Finger Lakes!

New York: 21 August – 28 August 2010

With hills rolling into lakes of unmistakable shape, and with a soil and climate seemingly designed for one purpose, we thought it ironic that the lakes just might be a handprint from Baccus, picking his favorite site. A very warm welcome awaited us from many wineries here, and with an incredible help and coordination from Uncork New York’s Susan Spence, we dove head first into the lakes of Riesling-and-more that awaited us. We learned that the deep lakes create a lake effect which retains the summer’s warmth well into the winter, slowly releasing it to keep ambient temperatures appropriate for vine life. It even protects the plants in the spring during the crucial budding season, when frost would otherwise destroy any fledgling buds on the vines. This makes it a great home to over 100 wineries! With each winery visit too we learned much more and just why the Finger Lakes were New York’s largest grape producing region, and of course tasted just why too they had become internationally famous!

Chateau Lafayette Reneau: Here with owner Dick Reno, we are right on the deck where an incredible panoramic view of the Seneca Lake sits awaiting you. The land though has much more, with 140 acres of vineyards, ponds and woodlands. Despite the rainy weather when we came early in the morning to the tasting room, we could see the popularity Chateau Lafayette had reached as people were still coming for tastings. Our favorite story was hearing that Dick had the land with vines but couldn’t sell it, so started making wine. This was in 1986, and perhaps little would anyone know that today Chateau Lafayette Reneau’s land would produce some of the most acclaimed wines of the area!

Red Newt: With a Bistro by the winery, Red Newt focuses on locally grown foods, having all ingredients come from within 10-15 miles of the winery. We met with David Whiting, whose wife is chef at the bistro, and whose young son we hear has great prospective for being a natural winemaker, with vineyards and cellars as a playground. David and his wife were inspired by a cross country trip they made through the US which included the Napa Valley. With Red Newt established in 1999, the rest is history!

Dr. Konstantin Frank: Named after the Ukrainian immigrant who revolutionized the New York wine industry in 1962 with the founding of this winery, Dr. Konstantin Frank AKA Vinifera Wine Cellars is arguably the winery responsible for the commercial planting of vitis vinifera grapes in the region. The launching of this revolution placed Finger Lakes on the map for Rieslings and other traditional European grape varietals. Now still producing its fantastic wines, they can be enjoyed on the porch of the tasting room overlooking the lake. A great place for history and the future!

Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards: Being in the wine industry for over 20 years now, Hazlitt 1852 (the Hazlitt farm began in 1852 growing fruit trees and vineyards, with winemaking something that took place in the following century, carried on by the 6th generation of the family to tend the land!) has grown incredibly in popularity. Perhaps its greatest claim to fame is the incredibly popular ‘Red Cat’ wine, made from American grapes giving a slightly sweet yet spicy flavor, the wine has become the staple wine drink for the majority of the East Coast. Our favorite aspect though of the winery was its relaxed tasting room (here pictured), with farm equipment on the walls and popcorn to clear the pallet, it’s no wonder it won ‘tasting room of the year!’

Hermann J Wiemer: Another pioneer in the New York winemaking scene, from German heritage in the wine growing regions of Germany’s Mosel Valley famous for Rieslings, Hermann J Wiemer established his winery continuing the traditions he saw with his winegrowing family in Germany. Indeed, tasting the wines we saw the traditional was definitely kept, and saw the winery has much more going on too. The building offers an exciting architecture integrating old with new, a nursery grows just outside, and Maressa Tosto Merwarth who met us for the visit has her own jewelry studio with unique pieces available for purchase. A great visit not to miss!

Sheldrake Point: Here we jumped into a little vineyard gold cart and rode up to the top of the vineyard hill. With an amazing view below us, we were showed the lake below, the runoff of water created by the sloping hills, and the loam soil which sits underneath the vines. In fact, many different soils exist around the finger lakes, something which produce great varying complexities in the wines. Sheldrake Point has a Bistro at the winery too to welcome weary travelers looking for more than just their thirst to be quenched.

standing stone vineyards: Here we saw just why Standingstone Vineyards is famous for its iced wines. Come in to the busy tasting room on the weekend and you will also understand why, in addition to the other great wines produced. Started in 1991, the winery sits in a lovely yellow barn. We met with Marti Macinski (not pictured here) who had us taste her wines, with an energetic, warm, and wonderful welcome! Thank you!

Also high on our list to visit at the Finger Lakes were three more wineries drawing attention from all corners for their top level wines, Ravines, Heron Hill, and of course Anthony Road. We unfortunately were unable to visit them, but thank them for their interest in our world wine charity fundraising project!

We owe many thanks to the great New York wineries which hosted and made our stay possible in New York. We are also proud to show the best wines of New York at our Hong Kong World Wine Tour 2010 Auction!


~Anja and Georges

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