Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Bloggers on the Bus: Senaca Lake Wine Trail #SLWT #WBC15

Seneca Lake as seen from Route 14
New York is a BIG state, and tucked away in west central New York, just south of the Erie Canal, nestled between Rochester to the North and Ithaca to the south are the Finger Lakes, a budding empire of wine/food/cider and spirits.

To kick off to the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference, around 50 of us attended the Seneca Lake Wine Trail pre-conference excursion aka “Bloggers on the Bus”. As you can imagine, at a wine bloggers conference, there is a lot of wine, a lot of swishing, swirling and spitting, pictures and notes are taken. (With hopes that all the drinking does not impede the quality of the photographs or note taking.  All of this is academic - well, in name only, I can barely read my notes, and my pictures are sparse (I vaguely remember having battery issues - but upon second view - the root cause was focus.  I was focused on tasting). That being said, I’m going to share with you the sights, stories and taste recollection of a wine region that you should know about - the Finger Lakes AVA and the sub regions of Seneca Lake AVA. and Cayuga Lake AVA. The world does not revolve around Europe or Napa. 

There were 50 various writers, winos and culinary partners on the bus.  A few of us have been doing this for years… So as we settled in, explored our gift bags, (I ate my granola bar in 6 seconds flat – I was starving) our featured winemakers prepared to pour and talk about their wines.  All on a bus making the 40 mile trek from Corning, NY past Watkins Glen to the Seneca Lake Wine Trail. I have to give it to  Dr. Mark Karasz of Rock Stream Vineyard. and David DeMarco of Seneca Shore Wine Cellars. They told us their stories, talked about their wines and walked up and down the aisle of a moving bus while pouring their wines.

First to take the challenge of pouring his wine at 40mph was Dr. Mark Karasz of Rock Stream Vineyard. Each time I hear the genesis story of a vineyard, passion and enthusiasm (and maybe one or two amazing trips to Italy) are at the forefront -  followed by a colorful life, in this case, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel with a PhD in chemistry with a musician's soul!
Rock Stream Vineyards wines were a good introduction to the region: tasty, and easy to drink - (even while sitting on a bus watching the clouds change the color of the sky). Ever the scientist, his Dry Cayuga White wine was local - an American hybrid developed at Cornell's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY. There is a bright future for the wines and vines of Seneca Lake.  

Just a brief tasting of Rock Stream Vineyard wines can only give you the glimpse of the depth and flavor of wine, the same goes for the person telling the story.  A vineyard can be a place where farming and art are cultivated together. - wine, an expression of place, art, and music, the expression of a culture.  Rock Stream encapsulates this on every level.  Mark Karaz is also a musician (iTunes) and the work of his his aunt, the late artist Ilonka Karasz is incorporated in their wine labels. 

David DeMarco and Queen Charlene's Dry Rosé
Our second winemaker and raconteur (after all, who SPITS wine on a bus, after Mark's pourings, we were primed for colorful stories) was  David DeMarco of Seneca Shore Wine Cellars. After the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, A classified ad led to a 50 acre vineyard n the banana coast of Seneca Lake. Now operating as Seneca Shores, Medieval Wines of the Finger Lakes.  David wove a take of Kings and Queens as he poured his wines.  Queen Charlene's Dry Rosé - a crisp, easy to drink homage - it was wonderful to taste and listen as the bus brought us closer to our first stop. Looking past the romantic medieval branding, we heard about the hard science of Seneca Lake and the work of cultivating grapes in the northeast.
David also gave us a brief overview on soil dynamics of Seneca Lake (my first of the trip) neutral soil (Seneca North Shore) encourages European Vinifera (Riesling, Merlot); and acidic soil (Seneca South Shore) is good for Native American Labrusca vines (Concord & Niagara).  During this two day trip, I would be hearing more (Hint US NAVY secret research) about Seneca Lake, the deepest of the Finger Lakes at 617'. In the winter, the depth allows the stored warmth of the lake to be released keeping the vines above -10F (the minimum bud killing temperature).

The wine was finished, Mark was dropped off at his tasting room on route 14, and we continued up the road to Villa Bellangelo, where I was to meet a news crew, and milk a goat... in addition to a 10 year Cabernet Sauvignon vertical tasting.... more to come!

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