Before the start of day two I did forget to mention some of the other wines we tasted at Fox Run Vineyards.
Arctic Fox – Cayuga grape, refreshing, leaning towards the sweet side. Not a complex wine. Enjoyable citrus and stone fruit.
Dry Riesling 2011 – Great minerality, acidity, lemony citrus
2013 Rosé of Lemberger – the only way I really enjoy Lemberger. Known as Blaufränkisch in Germany this grape is usually tannic and has herbal and spice characteristics. Fox Run’s rose shows it off to its finest advantage.
2012 Cabernet Franc/Lemberger blend – too herbal and woodsy for my taste. I have tasted these wines throughout the northeast and I have not found one I truly like but that is no reflection on Fox Run. Many people love this red blend.
Here is a little bit of information on the signature grape that is the pride of the Finger Lakes. Riesling is a grape varietal unique among its other noble cousins. It is more adept at absorbing the mineral characteristics of the soil in which it is grown. All grapes, all plant life for that matter is endowed with whatever it is able to glean from its soil and other climate conditions – that which the French have termed terroir. Riesling grows, and can be vinified, in vast array of styles from bracingly acidic and bone dry to cloyingly sweet. It is naturally high in acid, which lends itself to a better ageability than most other white wines. This acidity, combined with a particular year’s sun exposure, rain, diurnal temperature variations, and length of the growing season determine the ultimate crispness or sweetness of the final product in the bottle. Oh, and let’s not forget the winemaker’s contribution. The grape is a powerhouse but the winemaker still has to be the puppet master.
This grape, perhaps more than any other captures the concept of terroir and shows us that wine is a living thing made more on the vine than by any craft or manipulation of the winemaker. It is always the case that good wine starts and ends in the field but most other grapes have the capacity to be shaped by the vintner’s hand more than the Riesling grape. Riesling tells you in any particular year how it will express itself. It is one of the noble grapes ( a term widely recognized as meaning grapes of the highest quality and lineage, not hybrids), intensely aromatic, and its flavor profile stretches from citrus and tropical fruits to stone fruits and of course the minerals it picks up from the soil. It is an amazingly versatile grape from all aspects – in the field, in the barrel, on the palate, and makes one of the most food-friendly wines in the world. The bracing acidity of a dry Riesling makes your mouth water. A semi-dry Riesling usually exhibits the talents of balancing that acidity along a sliding scale of sweetness.
There is now an internationally recognized scale to tell you on the bottle the level of dry/sweet. It is called the IRF scale for the International Riesling Foundation. Without getting into the technical it has been agreed where the ratio between pH, residual sugar, and acid fall along the scale. It is up to the individual winemaker to determine where they set their wine on the scale. For more information on the IRF scale visit www.drinkriesling.com/tastescale .
Dessert styles do not need any other accompaniment. They can be as satisfying as a fine French Sauternes or Canadian Ice Wine. Growers, especially those who see themselves as farmers first, love Riesling’s ability to express its sense of place. On the world stage connoisseurs know the difference between an Alsatian and German Riesling. While growing in many great wine-producing regions of the world only the Finger Lakes, and Washington state are recognized as stand-outs in the United States. During a visit to the Finger Lakes one can sample every possible expression of the grape.
Finger Lakes Wine Tour – Day Two
We began our day by taking a short ride over to downtown Corning and the office of Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association to meet virtual friends in person. Any trip to Finger Lakes Wine Country should be planned using the resources they provide. The website even has a trip planner (which I used). They have a great smart phone app, and if you get on their email list you can stay informed year round of all of the events (and there are a lot) going on. They produce a beautiful guidebook for those who prefer something in print. I use all of the above. It was great meeting Stephanie Jarvis, their Program Manager. She has been the main voice of #FlxWineCountry on Twitter, and organizer of the Riesling Hour and other events celebrating the yearly vintage release. We also met Laury Poland, President, a great bundle of energy that you just don’t get when you communicate digitally. I showed her my printout of the events we planned to attend that I had downloaded from their website. She noted that she was attending nearly all of my choices as well. Together with Ginny, Teresa, and Christina they do amazing work trumpeting the virtues of a visit to this region. They gave us some very helpful tips on how to make the most of the visit. We would see Laury later on in our stay.
Their office is located in the Gaffer District of Corning, which is also known as the “Crystal City”. Corning was developed as a company town of the Corning Glass Works. The Gaffer district has a lot to see and do from shops for foodies and wineaux, to glass art galleries and museums. Our next stop was the Corning Museum of Glass. I can’t say enough about what a wonderful museum this is. It is almost inaccurate to call it a museum. Its mission statement puts it most succinctly: To Tell the World about Glass by engaging, educating, and inspiring visitors and the community through the art, history, and science of glass. You can spend an entire day in this place. There is the history, interactive exhibits, flame demonstrations, hot glass blowing, innovations for home and industrial uses and gallery after gallery filled with the jaw-dropping products of creative glass artists . It goes on and on.
The combo admission ticket allows you to visit the Rockwell Museum of Western Art. I was thrilled to see original Frederic Remington bronze work, and a rifle from the Revolutionary period that was made in Lowell, MA, near where I live today. This museum seemed a little oddly placed. Who expects to see a large collection of art depicting the American West in Upstate New York? Visit their website to learn more.
After lunch at the Market Street Brewing Company and Restaurant, where yes, beer was consumed, we drove up the eastern shore of Seneca Lake to Wagner Vineyards in Lodi. The Wagners are no newcomers to the area. With over 50 years of grape growing experience they’ve had some time to figure out what works and what doesn’t. We did spend some time in their tasting room, in their beautiful eight-sided building but we were there for the live entertainment and dinner. We each do our own tasting and then share so we get to taste just about everything they are pouring. Wagner also brews beers but I was itching to get to the wines. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to taste Wagner’s Riesling for at least the last four years so I know the quality is as good as it gets. It was a treat to taste some of their other wines. Outside of their Riesling and Chardonnay Wagner favors hybrid grapes, especially for their Alta B blends (named for Bill Wagner’s mother Alta Button Wagner). Our favorites:
2012 Caywood East Vineyard Dry Riesling – crisp, citrus, stone fruit, and mineral palate. Mouth-watering, lingering finish.
2012 Semi-Dry Riesling – peaches and pineapples sums this one up. Such a great sipper.
2012 Bottle Fermented Sparkling Riesling – a brut style, 90% Riesling from their oldest block, 10% Pinot Noir.
2012 Cayuga White – sweet but crisp. My wife’s choice and the one we chose to open for the concert.
After the tasting we exited to the large deck overlooking the vineyards. We chose a picnic table right in the middle and as the band was setting up we saw children playing down by the vines, and someone setting up what turned out to be a drone.
The entertainment was part of Wagner’s Fridays on the Deck Series and that night The Destination, a 9 piece dance band was packing in the locals. We ultimately shared our picnic table with an older couple, and a man who had a 1.5 liter bottle of the Alta B Blush, which he freely shared. Everyone seemed to know everyone.
While we did see a lot more of that swigging out of the bottle there was a lot of beer being drunk as well. The Wagner’s operate a restaurant, The Ginny Lee, and while closed, they had set up a dinner choice of chicken or fish. We walked through the line and each got the chicken dinner. Home-style food, and lots of it. This is how to do a summer night. The band played a full range of swing, funk, R&B, and Latin rhythms that made it impossible to sit still. At some point before it got too dark the band leader told us to turn around and wave (with all of our fingers). We were on camera. That drone was flying out far and wide taking photographs and video for the band’s website. There was one older (and by that I mean old) couple that had the moves. They danced all night. It was fun to watch. During the band’s break between sets we reluctantly chose to leave. Staying meant we would have more to drink (with all that wine sharing going on) and we already had a 45 minute ride back down to Watkins Glen. They were just opening up a pizza window as we were leaving too. Day Three will be all about the wine.