Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Day In the Finger Lakes 6 - Keuka Lake

Finally got to do something other than working around the house on my week off.  Shirley, I and our good friend Mark did a little day trip south on rte 54A and then around the South end of Keuka Lake to head North on rte 54.  Just so happens that Keuka Lake is the home of some of the finest wineries in the Finger Lakes.  We did have to miss a few, but we did get to tastes some outstanding wines, have a fantastic lunch, meet and talk with some very knowledgeable wine people and view one of the most scenic lakes in the region.
Our first stop was at Hunt Country Vineyards.  We got there just as US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was leaving a question and answer session with the local farmers and entrepreneurs. We did get in to do a little shopping while a make shift tasting area was being moved back indoors.  Our gracious server Char poured our wines, allowing us as many as we wanted because we waited for the crowd to clear out and for her to set up the tasting bar.  My favorite was the '09 Cayuga White.  Imagine that, me liking a semi-sweet (2.5% RS) over some real tasty dry wines.
Well, we had places to go and people to see, so back on the road heading for Dr. Konstantin Frank's Vinifera Wine Cellars. My second visit here and Mark's first, but I was stopping to pick up a limited release 2009 Cuvee d' Amour along with tasting some of what may be considered the most famous of all Finger Lakes wines. Mark was smiling widely tasting both the Dr. Frank and the Salmon Run Chardonnay while I could just not believe the 2008 Dr. Konstantin Frank Meritage. Our server Mark (not to be confused with my friend Mark) allowed us to taste this limited release wine.  WoW! this wine is fantastic, the best Finger Lakes Meritage and my hit of the day! (at least for now). We did not taste the Merlot or the Lemberger, but were amazed with the Gruner Veltliner and the Pinot Noir.  Shirley also likes the gift shop at Dr. Frank's and as last time here, she was able to cross off many of our Xmas gifts for this year.
Our next stop was a food break. Time for lunch, and guess what?? Sitting up on a hill overlooking the lake was the Blue Heron Café and one of my favorite wineries, Heron Hill Winery. I did plan it that way, but was able to keep a straight face and act a bit surprised. We all shared a Calabrese Wrap, a roasted Portabella Panini and a white Pizza with a glass of classic Chardonnay for Mark and a semi-dry Riesling for me.  Our first time at the Blue Heron and will definitely return when back in the region.  Oh wow, there's a tasting room right here in the same building, we may as well stop in and see what they have available. I don't think Shirley bought that, but what the hell there's a gift shop and she has the credit cards.
Inside we tasted the classic Heron Hill wines and some real nice Ingle Vineyard wines.  Mark of course was won over by the HH classic Chard while I enjoyed both the classic and Ingle Vineyard Pinot Noir and I was not leaving home without the 2008 Blaufrankisch.  Still saving the 2007 Blaufrankisch and I will lay this one down for a few years because this is the best Lemberger in the Finger Lakes, just not quite ready.  Each night I pray, dear Lord keep be going at least 10 more years, but a least remind me before my final days to open my Heron Hill Blaufrankisch. Our server was one of my earliest Finger Lakes contacts and a sometimes commenter on my Twitter and Facebook accounts, Tambi Schwiezer.  Always feels good to finally meet people you know only through social networking. Tambi is a do-all employee at the winery and one of the most personable servers I've encountered on my few trips through the region.  A real joy to talk with and discuss Heron Hill wines.  I also got to finally meet Kitty Oliver, Heron Hill's marketing and PR director whom I have been in contact with since the very beginning of the blog.  Could have stayed and chatted wine all day with both, but time was short and we had to move on.
Around the lake and now heading north on the East side our first stop was Ravines Wine Cellars. I could not wait to visit Ravines.  Two years ago, I fell in love with their 2007 Cabernet Franc.  Although I have tasted some awful good Cab Francs since, that one is still my favorite and may be the wine that finally convinced me that the Finger Lakes region is capable of producing some world class red wines. I would have enjoyed a Q and A session with owner and winemaker Morten Hallgren, but we were extremely honored to have his brother in law Abel serve and talk Ravines wine. I was here to taste the red wines, but the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2008 Argetsinger Vineyard Dry Riesling stole the show. I also enjoyed the 2008 Meritage. I am convinced that Bordeaux style Meritage is the direction the Finger Lakes should be heading as I am finding many very nice Meritage on all three trails.  That's another issue and maybe another post, but now is time to head to Mcgregor Vinyards and start swallowing.  It's getting late and I have already wasted some good wine to the spittoon. After all, Shirley is our DD and I am getting tired of driving.
A little bit off the path, but a very pleasant winery to visit.  No tasting bar, but tables where you can sit and chat about wine with your server.  You name the wines you wish to taste and they bring each out one at time and discuss each one as you relax and sip.  Our server for the day was Sue and her knowledge was extensive. Some very nice reds and delicious whites, but my favorite was the 2010 Rosé d' Cabernet Franc. I also found the surprise wine of the day and my hit of the day(sorry Dr. Frank),  a 2007 Black Russian Red - 30 Month Barrel Reserve made from Saperavi and Sereksiya Charni grapes which are unique to the McGregor Vineyards. These are Georgian grapes from the Black Sea area and are very intense and complex.  The 2007 is very ready for now, but will cellar for many years to come. They also serve a very nice cheese, chocolate and pesto with cracker plate with the tasting.
It was getting late and we had time for one more visit before heading home.  This turned out to be the most enjoyable visit of the day.  Lot's of wine knowledge and lot's of fun with Sharon and Beth at Rooster Hill Vineyards made our day. May have been because we were near the end of the day and for awhile the only ones in the tasting room, but for pleasant, funny at times and knowing each and every wine with very honest and accurate descriptions, Mark and I both agreed our most enjoyable stop on the tour. One wine of note was a blended white wine named Silver Pencil, but did not get what grapes and can't find what grapes are used for the blend.  Does taste a bit like Vidal Blanc, but still an awful nice summer wine.  We also had the opportunity to taste a Port wine that was just ready for bottling.  I am not a fan at all of Port wines, but this one was very tame and not overly sweet like most I've tasted.  We were visiting one day short of bottling and will have to wait a few months before ordering, but this is a delicious Port just begging to be paired with Shirley's chocolate lava cake with fresh raspberries and a drizzle of Chambord over the whipped cream.
That was it for the day.  Wish we could have visited a few more wineries, especially Keuka Spring. I brought home a few real nice Keuka Spring wines from this years Wine Fest and was hoping to taste a few more today.  Next time, East side of lake first.  Also known as Crooked Lake this is one of the most gorgeous sites in the region.  Not far from the Pennsylvania State Line makes this a great vacation spot and of course a nice place to visit for great wine.  The Keuka Lake Wine Trail.


Kitty Oliver said...

Joe, so nice to finally meet you too! Loved reading all about your travels on Keuka. Hope that Mark takes hold of his Chardonnay writing idea... Stop by during harvest if you can!

Tambi Schweizer said...

It was so nice to finally meet you in person, although I felt like I already knew you! Great blog, i love hearing about all the wonderful wines that are around Keuka Lake.