Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Zugibe Vineyards: Finger Lakes Winery Visit

Zugibe Phoenician RedLike the Phoenix rising from the ashes, Zugibe Vineyards on Seneca Lake has risen from the ashes of family tragedy.

A Family Determined

Perhaps we have approached our trips to the Finger Lakes too alphabetically. Despite our many visits to the area – and Seneca Lake in particular – we have never visited Zugibe Vineyards. We corrected that during our recent foray to the famed wine region. When we arrived at the tasting room in Geneva  not only were we treated to some excellent small-lot wines, but learned the compelling origin story of the winery.

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Zugibe Vineyards began in 2005 with a parcel of land purchased by Dr. Frederick Zugibe Jr. The land was owned by a Cornell professor who specialized in grape research. The property proved to exceptional for growing wine grapes. Nine vinifera varieties were planted. Two more varieties were later added, including the first planting of Grüner Veltliner in New York State.

Tragedy struck shortly after the first harvest when Zugibe passed away. The family’s plans for the business were shattered. The Zugibe family rallied together and, despite adversity, were able to attain the dream of Frederick Jr.

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Today most bottles from the winery carry a logo emblazoned by a Phoenix and a bold “Z.” The Phoenix is not only symbolic of the family’s Lebanese heritage, but also its climb back from the ashes of adversity. Today the winery produces about 4,000 cases annually and is in the capable hands of sons Frederick III, Brendan and Sean.

Handcrafted Discoveries

Zugibe VineyardsSettling into the tasting room, our tasting crew was in for a few surprises.The Finger Lakes is known for its superb white wines – Riesling in particular. Zugibe has a different spin on whites.

There are only seven growers of Sauvignon Blanc in the Finger Lakes and Zugibe uses its estate grapes to produce an outstanding fruit forward version. The 2017 vintage has grassy and herbal notes and is a surprising find in this region.

The 2017 Grüner Veltliner is made with the oldest vines in the Finger Lakes. It is a crisp with grapefruit notes and has a long finish.

We began our exploration of the reds with the 2017 Cabernet Franc. This is a young wine with fruity notes. We prefer a bit more bite from our Cab Franc, but this is a nice sipper.

The Phoenician Red is an interesting 50-50 blend of Cabernet Franc and Lemberger. Lemberger (also known as Blaufränkisch) is gaining traction in the Finger Lakes – for good reason. It thrives in the uncertain climate and is capable of a wide range of nuanced flavors. We enjoyed the Phoenician – but our favorite red was yet to come.

The 4 Freds Red is a signature wine for winemaker Fred III. It’s his salute to four generations of Freds (his son is Fred IV). The 2017 vintage is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Lemberger. With that much grape goodness, you certainly can’t go wrong. This has cherry and plum notes and a medium body.

Zugibe wines range from $13 to $27, certainly a great value. At the tasting room you can sample five wines for $5 and you can also enjoy a panoramic view of Seneca Lake from the back patio. Sip and savor the wines of Zugibe Vineyards, you’ll become fans like us.

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