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Fine Finger Lakes Riesling from Two Old Favorites: Swedish Hill & Fox Run


Every year, the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance (“FLWA”) sponsors a series of virtual tastings for the media to spread the word about the latest vintage of Finger Lakes rieslings. This is the second year that I have participated. So, here is the disclaimer: I received the wines reviewed in the post and six others as a free sample package from the FLWA. I promised no positive reviews, or any reviews at all, in exchange for these bottles.

The Finger Lakes is a wine region in upstate New York. Although it does not get the same press as wine-making regions in California, Oregon, and Washington, those of us who have tasted Finger Lakes wines over the years know that they consistently show high quality. Of the many grapes that grow well in the region, Riesling is undoubtedly the king. I have tasted a number of rieslings from the Finger Lakes that rival the best examples of that varietal from places like Germany and Australia. I could bore you with a fuller history of the region, but that work has been done for me.

Two of the first wineries I remember trying from the Finger Lakes were Swedish Hill Winery and Fox Run Vineyards. While they are old favorites of mine, it has been some time since I have had an opportunity to taste any of their wines. Fortunately, that dry spell (pun intended) has come to an end. This year, the Riesling package that I received from FLWA included Swedish Hill Winery’s 2011 Riesling and Fox Run Vineyards 2011 Reserve Riesling.

Swedish Hill Winery‘s 2011 vintage was its 25th Anniversary production. The Peterson Family’s experience with grapes, however, goes back to 1969, when they started growing grapes for sale to other local wine producers. Swedish Hill has collected any impressive number of awards and accolades along the way. Their success allowed them to open Goose Watch Winery in 1997 and Penguin Bay Winery in 2005.

Swedish Hill’s 2011 Reisling is semi-sweet, with 2.35% residual sugar and 11.1% ABV. It is pale yellow in color with aromas of pineapples, peaches, and hints of petroleum. It is well balanced, and the sweetness does not cross the line into cloying. This wine has a delicate mouth feel with moderate acidity and flavors of apples with tropical notes. It’s a good stand-alone wine on a warm day or with the right dish; the winemaker recommends turkey, ham, and fresh fruit, and I can add butternut squash soup to that list. This is a good example of a quality, approachable Finger Lakes riesling. It is also a good value. 3/4, $15.99 per bottle.

Fox Run Vineyards is high on Torrey Ridge overlooking Seneca Lake. Fox Run has 55 acres of vines, including varietals like Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir. Fox Run practices minimal intervention winemaking, and Fox Run’s owner, Scott Osborn, is not only a player in the wine industry, but also hosts the Fox Run Glorious Garlic Festival.

Fox Run’s 2011 Reserve Riesling is semi-sweet, clocking in with 2.2% residual sugar and 13% alcohol by volume. The Vineyard’s notes reflect an odd growing season with heavy rains early, a hot and dry summer, and more rains near the end of the growing season, but with enough sun to fully ripen the grapes. Whatever the intricacies of the growing season, Fox Run handled them perfectly. This wine has citrus and latex aromas with hints of kiwi and pineapple. There is a bright, but not overpowering acidity. As the wine opens up is shows flavors of pineapple, melon, and tropical fruit salad, with a bit of unripened peach. Well-balanced and drinkable, this is an excellent example of why Finger Lakes riesling is some of the most underrated wine in the world. 1/4, $29.99 per bottle.

Swedish Hill Winery
4565 State Route 414
Romulus, NY 14541
(607) 403-0029
Twitter: @SwedishHillWine

Fox Run Vineyards
670 State Route 14
Penn Yan, NY 14527
Twitter: @foxrunvineyards

Recent Tastings

Dr. Frank 2010 Dry Riesling — Tropical and petroleum notes on the nose with more of the same on the palate. Bright acidity. A bit tart, but well structured. Not the best vintage that this excellent winery has created, but a solid wine nonetheless. Never hesitate to buy a bottle from this producer. 1/2

Domaine des Senechaux 2009 Chateauneuf-du-Pape AC — (received in a sample package from Wine Chateau) deep, rich color with aromas of currant, black cherries, pine trees, and spices. Medium bodied, with warm flavors of tart red fruits like raspberries and cranberries. The tannins are still a bit bitter and this wine could use more time in the bottle, but it can go now with the proper decanting and the right meal. 3/4

Conundrum 2010 Red Table Wine

Disclosure: I received this wine and two others as part of a free sample package from Wine Chateau. No reviews or any other considerations were promised in exchange for the samples.

Earlier this week, I threw a few burgers on the grill for dinner and the wife requested an approachable red wine to accompany them. Fortunately, I had just received a sample of the Conundrum 2010 Red Table Wine from the Wine Chateau. Based on the bottle description, it sounded like it would be just the thing for a quite, informal dinner at home. As it turns out, the bottle description is just about on target.

Conundrum is a family of “non-traditional” red and white table wine offerings from the Wagner Family of Wine, a fifth generation Napa Valley family. I would love to tell you what is in the Conundrum red, but the Wagner Family thinks that telling us what’s in the wine “would take all the fun out of it.” On this point, I respectfully disagree. I think an accounting of the varietals (as well as the specific locations of the vineyards contributing to this California table wine) would make an analysis of it all that much more enjoyable. That said, we work with what we have.

Conundrum 2010 California Red Table Wine

The 2010 Conundrum Red has a bright purple color. It is still young, with aromas of mixed berries and plums with prominent floral notes and hints of oak. It has soft tannins, with flavors of black cherries and blueberries accompanied by hints of dark chocolate. The Conundrum is a light bodied wine that would be an enjoyable picnic wine while showing some complexity and structure. It would also be good for service with lighter meals or appetizers. It is reasonable priced and, at this stage, it definitely benefits from 30 minutes of decanting. Drink it right after opening and the blueberry notes will dominate. 3/4, $19.97 per bottle (per Wine Chateau).

King Family Vineyards 2011 Chardonnay

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of returning to Charlottesville, Virginia, for the first time since my children were born. I got to spend two days tasting wine at some of Virginia’s best vineyards, places like King Family Vineyards, Pollak Vineyards, Veritas Vineyard & Winery, and Afton Mountain Vineyards (which, in a very interesting experiment, is about to plant Virginia’s first Albarino vines). 2011 was a tough vintage for Virginia, which made the quality wines I was able to sample all that much more impressive. One of the standouts for the trip was King Family Vineyards 2011 Chardonnay.

King Family Vineyards 2011 Chardonnay

This Chardonnay has traditional aromas of apple and butter oak, though the oak does not overwhelm the fruit like some heavier California wines. King Family’s Chardonnay has moderate to high acidity with flavors of of apples and hints of melon followed by a buttery finish. The wine is well balanced and well crafted, and an excellent option for wine drinkers who do not like to chew their Chardonnay. You can get some at King Family’s online shop. 1/4, $21.95 per bottle.

King Family Vineyards
6550 Roseland Farm
Crozet, VA 22932
(434) 823-7800
Twitter: @kingvineyards

Recent Tastings: Father’s Day Edition

Tasty Dinner Treats

2009 Chateau Jean de Gue, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France — Cherries and leather on the nose. Add some plum on the palate. Present but gentle tannins. Medium bodied. Benefits from pairing with a good steak and blue cheese dish. Ready to drink now but may gain some complexity with a few years of aging. Appx. $25.00/bottle, 

A.P. Vin 2007 Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills, CA — Aromas of cherry and cedar with hints of spice. Well structured tannins with warm cherries and red fruits. Hints of coffee and a long, pleasing finish. Appx. $50.00/bottle,

Frisk Wines 2010 Prickly Riesling, Victoria, Australia — Aromas of petroleum, peach, and nectarine. Bright and fruit forward on the palate with just a bit of fizz. Appx. $10.00/bottle, 1/4

Keswick 2010 Cabernet Franc

As I have noted before, my recent move to Nashville has left me with very limited access to to Virginia wine. I’m still adjusting to the loss. But every once in a while I get lucky. Recently, my wife took a brief trip to Charlottesville, VA.  She came back with three bottles of Keswick Vineyards2010 Cabernet Franc.

Even the Kitty Likes Keswick

This is an excellent offering from Virginia. It has warm aromas of cedar, violets, and red fruits in the glass with a nice, rich color. The wine is full bodied and has smooth, well-integrated tannins. The flavors of cherries, oak, violets, and hints of tobacco merge to embody the characteristics of the Cabernet franc grape. Well worth the $30 price tag. Highly recommended. 1/2

Keswick Vineyards
1575 Keswick Winery Drive
Keswick, VA  22947
(434) 244-3341

Caparzo Vendemmia 2004 Brunello di Montalcino

About a year ago I wrote here about our visit to Montalcino, and Caparzo in particular. Recently, I had occasion to break open a bottle of the Caparzo Vendemmia 2004 Brunello di Montacino that we had shipped back from Italy. It did not disappoint.

This Brunello displays dark fruits and licorice on the nose with a palate of bright red fruit and intense tannins that will benefit from further aging. If you are going to drink now, please allow 45 minutes to an hour for decanting, but this one is best laid down for at least a couple of more years. The tannins integrate well and the wine opens up to be increasingly complex and pleasing. Excellent on its own or bringing the best out of a well-paired meal. If you see it in a shop, grab it. , Appx. $40 per bottle.

Borgo Scopeto e Caparzo Srl Società Agricola Strada Provinciale del Brunello km 1,700 Località Caparzo
53024 MONTALCINO (Siena)
Italia Tel. +39-0577-848390/847166
Fax +39-0577-849377
Twitter: @vinitoscani

Sales & Marketing Office (for distributor information):
Antonio Delle Donne
Tel. +39 0577 848390

Nashville Wine Shops: Wonderfully Eclectic

I have written a number of posts about some of the best wine shops I have found since moving to Nashville about a year ago. Some are great because of their diverse selection, some for their domestic offerings, and some for their high-end stock that, if nothing else, is fun to look at. This entry is about one of the most eclectic wine shops I have ever visited — one that is worth a stop anytime you want a bottle, but particularly if you are looking for something different: Woodland Wine Merchant.

Woodland prides itself on offering wines from “undervalued places around the world.” Mission accomplished. Woodland’s selection of Italian whites, for example, includes a number of Sicilian wines you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else in Nashville, or Tennessee for that matter. Their stock also includes Spanish whites from Rioja and Rias Baixas, and more traditional offerings like sauvignon blancs from New Zealand and Bordeaux. Woodland has a large and high-quality selection of German whites, complimented by a small but impressive section of diverse bubbly. Woodland has a strong assortment of dessert wines, port, and sherry, along with rows of unique producers from regions you’d expect to find in any wine shop you walk into — French and Australian whites; Oregon, California, and Burgundy Pinot Noir; Spanish, Italian, Australian, South American, and California reds; and an impressive if relatively small section of red Bordeaux. All that was missing were some bottles from Virginia and the Finger Lakes (personal favorites).

Woodland also has an outstanding spirits section where you can add the finishing touches to your home bar. You can impress your fellow booze hounds with Dubonnet Rouge, Coccho Americano, slow gin, creme de viollette, cynar, and genever. Don’t think your home bar or wine cellar are complete until you have taken a walk through Woodland Wine Merchant.

Woodland Wine Merchant
1001 Woodland Street
Nashville, TN 37206
(615) 228-3311
Twitter: @WoodlandWine

Altovinum 2010 Evodia Old Vines Garnacha DO

I have been meaning to write about this one for a while, but I am betting they are still on the shelves. If you are looking for a quality red wine that is still a solid value at its price point, go out and find a bottle of Altovinum 2010 Evodia Old Vines Garnacha DO. Evodia is a relatively new project in the Calatayud region of Spain. You can read more about it at Eric Solomon Selections. I found it here in Nashville at The Wine Chap, which I wrote about here.

Altovinum 2010 Evodia Old Vines Garnacha is light purple with aromas of blueberries and aged wood. This wine is medium bodied, with soft, supple tannins and moderate acidity. Smooth, with flavors of blueberries, cherries, and just a hint of chocolate, this wine is an outstanding value at a price range generally from $7-12.00. 1/2

Nashville Wine Shops: A Focus on Red

Here is another in my series of posts about some of the best wine shops in Nashville. Today, I am writing about Grand Cru Fine Wine & Spirits, which has a wonderful selection of wines. It’s offerings are particularly strong if you know that you are in the market for a few good reds.

Grand Cru is an attractive shop with bright yellow walls and numerous racks of reds flanked by refrigerators with a small but respectable selection of whites. The racks open with an assortment of Italian and Spanish reds and a nice collection of Argentinian malbecs.  These are alongside pinot noirs from California, New Zealand, and Burgundy.  French offerings continue with Bordeaux and the Rhone. Domestic reds are primarily from California and Washington and include cabernets, merlots, syrahs, and zinfandels (including Lodi). There is also a selection of Chilean cabernets, merlots and Australian syrahs, and a small offering of local Tennessee wines.

Grand Cru also has a reserve room with its higher end selections. These include South American blends, Napa Valley cabernets and chardonnays, French and Italian reds, and assorted pinot noirs. In addition, Gand Cru offers some unique labels of standard spirits, complemented by some delicious looking eau de vie. Definitely worth a look.

Grand Cru Fine Wines & Spirits
3433 Murphy Road
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 627-9300