It was another wonderful day in the beautiful Finger Lake region of New York and I had a packed itinerary, visiting four of the important wineries around Keuka Lake. This is actually a Y shaped lake and has beautiful scenery on its shores as well as some attractive little towns that would repay a leisurely visit. Hammondsport, in particular, looked a lovely place to spend a little time.
All the wineries were interesting and offered some good wines. It was great to sit out at Dr Frank’s Vinifera Cellars and to realise that this is where it all started as Dr Konstantin Frank pioneered the successful planting of Vitis Vinifera grapes in this cool climate in 1962. The winery makes some lovely wines to this day, especially the Riesling and Château Frank Blanc de Noirs Sparkling.
However my highlight of the day was the amazing Ravine’s Wine Cellars, the creation of Morten and Lisa Hallgren. Morton is originally from Copenhagen where he lived right by the Carlsberg Brewery, but at the age of 14 his family moved to the Vars region of France where his parents owned and operated Domaine de Castel Roubine. He trained in winemaking at Montpellier University, worked at Cos d’Estournel with Bruno Pratts and eventually ended up in the Finger Lakes where he worked as wine maker at Dr Frank’s.
Today his exciting winey produces around 7000 cases (12 X 75cl) and he claims to make exactly the wines that he wants to make – they make their own crackers to accompany the wines too and they are superb.
He only has tiny plantings of his own on the east side of Keuka Lake opposite the Bluff, or point of the peninsula. They slope down towards the lake with Riesling on the cooler high slopes and Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir down by the shore where it can be a good 2 degrees warmer than the top of the slopes.
All his wines were superb, there was not one that I would not happily drink, but three stand out as my favourite examples of the trip so far:
Argetsinger Vineyard is located on Seneca Lake and has the oldest Riesling plantings in the region. At 3 g/L of residual sugar this was the driest Riesling so far, but Morton used lees ageing and battonage techniques to add to the texture of the wine and so balance the acidity without needing to sweeten. This had the effect of softening the feel of the wine too.
The nose was rich clean and clean with whisps of apricot and honey with mineral notes.
The palate had quite a fat texture, being concentrated and weighty, soft and textured, it was clean and pure, but rich. A whole load of lovely delicate flavours, apricot and citrus especially with a tang of minerality. Beautifully balanced wine with real power and taste, but also delicious. Long and lovely this was a stunning wine – 92/100.
He also produced a lovely Chardonnay:
100% Barrel fermented in 20% new barrels. In order to give the fruit good intensity in this cool climate he dries them in a passito style and reckons that he loses some 50% of the juice. I have never come across this technique on a wine like this, but boy does it work.
The aroma offered delicate toasty oak and a little touch of macadamia and pine nut.
The palate had quite a fat texture with creamy nutty toasty oak and a balance of dried and fresh peach. The texture is gorgeous with a creamy feel and a soft elegant finish.
A lovely wine all about finesse and balance – needs food though – 92/100.
Finally his Meritage red, which is the American term for a blend of different Bordeaux varietals:
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Merlot
Lovely even, medium-bodied wine with great acid and fruit balance and seamless oak. This was deliciously fruity and vibrant, a lovely wine, very pleasurable with great balance and finesse. 93/100