“New World Saperavi” Report

     I have developed a fascination for the Saperavi grape. This may seem odd even if you have heard of Saperavi wine because it is nothing new to the wine world. The Saperavi that fascinates me isn’t from the Kakheti region of Georgia , Russia but “New World Saperavi” that is being produced here in the Northeastern U. S., namely the Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York and in Central Pennsylvania. Saperavi is a very deeply colored red wine made from the ancient Saperavi grape that originated in one of the oldest wine growing regions of the world. Saperavi grapes are a teinturier grape, meaning its skin and flesh both have pigment which leads to a very delicious dark wine. What follows is the current state of Saperavi in America as told to me by the producers themselves.

Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellar

When the Finger Lakes Wine Region is mentioned undoubtably the first name that comes Dr Frank Logoto mind is the iconic Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery in Hammondsport. The legendary Dr. Frank proved everyone wrong not only by growing vinifera grapes in the FLX but producing world-class award-winning wine from them. I would like to thank Frederick Frank for the time and attention he showed me while assisting me with this post. Dr. Konstantin Frank first planted Saperavi vines in his vineyard in 1958. Dr. Frank would use that fruit to produce his first vintage in 1962. Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery now has 1.5 acres planted in Saperavi vines and expects to produce 250 cases of Saperavi wine. That 1.5 acres of Saperavi vines is divided between their Keuka Lake vineyards in Hammondsport and their Seneca Lake vineyards (on the eastern side) in Hector. Dr. Frank’s Saperavi is only available at their winery tasting room in Hammondsport but they are planning to expand their plantings and hope to offer their Saperavi wine to their wholesalers in the future. Due to high demand and limited production they haven’t entered Dr. Frank Saperavi into wine competitions.  drfrankwines.com 

Standing Stone Vineyards

For years Marti Macinski owner/winemaker of Standing Stone Vineyards has extolled the virtues of Saperavi while methodically expanding her Saperavi vineyard and constantly improving her wine. Having appeared in many local, regional and national publications Standing Stone wine sales have ridden a steadily ascending arc but no member of Marti’s Standing Stone Saperavisolid menu of wine appears to have create a devoted following like her Saperavi has.

Standing Stone planted their first 80 vines in 1994 and they are the source of the fruit for their newly released 2013 Reserve Saperavi. Since 2006 a deliberate and steady expansion of the Saperavi program has led to a vineyard that is just over 5 acres. 2005 was a trial run that yielded 23.5 cases. 2010 was Standing Stone’s first commercial release with 200 cases produced that year. This year the 2015 vintage is anticipated to be about 500 cases but Marti adds the caveat ” if we manage to hold off the deer.” Those deer will have more fruit to choose from because Standing Stone continues to plant more Saperavi vines to increase supply and build inventory for market after the winery has enough grapes for their own wine production. That future production may include experimenting with longer aging, some sweeter versions of Saperavi or possibly a Rosé or Port. Standing Stone Saperavi is very round with delicious ripe flavors of tart cherry fruit when young that evolves into plum and pomegranate that are integrated into complex layers of aroma and flavors as it ages. Marti doesn’t enter her Saperavi into many competitions so when she does it comes as no surprise that Standing Stone Saperavi 2012 was awarded the Wine & Food Classic Gold Medal last year and the 2013 Saperavi  won “Best Other Red Vinifera” at this year’s Classic. A special thanks to Marti Macinski for all the time and effort that you have taken to help me with this post and all the other projects you have assisted me on. standingstonewines.com 

Fero Vineyards & Winery

Fero LogoFero Vineyards & Winery is the only winery in Pennsylvania that I am aware of that has Saperavi planted in it’s vineyard. Chuck Zaleski owner/winemaker of Fero planted his first 500 Saperavi vines on 1/2 acre of his Lewisburg, Pennsylvania vineyard in 2010. He conducted trials as his vines matured until he released his first vintage from the 2013 harvest which consisted of 50 cases. The first Saperavi I ever tasted was Chuck’s 2013 Saperavi  from that first 50 cases he produced. After tasting that wine I was sold on the potential of this Georgian red grape here in the East. The 2014 harvest produced 125 cases and the 2015 harvest , expected to be in October, is estimated to yield similar volume. With the addition of 1/2 acre of Saperavi plantings the projected production will be 4-5 tons per acre. The final production number for Saperavi produced should be approximately 300 cases.

Chuck’s philosophy is to let the grape determine the style, so the style of his Saperavi really does remain “Fluid”. He let the 2013 vintage hang and made a ripe jammy style the both of us loved. He picked earlier in 2014 for added acidity and weather concerns plus because of some reading he had done. He said the 2014 may take a little longer to soften but may have more longevity. Chuck doesn’t use much oak at all because he wants to showcase the grape’s unique rich flavor. He tries to mimic traditional methods as much as possible by fermenting in tall containers at constant temperature, very similar to a Qveri and age it with minimal disturbing on the lees. Fero Saperavi 2013 won a Gold Medal at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition this year. Enough said!

Chuck’s most intriquing observation about this varity is it’s ability to rival the full-bodied red wines of the warm climate regions. He doesn’t know where the ideal location to produce Saperavi in the U.S. is but is pretty sure it isn’t too far from Central Pa. Chuck’s only problem with Saperavi is that it is selling out too fast before he can satisfy demand. Looks like a great problem to have. Thanks to Chuck Zaleski for introducing me to Saperavi and all the help he has given me.  ferovineyards.com

McGregor Vineyard

John McGregor and his McGregor Black Russian Red have always been an enigma in the FLX. In the Spring of 1980 he planted Saperavi, Sereksiya Charni, Rkatsiteli and Sereksiya Rosé in a limited area of his vineyard. From that first planting his Saperavi and Sereksiya Charni has expanded to 4 acres. In 1985 John made a small experimental batch from these grapes and bottled it in half bottles. McGregor Saperavi and Sereksiya are bottled together and produces over 300 cases per year. That number is certain to rise as more Saperavi vines are planted over the next 3-5 years.

If you are wondering what McGregor Black Russian Red Saperavi & Sereksiya blend taste like here is how John McGregor described it to me ” It’s a very rich, dark red wine that typically spends over two years in oak barrels. It has great structure and depth with flavors typically reminiscent of black currents, blackberries and elderberries entwined with a sweet oak character. It has plenty of tannic structure and generally high acidity, lending it well to long-term cellar aging.” 1985 Saperavi (label)

McGregor Saperavi is entered into few , if any, annual competitions but earlier vintages have been awarded Double Gold and Gold Medals. The 2010 vintage received an 87 point rating in the May 2014 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. After decades of hard work Black Russian Red has grown into what John calls “The Cult red wine of the Finger Lakes.” No matter what you call it the one thing you can call it is “Successful.” The label to the right appeared on the McGregor 1985 Saperavi bottle. Thanks John McGregor for the invaluable help you gave me with this article.    McGregorwinery.com 

Will Saperavi develop into the signature Red wine of the East? The quality is certainly there and the vines are able to express the terroir of the vineyards in which they are planted to produce a wine on par or better than their Russian counterparts. The demand for Saperavi is increasing to the point where demand is out pacing supply while supply is also increasing but at a slower rate because of many factors. I believe Saperavi will find its place as the top varietal Red wine of the East but it will take time simply because there are so many obstacles to overcome and that things move slowly for new wine grape development in any region of the world. If you can’t find Saperavi from one of the producers mentioned in this post I recommend that you try a Saperavi from any of the regions where it’s made. Help me tell the secret of Saperavi  wine to wine lovers everywhere. Please repost this article. 

 

      

Fero Estate Lemberger 2013

Fero Estate Lemberger 2013

Fero Estate Lemberger 2013

     I have written several posts lately extolling the virtues off the Saperavi grape as the “Next Big Thing” for Eastern winemaking.  I have never written one single post about the forgotten role that the late-ripening Lemberger grape has been cast to play in the evolution of the wine industry above latitude 40° north.  Fero Vineyards & Winery in Lewisburg, Pa produces a superb example of what can be done with Lemberger grapes that have been painstakingly cared for and expertly transformed into their Estate Lemberger 2013.  The beautiful garnet color is the first thing you notice about this Lemberger followed by the notes of oak.  Chuck Zaleski is a master at using oak to coax out the hidden flavors from his wine while adding a sophisticated complexity at the same time.  Chucks light-handed use of oak with this wine brings out the red fruit and spice (think black pepper) taste while adding depth.  A medium body carries the soft tannins into a long and lingering spicy finish.  This wine has good acidity which makes it pair well with red meat, barbeque and even red sauce.  Note: Winemaker Chuck Zaleski suggested I should let it breath.  I not only let it breath I used an aerator on a couple of glasses. His suggestion was right on the mark, the added aeration opened it up and added a little something extra.  www.ferovineyards.com  Update:  Fero Estate Lemberger 2013 won a Double Gold medal at the 2015 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition (FLIWC).

Fero Vineyards & Winery: Saperavi 2013

Fero Vineyards &Winery Saperavi 2013

Fero Vineyards &Winery Saperavi 2013

     I had the pleasure of drinking my first Pennsylvania grown and made Saperavi recently.  It strengthened my belief that the Saperavi grape has the potential to be developed into the signature red grape grown in the cool climate of the Eastern United States.  Fero Vineyards & Winery 2013 Saperavi starts by revealing its beautiful dark purple color, a trademark of this wine.  After admiring the deep color, aromas of red fruit with a hint of oak fills your nose.  Saperavi grapes are known for producing a full-bodied wine with good structure, Fero Saperavi 2013 fulfills those expectations on both counts with style and accuracy.  This East Coast Red has good acidity which complements a subtle note of oak that is carried well into a long finish.  I recommend buying three bottles of this vintage, drink one now and cellar the other two.  Open those bottles after aging them two years and five years, compare your tasting notes,  I am sure you will be impressed by how well this wine will develop over time. 

     Thanks to Chuck Zaleski the owner and winemaker of Fero Winery for pursuing a progressive strategy that is not only designed to grow his business but the quality of wine produced in Pennsylvania.  Fero Vineyards & Winery 965 Jpm Rd Lewisburg, Pa. www.ferovineyards.com   570-568-0846   Fero Saperavi 2013 will be judged at the Pa Farm Show this weekend  1/9/15  Update: Fero Saperavi 2013 has won a Gold medal at the 2015 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition (FLIWC).

Saperavi: The Next Big Thing?

Saperavi Grapes Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

Saperavi Grapes Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

     The Red Wines of the East Coast have never gotten the love that their White Wine counterparts have received over the years and in most cases for good reason.  But that may change if an old Eastern European grape can live up to its promise of becoming the foundation on which the future of eastern Red Wine is built.  The wine grape that I am talking about is Saperavi.  This grape variety originated in the Georgian Republic of Russia and features a dark skin with

Chuck & Daneen Zaleski Owners Fero Vineyards & Winery

Chuck & Daneen Zaleski Owners Fero Vineyards & Winery

pink flesh.  It is a teinturier variety of grape, meaning unlike most grapes that have uncolored flesh and produce clear juice a teinturier has red-tinted flesh that makes a vibrant richly colored wine. Saperavi vines are grown throughout the area connecting Asia and Europe know as the Caucasus and in various regions of the former Soviet Republic. Sapervai has long been viewed as an ideal ingredient for cheaper blended wines but in recent decades it has been proven to be capable of producing a varietal of high quality.  The best Georgian-produced Saperavi comes from the Kakheti Region that is near its eastern border with Azerbaijan.  These Georgian-made wines are available in the U.S. but you will have to do some searching to find them. The fact that this grape is late-ripening and thrives in a cooler climate while producing generous yields without sacrificing much in quality is the reason that vintners in the Finger Lakes and Central Pennsylvania are exploring its potential within their vineyards.  I have mentioned in earlier posts the pioneering work done by the Standing Stone Vineyards and Winery with Saperavi but I have recently learned of a producing vineyard in Lewisburg, Pa.  Chuck and Daneen Zaleski owners of Fero Vineyards and Winery have produced a varietal from Saperavi grapes grown in their Central Pennsylvania vineyard and made exclusively in their Lewisburg winery.  Chuck Zaleski at Fero and Marti Macinski at Standing Stone are on the cutting edge of this exciting reinvention of an Old World stalwart.  I am excited to have the chance to follow the evolution of the Saperavi wine grape in the Eastern United States from the persceptive of the wine makers themselves. For more information about these two fine wineries visit their websites at: www.standingstonewines.com  and  www.ferovineyards.com

Tom & Marti Macinski  Owners Standing Stone Winery Photo Courtsey:Examiner.com

Tom & Marti Macinski Owners Standing Stone Winery Photo Courtsey:Examiner.com