Monday, November 5, 2018

Finger Lakes Wine Country 2018

I was introduced to New York State wines and a few of the wineries around the Finger Lakes region in the 70s. The family-owned Taylor Wine Company was a very large wine producer and they gave popular tours. This was after the company went public in the 60s and before Coca Cola bought them in 1977. Taylor later went out of business in the mid 90s and some of their brand continued on as "Taylor Desserts," but a recent search for it doesn't show any results.
Back when Taylor made a real NYS "Champagne."
I also visited Bully Hill, another popular Finger Lakes winery, in the 70s (and again in 2012).  Founded by 4th generation Taylor family winemaker and grape grower, Walter S. Taylor. I thought Bully Hill made pretty good wines. After the Coca Cola-owned Taylor Wine Company sued Bully Hill they weren't allowed to use the Taylor name on any of their wines or marketing materials. This led to the rebellious slogan on their White Goat Wine: “They have our name and heritage, but they didn’t get our goat!” 
One of my old favorites, a FLX Pinot Noir.
  "The Wine With Laughter!" is a winner.

Their wines were OK for the 70s, but revisiting them in later years I'm not as fond of them as I once was. But hey, I used to think Budweiser and Miller were good beers too!
Tastes change, but after visiting wine growing regions around the world, I must admit that the Finger Lakes region is one of the most scenic and lush wine growing areas I've ever seen. Too bad I just don't appreciate Riesling, Gewürztraminer, or Cabernet Franc that much. Maybe I would have voted with all of those USA Today readers in the poll that recently named the Finger Lakes as America's top wine region if I did.

Our last tasting trip to visit Finger Lakes wineries was in 2012 and it was a much more colorful October than this year.
This time I noticed that not only are there many more wineries (distilleries and breweries) to explore, but the wines have generally improved in quality, whether or not you're a fan of the predominant styles. I tasted some very good Riesling (which is still not my favorite style), even some good Chardonnay, and some Cabernet Franc that didn't taste like green bell pepper juice!
We didn't visit as many wineries as we had in the past, but we managed to find several very good ones along the way. Favorite wines are indicated with an asterisk (*).


Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars
What we tasted:
2009 Brut Sparkling
2017 Dry Rosé
2011 Red Oak Vineyard Riesling (also the 2016)
2010 Merlot
2016 Merlot Block 137

The 2011 Red Oak Vineyard Riesling was the first time I experienced what is a "petrol nose," as Kayla in the tasting room explained. The strong essence of street paving or "road tar" is not something I like in any wine, even a little! This is what Wine Spectator explains as the chemical compound known as TDN (1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalene), which can be more pronounced in riper or older Rieslings. I can see it now, sitting by the side of the road on a hot summer day and sipping an old Riesling while a road crew resurfaces the road...
Silver Thread Vineyard
What we tasted:
2016 Good Earth White is a blend of 77% Vidal Blanc, 19% Riesling, 4% Gewurztraminer.
2016 Chardonnay from 31-year-old estate vines and barrel fermented. *
2016 Dry Riesling is a blend of 30% Estate Vineyard, 57% Doyle Fournier Vineyard and 13% Gridley Bluff Point Vineyard. *
2015 & 2016 Pinot Noir, 100% Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir
2015 Blackbird Red Wine is a blend of 76% Cabernet Franc & 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 100% estate grown. *

I really enjoyed the full-bodied 2016 Chardonnay from old vines and aged sur lie. The 2016 Dry Riesling was very good for its style with a low residual sugar level of .7%. The Blackbird Cabernet Franc was the mellowest (no green bell pepper) and was very good when decanted.
What we bought (and drank on the trip):
We were traveling light so we limited ourselves to just a bottle of the 2017 Riesling "Doyle Fournier Vineyard" and the 2016 Dry Riesling. We enjoyed both during our stay in Ithaca.

Great view from the Silver Thread Vineyard Tasting Room.
What a difference it makes to visit a winery where the owner or winemaker can pour your wine! We encountered some very good tasting room people on our trip, like at Ravines, but Shannon Brock at Silver Thread did a super job of talking about the grapes, vineyards and winemaking by her husband, Paul Brock.
We were also happy to discover the earthy Pepitas (brined and roasted Heirloom Pumpkin Seeds) snack that was served with our tasting. They are available from Stony Brook WholeHeartedFoods in Geneva, NY.

Hermann J. Weimer Vineyard  
What we tasted:
Field White *
2017 Chardonnay *

2017 Riesling Dry *
2017 Riesling Semi-Dry
2016 Riesling HJW Vineyard * 
2016 Riesling Magdalena Vineyard *

2017 Grüner Veltliner
2017 Gewürztraminer
2017 Field Red
2017 Cabernet Franc
Read more about Hermann J. Wiemer here.
What we bought (and shipped to CA):
Field White *
2017 Chardonnay *

2016 Riesling HJW Vineyard * 
2016 Riesling Magdalena Vineyard *

Billsboro Winery
What we tasted:
2017 Sauvignon Blanc
2016 Chardonnay
2017 Riesling
2017 Dry Rose of Pinot Noir
2016 Syrah
2016 Cabernet Sauvignon
What we bought:
A bag of Stony Brook Pepitas (brined and roasted Heirloom Pumpkin Seeds).

What we tasted:
2016 20 Rows Dry Riesling
2016 Turkey Run Vignoles *
2017 Dry Amber Vignoles
Tin Pathi (white blend)
KLV Red (blend of Cabernet Franc & Leon Millot)
2017 Cabernet Franc
2017 Leon Millot
What we bought (and drank):
2016 Vignoles, Turkey Run Vineyard
Ravines Wine Cellars on Keuka Lake
Our first visit to Ravines was in 2012 and we enjoyed it so much we had to go back again. Their range of dry wines makes it one of my favorite wineries in the area!

90 Points from the Wine Spectator for the 2015 Dry Riesling.
What we tasted:
2015 Dry Riesling *
2016 Dry Riesling
2015 Dry Riesling White Springs Vineyard *
2017 Sauvignon Blanc
2016 Keuka Village White
2015 Chardonnay *
2015 Pinot Noir
2014 Maximilien
2017 Ayre

What we bought (and drank on the trip):
2015 Dry Riesling
2015 Chardonnay

We enjoyed our 2015 Ravines Chardonnay overlooking Keuka Lake's "Top of the Lake" in Penn Yann.

Rooster Hill Vineyards
Our first visit to Rooster Hill was in 2012 and we enjoyed it so much we had to go back again. Their wines weren't quite as good as I remembered though, but they were still making wines with the Lemberger varietal, originally from Germany.

CK Cellars (Paul Curcillo and Stephanie King) owners of Torrey Ridge Winery and other Finger Lakes beverage brands, recently became the new owners of Rooster Hill Vineyards.

What we tasted:
Bubbly Bantam
2016 Vidal Blanc
2017 Silver Pencil
Keuka Sunrise
2017 Sauvignon Blanc
2017 Estate Lemberger
2016 Barrel Reserve Pinot Noir
2016 Barrel Reserve Lemberger
2016 Cabernet Sauvignon
2017 Cab Franc/Lemberger

What we bought:
A cool Rooster Hill hat.

Breakfast In Ithaca
During our stay at La Tourelle Hotel we found the hearty breakfasts served by the Bistro to be amazing! They were excellent quality and reasonably priced. Worth going to even if you're not staying at the hotel.
Lunch In Hammondsport
Although the Village Tavern Restaurant & Inn in Hammondsport seemed to be a very popular place for lunch, I was glad we went across the town square to find the Timber Stone Grill. The food and Iced Tea were fantastic! We had the Timber Burger with fries and the Salmon BLT with a side salad.  It was really great eating on the patio while watching motorcycles and a variety of tourists pass by.

Dinner in Ithaca
The best dinner we had in nearby Ithaca was at the John Thomas Steak House. The food was great, large portions, the wait staff was excellent, and they had an extensive wine list. Not inexpensive, but well worth it!

Bonus Bourbon Surprise!
I found this McKenzie Bourbon Whiskey (91 Proof; 70% corn, 20% rye and 10% malted barley) from Finger Lakes Distilling to be very good! It was served at the bar at La Tourelle Hotel.

Worth Visiting Again...
I would go back to taste wines at these wineries again:
  • Silver Thread Vineyard
  • Hermann J. Weimer Vineyard
  • Ravines Wine Cellars on Keuka Lake.

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Friday, August 31, 2018

Bourbon Country - Georgetown, Lexington, Louisville

View of Louisville, Kentucky and the Ohio River while flying over Clarksville, Indiana.  May 15, 2018
75% OFF! Good deals on stuff at the Louisville airport a few weeks after Derby 144.
Bourbon 30
Our first Bourbon tasting trip was at Bourbon 30 in Georgetown, Kentucky. "It's Bourbon 30 Time!" here all the time.
Single Barrel  (97 Proof)
Bottled one barrel at a time this process features each barrel's distinct personality.
Small Batch  (100 Proof)
Selected individual barrels of Bourbon are combined to create a well rounded, smooth and creamy on the palate.
Proof Aged Bourbon (90 Proof)
Selected barrels of Bourbon are cut to 90 proof before finishing the maturation process. This yields the great flavors of high proof Bourbon at a lower sipping proof. Cool concept.
And ... Rye Whiskey (98 Proof)
A nice blend of Ryes from different barrels is finished in previously used Bourbon barrels to give it a bold, spicy, and bourbony experience. Not bad for Rye Whiskey!
OK, you can probably tell by my nearly empty tasting glass in front of the Small Batch that I liked it the best! (Even though it is the highest proof Bourbon.) The glasses also indicate that my preferences were for the Proof Aged followed by the Single Barrel.

Their Bourbon mash bill is 75% Corn, 21% Rye, and 4% Malted Barley. It's a great place to taste without all the hoopla of a distillery tour (which makes sense because their distillery source is elsewhere).
Jeff Mattingly, founder of Bourbon 30, signed my bottle of Small Batch Bourbon. And I eventually thought to take a picture of it before the contents disappeared!
Bluegrass Distillers is part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour.  Located in a renovated old bakery building, it is on West 6th Street in Lexington, but the front door is set back a few buildings on The Legacy Trail just around the corner from West Sixth Brewing. They use organic and locally sourced grains to make their Bourbon.
Skip the charred oak barrel aging and you have what is called "white dog whiskey," use Kentucky blue corn and you have Blue Dog Whiskey. Yes, you have it; I'm not a fan of any white dog whiskey.
Bluegrass Distillers sells two types of Wheated Bourbon and two High Rye Bourbons.
The Wheated Bourbon is bottled at 90 Proof and made with 75% yellow corn, 15% wheat, and 10% malted barley. Wheated Bourbon has a rich, buttered spiced cake aroma and the taste yields more oak and vanilla flavors compared to the pepper and spice of the High Rye.
A higher proof Wheated Bourbon can be drawn straight from the barrel, and then you can cork and label your own Bourbon at 104 Proof.
Kentucky Straight High Rye Bourbon is bottled at 90 Proof and made with 75% yellow corn, 15% rye, and 10% malted barley. It has aromatic notes of butterscotch and spices with a peppery, spiced flavor. The Bourbon is barrel-aged for at least 2 years.
Surprised to see a 15% rye content billed as "high rye." The rye content of 35% in Four Roses Single Barrel seems more like a high rye.
High Rye Straight Bourbon Barrel Drawn is a bourbon you can draw straight from the barrel, cork and label it for a one-of-a-kind 107 Proof bottle of Kentucky Straight Bourbon.
I was excited to try the Bluegrass wheated Bourbons, but they weren't my favorites. Maybe bigger tasting glasses would enhance the experience. They certainly have a big tasting room!

Thomas Bulleit, Jr. revived an old family Bourbon recipe and started the Bulleit Distilling Company in 1987. He was inspired by his great-great-grandfather Augustus Bulleit, who made a high rye whiskey between 1830 and 1860. High rye content gives Bulleit a bold, spicy character with a distinctively smooth, clean finish.
After searching for the Bulleit Distillery for years (see Bulleit Bourbon Tasting 2011) I was glad that The Bulleit Experience at Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville (Shively) finally opened in 2014. It only took me 4 years to get there!
Stitzel-Weller is an iconic piece of Kentucky history and was formed when A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery and distributor W. L. Weller & Sons combined their businesses in 1935. The founders were Julian (Pappy) Van Winkle Sr., Alex T. Farnsley, and Arthur Phillip Stitzel.
The Stitzel-Weller location is now used to test out new Bulleit recipes in small batches and stores massive amounts of whiskey that occupy the rickhouses. Bulleit's main production is done at their larger distillery in Shelbyville, KY, which opened in 2017.
Forrest takes the Bourbon tour to another level.
After a brief tour of the distillery area and a rickhouse we tasted these excellent Diageo brand Bourbons:
  • Bulleit
  • Bulleit 10 Year
  • I W Harper
  • Blade And Bow
Bulleit Bourbon is medium amber in color, with gentle spiciness and sweet oak aromas. Mid-palate is smooth with tones of maple, oak, and nutmeg. Finish is long, dry, and satiny with a light toffee flavor.

Bulleit Bourbon 10 Year Old is Tom Bulleit’s selected reserve. Aged in charred American white oak, select Bulleit Bourbon barrels were set aside to age for 10 years. The result is a special expression of Bulleit that provides a rich, deep, incredibly smooth sipping experience.

I.W. Harper began in 1872 and was originally launched by Isaac Wolfe Bernheim.
I.W. Harper Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (82 Proof) has a subtle nose with hints of caramel and vanilla, velvety bursts of wood and spice finishing with subtle fruit notes.

Blade And Bow is made using the Solera aging process. Whiskey from old Stitzel-Weller barrels is added in a fractional blending that is a mixture of ages. The average age gradually increases as the process continues over many years.
Blade and Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey has a subtle aroma of fresh fruit and a taste that includes hints of dried apricot, ripe pear and a sweet roasted grain. The finish has notes of charred oak and warm winter spices.

 Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar
We visited the Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar at the Galt House Hotel as our first stop on this Louisville Urban Bourbon Trail trip. I enjoyed some Wheated Bourbons: W L Weller Special Reserve (90 Proof) and an Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond (100 Proof), a blend of 75% Corn, 20% Wheat, 5% Malted Barley.

Downtown Bristol Bar & Grille
Our next stop on the Urban Bourbon Trail was the Downtown Bristol Bar & Grille. I tasted a Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey (90 Proof) distilled from a mash containing at least 51% soft winter wheat and a Willet Corner Creek Reserve Bourbon Whiskey (88 Proof) a blend of Corn, Rye, Barley and Wheat. Both were very good and unique!
We first visited this bar in 2016 and I published some pictures of the place and my first Pappy tasting there. Our initial visit was lots of fun, but this time it seemed like the bartenders were more interested in getting ready to close up (at 9:30 on a Friday night) than educate somebody about their Bourbon selection. Must have been that everyone went to A Taste Of Main Street, a special event at The Kentucky Center that night.

For my last taste of the evening I had a Wathen's Kentucky Bourbon (94 Proof) at Harvest Restaurant. Wathen's is produced by Charles Medley and has a Mash Bill of 77% Corn, 10% Rye and 13% Malted Barley. I enjoyed the different Rye-Barley balance, despite its mediocre reviews online.
We enjoyed this NuLu bar and restaurant on Friday night so much that we went back for their Saturday Brunch! It was an interesting farm to table menu that included seasonal ingredients delivered to their kitchen by local farmers. We had the special Omelette and the Market Strata with some Gruet Brut Rose for Devon and I had a great Bloody Mary!

Angel's Envy
This place looks very cool inside and out, a great presentation of products, but we didn't have time for a tour and, consequently, there was no tasting. I've had their Bourbon before and liked it.  The mash bill (as you can see in their mash bill components display) is 72% Corn, 18% Rye and 10% Malted Barley; it's also finished in ruby port casks.
Sidebar At Whiskey Row - Downtown
Well, we managed to show up in Louisville a few weeks after the Derby, but we watched the Preakness Stakes at the Sidebar At Whiskey Row - Downtown (unfortunately, they couldn't turn on any audio).  I sampled these fine Bourbons during the race and with a fantastic lunch:
  • Town Branch (80 Proof, 72% Corn, 15% Malted Barley, 13% Rye)
  • Old Forester Signature (100 Proof)
  • Willett Pot Still Reserve (94 Proof)
The "Philadelphia Attorney" burger, was topped with a braised short rib, bourbon mushrooms & onions, blue cheese, and lettuce. It went very well with the "Truffle-Parmesan Fries" that included grated parmesan, parsley and roasted garlic truffle aioli. Wow!

And, of course, Justify won!

We only visited Lexington, Versailles, Georgetown, and Louisville for four days, but it was plenty of fun! I hope we can return to the Urban Bourbon Trail in Louisville soon. 

See you on future tasting trips! 
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