Finger Lakes


The Finger Lakes AVA is New York state’s largest wine region, comprising about 11,000 acres of vines. The area south of Lake Ontario was formed about two million years ago when glaciers scoured the geography and created long narrow bodies of water from former creeks. The Finger Lakes consist of 11 of these features, splayed out pointing roughly north to south like fingers on hands. These are among the deepest 13PinotNoirlakes in America; Cayuga is 435 feet deep, while Seneca reaches down to 618 feet. Cayuga and Seneca hold their own sub-appellations within the larger Finger Lakes AVA. The warmth stored in the lakes is released in winter and helps to moderate the climate along the shores, where most of the vineyards are planted.

Our Wine of the Day, No. 251, is the Thirsty Owl Wine Company Pinot Noir 2015, which carries a Finger Lakes designation; the winery sits on the west side of Cayuga. The color is a delicate, transparent ruby-garnet; initially, it’s a light yet loamy pinot noir that offers notes of spiced and macerated black and red cherries and currants that open to hints of briers and raspberry leaf. The wine gains substance and heft in the glass, along with elements of leather and graphite, all nestled in a sleek, burnished, satiny texture, leading to a finish that’s bright with a wild cherry tone. With three grams of residual sugar, this pinot noir feels succulent and crunchy from mid-palate back, with a bit of candied berry around the circumference. 12.8 percent alcohol. A charming and tasty pinot noir, far different than West Coast models, as you would expect from the differences in terroir and climate. Very Good+. About $18.

A sample for review. The label image, taken from the winery website, is several vintages behind.

Dr. Konstantin Frank emigrated to the United States in 1951. Born in Odessa in 1899, Frank was an expert in growing vitis vinifera grapes — traditional European wine grapes — in temperatures cold enough to be thought unsuitable. He worked as a dishwasher in New York until he could afford to move his family upstate to Cornell University’s Geneva Experiment Station in 1953. While three centuries of DF 2015 Gewurztraminer growing only native American or hybrid grapes in the Finger Lakes region seemed to mitigate against Frank’s ideas and experience, the release of his first wine, a Trockenbeerenauslese Johannisberg Riesling 1962 made from botrytized grapes, pretty much settled the argument and transformed vineyard practices and winemaking in the Finger Lakes. Konstantin Frank died in 1985, by which time his winery had passed through the hands of his son Willy. In 1993, Willy’s son Fred Frank took over as president, with his sister Barbara as consulting winemaker; his daughter Meaghan recently joined the four-generation family business.

The wine selected as Wine of the Day, No. 223, is the Dr. Konstantin Frank Gewurztraminer 2015, Finger Lakes, and I might as well say at the beginning that it is one of the most beautiful gewurztraminer wines I have encountered. The color is very pale straw-gold; deliriously heady aromas of lychee, peach and gardenia, almond skin and tangerine open to scents of lemon balm and pear nectar, laved over layers of flint and limestone. Made completely in stainless steel, the wine attains a state, after an hour or so, of pure scintillating minerality and glittering acidity, though these rigorous, crystalline elements do not preclude initial phases of ripe, slightly honeyed and macerated stone-fruit flavors and an ultimate sense of innate, racy liveliness and vibrancy. 12.7 percent alcohol. I’ll admit to being knocked sideways by the glamour and intensity of this wine, which still manages to sustain a quality of delicacy and intimacy. Drink now through 2020 to ’23. Exceptional. And the price of this paragon? About $15, marking a Freaking Bargain of the Century.

A sample for review, as I am required to inform My Readers by the Federal Trade Commission.

So, here it is, My Readers, the annual “50 Great Wines” roster, presently for the past year, that is, 2016. Not the “Greatest” of all wines or the “Best” of all wines, but a selection of 50 products that struck me as embodying everything we want in a wine: freshness, balance, appeal; depth, personality and character; an adherence to the nature of the grapes and, where possible, the virtues of the vineyard and climate. These are wines that leave aside the ego of the winemaker and producer for an expression of — not to sound too idealistic — an ideal of what a wine should be. I won’t belabor the process by which I arrived at this list of 50 wines, except to say that every wine I rated “Exceptional” during 2016 is automatically included. Did I leave out wines that I truly admired? Indeed, I did, because this list focuses on wines that I truly loved. Enjoy!
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
acorn-2013-heritage-vines-zinfandel-rgb-72dpi
Acorn Heritage Vines Alegria Vineyard Zinfandel 2013, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 78 percent zinfandel, 12 percent alicante bouschet, 8 percent petite sirah and 2 percent a combination of carignane, trousseau, sangiovese, petit bouschet, negrette, syrah, black muscat, cinsault and grenache. A real field blend. Production was 548 cases. Excellent. About $45.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
gratien
Alfred Gratien Brut Rose nv, Champagne, France. Excellent. About $65.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
0000098_sauvignon-blanc
Arrow&Branch Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $35.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
bk-chard
Black Kite Cellars Soberanes Vineyard Chardonnay 2014, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. Production was 212 cases. Exceptional. About $48.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
bns12c_bottle_180x579px
Bonny Doon Bien Nacido X-Block Syrah 2012, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County. Exceptional. About $50.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
orestano-pn
R. Buoncristiani Vineyard Orentano Pinot Noir 2012, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 305 cases made. Excellent. About $40.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
lescadrans_de_lassegue_bottle-2-2-232x800
Les Cadrans de Lassegue 2012, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux. Merlot and cabernet franc. Excellent. About $35.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
cdr_13pnoir-weblowres
Champ de Rêves Pinot Noir 2013, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. Exceptional. About $45.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
chartogne
Chartogne-Taillet “Heurtebise” Blanc de Blancs Brut 2008, Champagne, France. Exceptional. About $65 to $80.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
julienas_12_web
Domaine Chignard “Beauvernay” 2014, Julienas, Beaujolais Cru. Excellent. About $22.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
cs12mcwlweb
Cornerstone Cellars Michael’s Cuvée Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley. Production was under 250 cases. Exceptional. About $75.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
era_btl_sv_ph-png_store
Erath Winery Prince Hill Pinot Noir 2012, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $50.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
etu_12fiddlestix_pinot_nv_400x126
Etude Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Sta. Rita Hills. Exceptional, About $45.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
eve-essence
Eve’s Cidery Essence Ice Cider, Finger Lakes, New York. 390 cases produced. Exceptional. About $28.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
fields
Fields Family Wines Old Vine Zinfandel 2013, Lodi. 250 cases made. Excellent. About $28.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
gamble
Gamble Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $25.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
barb
Tenute Cisa Asinari Marchesi di Grésy Martinenga Camp Gros Riserva Barbaresco 2010, Piedmont, Italy. Exceptional. About $106.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
inman-ogv
Inman Family OGV Estate Pinot Noir 2013, Russian River Valley. Excellent. About $73.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
jayson-cab-label
Jayson Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $75.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
luscher
Luscher-Ballard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. 200 cases produced. Excellent. About $80.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
lutum_2013_web-2-183x619
Lutum La Rinconada Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Sta. Rita Hills. Production was 225 cases. Excellent. About $50.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
macphail-logo
MacPhail Wightman House Pinot Noir 2013, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. Production was 100 cases. Exceptional. About $55.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
alsace-1
Frederic Mallo Vielles Vignes Rosacker Riesling 2010, Alsace Grand Cru. Excellent. About $23.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
merisi
Merisi Wines Denner Vineyard Petite Sirah 2013, Lake County. 100 cases produced. About $35.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
montelena-riesling
Chateau Montelena Riesling 2015, Potter Valley. About $25.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
nerthe-2
Chateau La Nerthe 2014, Chateauneuf-du-Pape blanc. 40 percent each grenache blanc and roussanne, 10 percent each clairette and bourboulenc. Excellent. About $65.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
patz_hall_hyde_pinot_noir2_1024x1024
Patz & Hall Vineyard Hyde Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Carneros-Napa Valley. Excellent. About $70.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
prv_lepetitclos_chard_sld_main
Pine Ridge Le Petit Clos Chardonnay 2013, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $75.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
pol-roger-brut-rose-bottle
Pol Roger Extra Cuvee de Reserve Brut Rose 2004, Champagne, France. Excellent. About $80-$100.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
montezargues-2012-website-1
Prieure de Montezargues 2014, Tavel Rose. 55 percent red and white grenache, 30 percent cinsault, 13 percent clairette, 2 percent melange of syrah, mourvedre, carignane and bourboulenc. Excellent. About $24.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
red-newt
Red Newt Cellars Tango Oaks Vineyard Riesling 2013, Finger Lakes, New York. About $24.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________
german-2
Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Josephshoff Riesling Kabinett 2012, Mosel, Germany. Excellent. About $23.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
rmw_2013_cabernetsauvignon_oakville_lowres
Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley. 81 percent cabernet sauvignon, 13 percent cabernet franc, 2 percent each malbec, petit verdot and merlot. Excellent. About $60.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2014 Romb_SB_f+b_v5
Rombauer Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $24.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
logo_saxon_brown_copper
Saxon Brown Durell Vineyard Hayfield Block Pinot Noir 2012, Sonoma Coast. Fewer than 100 cases. Exceptional. About $48.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
sedition-bottle-of-wine2
Sedition Chenoweth Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 230 cases produced. Exceptional. About $75.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
seed
The Seed Malbec 2014, Altamira District, Uco Valley, Argentina. 59 cases made. Excellent. About $60.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
smith-madrone-chardonnay
Smith-Madrone Chardonnay 2013, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. Production was 806 cases. Exceptional. About $32.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
stonestreet-sb
Stonestreet Estate Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County. Exceptional. About $35.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
stony-hill-chard-label
Stony Hill Chardonnay 2013, Napa Valley. Production was 1,852 cases. Exceptional. About $45.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
3-sticks-durell
Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Sonoma Coast. 585 cases produced. Exceptional. About $65.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
tongue-dancer
Tongue Dancer Wines Pinot Noir 2013, Sonoma Coast. Production was 125 cases. Exceptional. About $45.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
troon
Troon Vineyards Vermentino Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon. 80 percent vermentino, 20 percent sauvignon blanc. 176 cases produced. Excellent. About $24.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2-sheps
Two Shepherds Catie’s Corner Viognier 2014, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Production was 75 cases. Exceptional. About $26.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
02_85432_f
Two Shepherds Pastoral Blanc 2013, Russian River Valley. 12.9% alc. Roussanne 50%, marsanne 25%, viognier 13%, grenache blanc 6%, grenache gris 6%. Production was 100 cases. Exceptional. About $30.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
carignanrose15-f_ttb
Two Shepherds Trimble Vineyard Carignan Rosé 2015, Mendocino County. Production was 50 cases. Exceptional. About $22.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
ws-westside-road
Williams Selyem Westside Road Neighbors Pinot Noir 2014, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Exceptional. About $55.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
poete
Guillaume Sorbe “Les Poëte” 2014, Quincy, Loire Valley, France. Sauvignon blanc. Exceptional. About $30.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
windracer
WindRacer Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 1,007 cases produced. Exceptional. About $50.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
zena-259
Zena Crown Vineyard Conifer Pinot Noir 2013, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Production was 240 cases. Excellent. About $75.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

red-newt
At three years old, the Red Newt Cellars Tango Oaks Vineyard Riesling 2013, from New York’s Finger Lakes region, is drinking beautifully. The grapes were harvested on October 24 that year, and about 10 percent were affected by botrytis, the mold that shrivels grapes, concentrates and dries them and renders them into tiny, intense sugar bombs. That factor lends this 100 percent riesling wine, made all in stainless steel, not so much a hint of sweetness — it barely qualifies as “off-dry” — but lovely intensity and ripeness. The color is very pale straw-gold; the wine displays crystalline clarity and character, offering aromas of lemon, green apple, lime peel and lychee highlighted by notes of quince and ginger. The feeling of utter freshness continues on the palate, where hints of bursting peaches and apricots are slightly burnished and darkened by a tantalizing tide of loam, chalk and limestone, an ethereal yet persistent element that segues through the chiseled finish. 10.6 percent alcohol. The winery was established in 1998, on the east side of Seneca Lake, by David and Debra Whiting; winemaker is Kelby James Russell. Production was 840 cases. Drink now through 2020 to ’23. Excellent. About $24.

A sample for review.