Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A New York State of Wine

I have returned to Lake Canandaigua, one of the New York's Finger Lakes, for the annual family get together. Besides the beautiful surroundings, one of the great pleasures of the area is the chance to sample some of the local wine. And there is plenty of it. The Finger Lakes region is blessed with a geography and climate very similar to Germany's Rhine river region. As a result, it is very hospitable to cooler climate varietals, especially Riesling. Fortunately, word is getting out about the quality and variety of the wines from this region.

Speaking of Riesling, I had the pleasure of drinking a delicious dry riesling from Chateau Lafayette Reneau, 2008. It is the perfect summer wine. Light in color and body, this riesling has an apple-like tartness complemented by a touch of effervescence. It's fruit forward but balanced with a lively acidity that makes it wonderfully food friendly. There is also a hint of minerality and plenty of citrus notes. In a word, this wine is elegant. And at $14.99, an affordable treat.

While white wines do well here, many producers are trying their hand at reds as well. You see plenty of Pinot Noir on the shelf, but frankly, this notoriously tempermental grape still hasn't found its ideal expression in the region. More successful is the Cabernet Franc. This grape is ideal for the region and there are many fine examples to choose from.

I had an interesting bottle just last night that was a quirky blend of Cabernet Franc and Lemberger. This makes sense. The Lemberger, or Blaufrankisch as it's more commonly known, is a late-ripening variety producing wines which are typically rich in tannin and may exhibit a pronounced spicy, masculine character. Widespread in Eastern Europe, it is much less common in the United States. I have had a few examples from Washington State, so I was intrigued to see it here in the Finger Lakes.

Anyway, back to the wine: this 2006 Cabernet Franc (56%), Lemberger (44%) blend is made by Fox Run Vineyards overlookikng Seneca Lake. And it is delicious! It is medium bodied with notes of violets and raspberries yielding to plums and black pepper on the finish. It is one of those wines that was made for grilled food, be it beef, chicken or ribs. And it is proof that reds from the Finger Lakes deserve as much attention as the Rieslings.

If you ever get the chance, visit the area. You won't be disappointed.