visited.

We had stopped in Canandaigua to visit the New York Wine and Culinary Center and then drove south. This was pre-GPS time and we were navigating by gut instinct and luck along the back roads of rural New York. To add to our disorientation, we got hit with a thunderstorm. We finally found Italy Hill Road and pulled into Hunt Country Vineyards – an oasis of awesomeness and great wine!

Earlier this month we were hosted by HCV marketing guru Andy Hunt and Assistant Winemaker Brian Barry. It was a special visit indeed. According to Andy, Hunt Country is all about family and community.

One of the coolest aspects of Hunt Country is that it is a family farm and the land has been farmed continuously since about 1850. The oldest grapes are 110 years old, but HCV is right up to date and at the forefront of sustainability practices.

An impressive geothermal system has replaced the conventional heating and air conditioning in the tasting room, winery and warehouses. The winery also has a wind turbine and is exploring the use of biodiesel to power tractors. Winery founders and owners Art and Joyce Hunt have also been outspoken opponents of hydrofracking, which could endanger the Finger Lakes environment.

Andy and Brian led us through an impressive tour of the production and storage areas and we arrived in our favorite location – the tasting room. The view is of long, sweeping farmland. There Andy introduced us to his big beautiful dog, Pax.

Hunt Country has some impressive wines, in fact three of them were featured at the Green Inaugural Ball celebrating President Obama’s re-election. We started our tasting with the dry whites.

The 2011 Dry Riesling is crisp and dry with a clean finish. It represented the Finger Lakes well. My favorite of the whites was the 2010 Pinot Gris. The grapes come from vineyards in the Penn Yan area and it is finished in stainless steel to accent the mineral and floral flavors. It rocks and is only $15.99.

The final of our trio of dry whites was Pearl, a new wine that is a unique blend of unoaked Chardonnay, Cayuga and Pinot Gris. After a day of driving this was the perfect refresher to blast away the road dust.

Color shifting to red, we sampled the 2011 Cab Franc and the 2011 Meritage. The Cab Franc includes 8% Merlot and is aged for nine months in French oak. The Meritage is a blend of Cab Franc (35%), Cabernet Sauvignon (35%) and Merlot (30%). The Meritage was my winner on the red side and I bought a bottle. It lists for $17.99 and is a great partner for rich meats. Only 421 cases were produced.

We next tried a couple of fun wines. The Hunter’s Red might be their best seller (along with Alchemy, which we weren’t able to sample). Hunter’s Red is a offbeat blend of Corot Noir, DeChaunac and Seyval Blanc. This has 2.7% residual sugar.

On the white side we tried the rare 2010 Valvin Muscat. Valvin Muscat is a complex French American hybrid developed by Cornell in the 1960s. All the grapes come from the Hunt Country vineyard. This has sumptuous flavors of white peach and orange blossom.

If you want true beauty in Finger Lakes wine country, try a glass of the Hunt Country 2007 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine paired with a white chocolate truffle. Lush and heavenly, it bursts with flavors – and 26% residual sugar.

Andy Marshall is a man on a mission, to spread the word about great Finger Lakes wine. All we can say is “mission accomplished!”

Hunt Country Vineyards is a farm with a bumper crop of great wines and super friendly and knowledgeable staff. Don’t miss it!

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