Known as a region famous for its white wines, we were going off script - and experienced a rich, fragrant, and flavorful marathon of 12 unique red wines from four Seneca Lake vineyards paired with a three course local menu.
Dinner was at Damiani Wine Cellar overlooking Seneca Lake. The setting sun set the stage for us to sip great wine, eat delicious local food and hear about making wine in the Finger Lakes. Throughout the evening, we tasted wines from Damiani Wine Cellars, Hector Wine Company, Standing Stone Vineyards and Ventosa Vineyards.
Our host was up first: In the mid-90's, Phil Davis and Lou Damiani hand planted their first vinifera on land that was to become Davis Vineyard and Damiani Vineyard in Hector, NY. Phil is an engaging man, who told us of his history of the area, the wines and his philosophy on farming, and making wine.
and it was exciting to hear her speak more on the evolution of Standing Stone, it's white wine pedigree, planting reds, including Saperavi, and making ice wine.
Flight 1: (Rare Seneca Lake Wines)
Each of the four wines served in this flight were rare and unique - not all are available to purchase. These wines were a special start to dinner, paired with Leek & Lively Run Chèvre Tart with local greens and blueberry vinaigrette. I also noted that we were being served dinner on MacKenzie Childs plates - a whimsical - yet heirloom quality local company that holds a special place in my heart.
Damiani's Pinot Noir Reserve `12 from the Davis Vineyard (Not yet listed for sale)- it was a fresh, fruity medium body wine that complimented the rich goat cheese. Did I taste a hint of truffles? Delicious.
Hector Wine Company Merlot `13 (sold out) - Merlot from Hector is a rare commodity - for this single varietal bottle to happen grapes are hand picked from a steep slope overlooking the lake on only on the years when the weather and yield cooperate. Conditions have to be perfect for this elegant, classic wine to be made.
Standing Stone Vineyard's Petit Verdot `13 was an eye opener. A single varietal that I had not yet seen in the Finger Lakes. With spice and elegance, I'd grab a bottle or two of this in a second if I could.
Wrapping up this flight was Ventosa Vineyards Pinot Noir`12 What a difference a lake makes! Ventosa is on the west side of Seneca Lake, and there is a cordial east/west rivalry between the shores - almost a left bank/left bank division of subtle taste differences. This isn't France - this is Finger Lakes, New World, classic style, innovative and delicious (without having to learn a new language to decipher the label). This Pinot is a classic, that is easy to drink and really highlighted the blueberries in the blueberry vinaigrette.
This was when it really sunk in that we were going to be tasting 12 wines with dinner. The rarity of our first flight led to the diversity of our second flight. Two single varietals, and two blends that showed that New York is producing wine that is world class.
Our main course was served, a plate of Stonecat's "Cult Classic" Slow Smoked Pork BBQ with cornbread, honey butter, fresh dill coleslaw and black & black posole.
Damiani Wine Cellar's Cabernet Franc `12 (sold out) Cabernet Franc is one of my favorite varietals, and this is a classic representation. The rich smokiness paired perfectly with the pork, and a bit of the honey buttered cornbread with a sip of this wine was just MAGIC in my mouth.
Hector Wine Company Essence `13 this Bordeaux style blend of 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc and 33% Merlot proves my point that french style red blends can translate into the new world. This wine is well balanced, and held it's own against the dill and "vegginess" of the coleslaw.
Saperavi before. It is a ancient Georgian grape that now is thriving at Standing Stone. I love it when vineyard owners do their research and bring us dark rich wine with many layers of flavor. This wine paired very well with the pork BBQ, but I can only imagine how it would pair with a juicy grilled steak - or classic Sausage and peppers - the whole time Marti was talking about this wine, I was designing menus around it.
Ventosa Vineyards Saggio-x This Italian style red blend (43% Cab Sauv, 26% Cab Franc, 22% Merlot & 9% Syrah) is Ventosa Vineyard's signature wine. It is smooth, easy to drink and at 13.5% ETOH it's a great way to elevate a special evening dinner - or even a tailgate for a big game.
By now, there is some palate fatigue. My tasting notes had been sloshed on, and I seemed to love EVERYONE in the room. Which was a sign that any semi-professional attempt at reviewing was out the window, and this became the most amazing Finger Lakes dinner party that I had ever been to. Good thing that the sun was setting, and dessert was being served. Dark Chocolate hazelnut torte infused with Finger Lakes Distilling Cassis Liquor and drizzled with a spiced Blueberry sauce - served on slate from a local waterfall. Rich, delicious and inventive.