More fine wines from Finger Lakes

Published on September 5, 2014

Note: due to an editorial error, the first part of this two-part series did not run last week. It will appear on Sept. 12.


The nature of Finger Lakes wine is a little difficult to pin down at this stage of its development.

It seems to be moving away from its former role as a supplier of cheap sweet wine to the soda pop tastes of new wine drinkers and into modern style dry wines. Most wineries, nonetheless, featured at least a few such wines on their product lists, no doubt to assist in the economics of the business.

Red wines varied between the intense and full flavoured from hot growing years, and fruit-forward, sometimes thin showings from cool years. My impression is that the region will settle on annually producing light, fruity reds with finesse such as are made in the Loire, Alsace or Germany, with some special weightier reds in the occasional hot summer.

Too many of the white wines I tasted lacked good acidity, especially in varietals in which acidity is a notable feature, such as Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. This will no doubt be corrected over time as knowledge and techniques im­prove.

There is a lot of experimentation in the region around varietals, growing conditions and styles of wines to be produced. As the wine industry continues to grow in the area, its strengths will continue to be developed. The area is already a good tourism destination with affordable accommodations, restaurants, and scenic attractions.

In addition to last week’s wineries, the following wineries were visited:


Seneca Lake

Glenora Wine Cellars is one of the larger producers in the region, at which my favourite was the 2013 Dry Riesling (US$14.99) 15.5/VG with tropical and citrus flavours.

At Hermann J Wiemar Vineyard my top choice was the 2013 Reseve Riesling (US$29.00) 15/VG based on good acidity, aromatic intensity and a lingering finish.

Shaw Vineyard is a tiny producer which believes in long lees contact and aging for its wines. Each of the eight wines I tasted earned a Very Good rating, but the reds topped the list. The 2007 Cabernet Franc (US$32.40) 17/VG spent four years in barrel and was so good I had to bring a bottle home with me.

It was a toss-up at the Heron Hill Winery Tasting Room on the best white between the Classic Char­donnay Unoaked 2013 (US$13.99) 16/VG — abundant aroma of ripe apples, acidity, full finish — and the 2010 Ingle Vineyard Riesling 16/VG — intense aroma of lemon-lime sorbet with touches of petrol. The 2011 Eclipse (US$16.99) 16.5/VG which is a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend, showed brilliant ripe red fruit aromas.

The best Riesling we had during our visit was the 2011 Art Series (US$28.00) 17/VG at Anthony Road Winery. They also had a 2013 Rosé (US$16.00) 16/VG made from Cabernet Franc and Lemberger which was bursting with frothy fruit flavour and was absolutely delicious.

My favourites at Red Newt Cellars were the 2010 Reserve Dry Riesling and the 2007 Gewurztraminer Curry Creek Vineyard (US$50) 15.5/VG which could have passed for a high-end Alsace wine with its ample yet subtle aromas of orange peel, lychee and floral elements.

Damiani Wine Cellars is located in the Seneca Lake “banana belt” on the west-facing slopes, and perhaps that explains why my favourites there were both red.

The 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir, Davis Vineyard (US$46.99) 16/VG had an intense bouquet of everything you want with this varietal. The 2011 Cabernet Franc Reserve (US$42.99) 16/VG showed deep flavour with a mouth-filling long finish.


Keuka Lake

Domaine Leseurre is brand new and has just released its first wines, from the 2012 vintage. The Pinot Noir (US$24.99) 14.5/G showed the most potential to me.

Dr. Konstantin Frank Vineyards is one of the leaders of the local wine industry and was founded by the person responsible for proving that vinifera varieties could be grown in the region. They showed us some very well made sparkling wines, 2008 Blanc de Noirs and 2009 Blanc de Blancs (both US$29.99) 16/VG, and a quality Dry Riesling 2013 (US$14.99) 15.5/VG. Their 2012 Pinot Noir (US$19.99) 16/VG was made from very old vines, some as old as 58 years, and showed sweet cherry fruit backed up with substance.

I liked the Rieslings at Keuka Lake Vineyards, with special mention of the 2012 Dry Riesling, Eastside Vineyard (US$25) 16/VG.

Bully Hill Vineyards is a very large producer which specializes in bulk sweet wines and we almost didn’t bother to stop in. We found that it also produces some acceptable dry white wines at the under $10 end of the spectrum.

Hunt Country Vineyards’ best wines were the Late Harvest Moscato 2011 (US$27.99 for 375 ml) 17/VG — fabulously complex bright sunshine flavours — and a Vidal Blanc Ice Wine 2007 (US$39.99 for 375 ml) 17/VG which had a complex aroma of honey toasted nuts and apricots.


Cayuga Lake

Long Point Winery brings in California grapes to make many of its red wines, but its estate-grown Pinot Gris 2013 (US$14.99) 17/VG was absolutely marvellous, showing a peach, pear and melon bouquet with a voluptuous mouth feel.


Steve Delaney is a member of the Opimian Society. Email him at

Twitter: @delaneystephen