Dancing the Zweigelt Waltz

When a vintner is considering adding a new variety of wine grape to their vineyard the thought process involved in choosing which vines they eventually plant can be very tedious and time-consuming. The most important consideration when making that decision is the vine’s compatibility with their growing conditions but it’s not the only factor to study when making a selection. Of all the other variables probably the most important influence on a winemaker’s decision to grow a particular grape is their belief they can make a premium wine from it. Winemakers often begin their search for that “perfect” match in wine regions around the world that are similar to their own and are producing quality wines from the grape under consideration so they can use them as a guide.

Zweigelt (pronounced TSVYE-gelt) is beginning to attract attention from growers in the northeastern United States and a few Canadian vineyards in British Columbia and Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula. Zweigelt is a cool-climate Austrian hybrid red grape developed in 1922 by the hybridization of two Austrian grapes, Blaufrankisch (Lemberger) and St. Laurent. Zweigelt is the most extensively planted red wine grape in Austria. It is a very fertile grape that requires intensive leaf control and yield regulation because of its prolific yields. Zweigelt is a good choice for growers as an insurance grape because it’s bud break is later in the spring than many other varieties when the danger of a killing frost has passed and it ripens mid-season before most of the bad weather that damages the crop later in the harvest. These are some of the reasons why the acreage of this red grape has increased substantially in Austria between 1999-2015 but has now stabilized in recent years. Zweigelt displays characteristics from both of its parents. Blaufrankisch makes a bigger, bolder and deeper wine while St. Laurent is described as being fresh, agile, and akin to a Pinot Noir but with more muscle. Zweigelt is generally made into a dry, medium/light-bodied wine with low tannins and medium/high acidity but can also be made in a sweet style or ice wine. In the glass, it has a violet/reddish color and flavors of red cherry, raspberry, black pepper, and chocolate with a spicy floral aroma.

Zweigelt is a fresh light wine that pairs well with a wide range of food, making it a great picnic wine. It is common to find Zweigelt as a varietal but it is also widely used in blends with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to yield an Austrian spin on the classic Bordeaux blend. It is frequently blended with Blaufrankisch to double down on its Austrian lineage.

The great thing about wine is that there are so many completely different wines to explore. With that in mind, I suggest when judging a new wine grape don’t base your impression on a single bottle because with these unusual wines every winemaker has their own vision for the wine. It is a good idea to try as many samples as possible before forming your opinion. If you would like to taste an American Zweigelt consider trying one made in the Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York by Rob and Kate Thomas at their Shalestone Vineyards. http://shalestonevineyards.com

Turn the Page

Tom and Marti Macinski Photo Courtesy: Standing Stone Vineyards

     As I read an interview with Oskar Bynke, co-owner of Herman J. Wiemer Vineyard where he revealed the vision he and co-owner/winemaker Fred Merwarth had for their newly acquired Standing Stone Winery and Vineyards I had to accept the fact that change is inevitable even in wine country. The release of the 2017 vintages from Standing Stone Winery marks the first time since 1991 that Tom and Marti Macinski were not the owners of this iconic FLX property.

In the 1970’s this former Gold Seal Winery vineyard was planted with Riesling and Chardonnay by the legendary Gold Seal wine makers Charles Founier and Guy Devaux. Standing Stone Chardonnay and Riesling have always been highly acclaimed but it wasn’t those world-class whites that lead to my friendship with Marti, it was the dark red Russian wine grape Saperavi. Had it not been for the time Marti took from her busy schedule to answer my questions and keep me updated on her Saperavi program I would have never pursued my interest in Saperavi or have made as many friends around the world who also share my love of this extraordinary wine.

Thank you Marti and Tom for your devotion to making the best wine from the best grapes you could grow on the land you truly love. Please know that like the wake from a sailboat (that you now have time to enjoy) the ripples of your life’s work will be felt far beyond the shores of your beloved Seneca Lake.

Wine Review: Boundary Breaks Riesling (FLX)

     Boundary Breaks Vineyard Medium Dry 2016 Ovid Line North Riesling is a wine that has slightly sweet start and a smooth finish. It is a balanced wine with enough acidity to keep it from being too sweet. With a 12% A.B.V. and a 2.0 R.S.(residual sugar) the tropical and stone fruit flavors are restrained but noticeable. That bit of sweetness not only makes this Riesling a good choice for sipping but also the perfect match for spicy food especially Asian cuisine.  http://boundarybreaks.com

 

Boundary Breaks sits near the eastern shore of Seneca Lake on Porter Covert Rd in Lodi, N.Y. I have learned if the address includes the word “Covert” it means you can expect to experience the FLX like a local because you will often be driving on narrow gravel roads flanked by breathtaking vineyards and scenic views. It is well worth the time and effort to do the research required to find theses hidden gems located just off the main road because the rewards are always memorable. Boundary Breaks Vineyard is one of those wineries.

Rumor Has It FLX

     During our recent visit to the Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York (FLX) we tasted some great wine and heard some interesting news. There is plenty happening around the lakes so let’s get right to it.

The sale of Standing Stone Vineyards by long-time owners Marti and Tom Macinski to Fred Merwarth and Oskar Bynke owners of H.J. Wiemer Vineyards was the big news that had everyone’s attention. With the addition of the Standing Stone vineyards H.J.Wiemer has sizable acreage on both sides of Seneca Lake not to mention a nursery on the Standing Stone property to continue its Saperavi program. H.J. Wiemer will be keeping the Standing Stone line of wine and Marti will stay on to help Jess in the winery. Marti and Tom will live in the house on the property as long as they want and with the view of the vineyard and lake who can blame them for wanting to retire there.

     You can now find Weis Vineyards at the former Lime Berry Winery 10014 Day Road, Hammondsport. This new  winery specializes in traditional German-style wines and why not since its winemaker Hans Peter Weis was born in Zell Mosel, Germany. Weis finds himself right at home in the FLX because the winemaking environment is very similar to his native Germany.  

Just like pro athletes , wine makers often change teams to pursue their dreams. Winemaker Aaron Roisen left Hosmer Winery to join winemaker Justin Paolicelli at Three Brothers Wineries and Estates. Sheldrake Point’s assistant winemaker Julia Hoyle will now be the head winemaker at Hosmer Winery.

Las Vegas has landed in Waterloo in the form of the del Lago Resort & Casino. This newly opened Las Vegas-style casino offers everything from entertainment, dining, upscale lounges and of course gambling. Sign-up for a players card and spin for free play.

del Lago Casino & Resort Waterloo, NY

The winemaking community that has evolved around the lakes is dynamic and always changing. Without this unbridled energy the region would have stagnated after its rebirth with the passage of the Farm Winery Act in 1976 by the State of New York. If you are curious about what’s happening around the lakes just ask and I’m sure you will hear something interesting. 

 

 

Standing Stone Barrel Bonanza

Photo Courtesy: Standing Stone Winery

Photo Courtesy: Standing Stone Winery

     This is the perfect event for any wine enthusiast that simply can’t get enough. What is Barrel Bonanza? Barrel Bonanza is an opportunity for you to tour the Barrel Cellar and taste finished and just finished fermented wines every hour on the hour. Learn what type of yeast you like and compare the difference in flavor that new oak verses older oak has on  Chardonnay and Saperavi. Taste the 2014 Reserve Saperavi straight out of the barrel and if you like it you can buy futures at a 20% discount. You can also choose a mini Vertical Tasting of Saperavi, Cabernet Sauvignon or Petit Verdot. If you need to take a break there will be live music and delicious food for you to enjoy.

Barrel Tastings are noon, 1, 2, 3 and 4 – you pick one. Saperavi Vertical is @ 12:30, Cabernet Sauvignon @ 2:30 and the Petit Verdot is @ 3:30. The cost of this event is $20 per person and includes one Vertical Tasting. Extra Vertical Tastings are $10 each.              

Date: Dec. 12, 2015     Time: 12:00 to 5:00   Place: Standing Stone Vineyards 9934 NY-414 Hector, NY.  Call or e-mail for reservations.  607-582-6051   ssvny@standingstonewines.com

Entrance to Standing Stone Vineyard & Winery

Entrance to Standing Stone Vineyard & Winery

“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. 

 

      

Highlight of FLX Visit

Entrance to Standing Stone Vineyard & Winery

Entrance to Standing Stone Vineyards & Winery

     On every trip there is one experience that stamps its indelible mark on your memory. On this trip it was meeting Marti Macinski and the time we spent at her Standing Stone Vineyards & Winery. Upon our arrival she greeted us with a genuinely heart-felt welcome. Marti was accompanied by her personable and outgoing intern Griffin Lehman. She lead my wife and I through a tasting of all of her excellent wines. I was very impressed by how good all the wines were. If I were to use one word to describe all of the Standing Stone wines we tasted that day it would be balanced. Balance is very important to me when I taste wine because it allows me to taste all aspects of the wine without having certain overdone or underdeveloped characteristics create a biased wine. When you drink a wine made by Marti Macinski you can taste every nuance of the wine and the terroir of her vineyards.

     Her Riesling were some of the best that I tasted in the FLX and I tasted the best Riesling that I have ever tasted there on this visit. I really liked her Saperavi and it confirmed my opinion that this grape has great potential in the Eastern U.S.. She convinced us to try her Ice wine even though we were never fans of Ice wine. We are glad we did because we loved all four of her offerings : Chardonnay, Vidal, Grwürztraminer and Riesling. The entire menu of wines offered by Standing Stone Winery are well crafted and certainly worth your attention when you visit. I can highly recommend a visit to this Seneca Lake winery in Hector N.Y. for anyone attending the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference or someone visiting the area looking for superior wine.  Standingstonewines.com  607-582-6051   9934 Rte 414  Hector, N Y 14841

View of Seneca Lake & Vineyards from Standing Stone

View of Seneca Lake & Vineyards from Standing Stone

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

Glenora Egg Update

 

Gene Pierce & Steve DiFrancesco with "The Egg" Courtesy: G.W.

Gene Pierce & Steve DiFrancesco with “The Egg” Courtesy: G.W.

     A little while ago I reblogged a post from Glenora Winery on Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes that dealt with their newest acquisition, a concrete fermentation tank A.K.A. “The Egg”.  I was curious how things were going with their venture into this rediscovered method of winemaking that has long been used in Europe but is now catching on here.  One reason that it took so long for the idea to take hold here was that the only producers of these vessels were in Europe and it was cost prohibitive to ship.  Now that there are manufacturers on this side of the pond the idea has more appeal to winemakers because of the more manageable prices making them comparable to oak.  Wine Spectator published a short article on concrete fermenters in last months edition or visit my original reblog of January, 2014 “Great Egg-spectations” if you would like to read more about them.  I would attempt to summarize what the winemakers at Glenora Winery told me but I wanted to be totally accurate on their experience so I am posting their response as follows verbatim “The project is still in progress, but we anticipate an early July release of the three Pinot Blancs.  During fermentation, the wine began to take on personalities of their own.  The micro-oxygenation that occurred using the egg and barrels helped to open up and develop flavors from both the fruit as well as the yeast interaction during fermentation. However, the concrete egg contributed no additional flavors to the wine the way the oak did.  The stainless steel is very inert, contributing little to the wine.  However, dead corners in the stainless steel tank slowed down aging and development of the fruit derived flavors.”  

     Thank You to the winemaking team at Glenora Winery for your help and I will continue to post updates about the “Egg Wine”.

Wagner Vineyards 2011 Chardonnay

 

Wagner's 2011 Chardonnay

Wagner’s 2011 Chardonnay

     I am not a huge Chardonnay fan but I do like the style made in the Finger Lakes.  They tend to be dry but not the bone dry examples that are so popular in California.  We had a bottle of Wagner’s Vineyards 2011 Chardonnay and decided to pair it with our Easter dinner.  It paired well with the sugar-cured ham that was the centerpiece of the meal.  This dry Chardonnay has a full and solid mouth feel that allowed it to stand up to the flavors of the meal.  Since it is fermented in small oak barrels it has an aroma of vanilla and the flavors of pear and melons which can be tasted throughout its smooth finish.  Wagner’s Vineyards offers several different styles of Chardonnay that I had the opportunity to sample during my last visit to their tasting room in 2012. Each one was distinctly different in style , flavor and dryness.  This wine is a good value at $13.99 from the Wagner Vineyards website. wagnervineyards.com