Day three of my recent visit finds me on the west side of Keuka Lake on a Saturday mornng. Originally wanted to taste on Friday afternoon, but it looked like my best chance to get in some rain-free cycling (route here: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/1504602
). Normally, I try to avoid the Finger Lakes tasting rooms on weekends, but when I realized there were a few good places that I wanted to visit which open at 10 am, I decided to have wine for breakfast.
It was odd to arrive at Dr. Frank's alone with about a dozen tasting room staff primed for the weekend rush. I had a very relaxed and thorough tasting, starting with a 2007 Chateau Frank Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay). Toasty, lemony and crisp, I would probably prefer it if it were a bit drier (website says 1.1% residual/1.1g acid/100ml). I think their Blanc de Noirs is deeper and more to my taste. We tasted through the 2011 Gruner, Rieslings (dry, semi-dry) and Muscat. The GV and Muscat were pretty restrained in the varietal characteristics, and the 2010 version of the GV was more to my liking. The Muscat here is always buttoned down and I wish it were a bit more flamboyant, since it is one of the few dry(ish) Muscats in the area. Now the 2011 Rieslings were quite successful here, with my favorite being the mineral loaded dry version. I would go so far as to say the 2011 versions were more successful than the equivalent wines at Wiemer, which is not usually the case. A 2010 Rkatsiteli was drinking very well, better than the 2009. I do wish they would reconsider the synthetic stoppers, at least on the Riesling.
The reds were overall competent, with a couple standouts: 2010 Dr. Frank Pinot Noir
was a very complete wine, with a lovely balance and poise. This from old vines (by FL standards) located close to the winery. And for something really different, we have the 2009 Cuvee d' Amour, which has no grape variety given. The reason is this: the grapes are vitus Amurensis
originally brought over from Eurasia (Siberia?) buy Dr. Frank himself. There was some debate among the tasting room staff as to the actual name of the grape involved, but the BATF (or whatever they are called now) does not let them put it on the label in any case. This was a pretty substantial and dark wine with some woody, balsamic notes. Not bad, but more of a curiosity for me (at $30/bottle). I brought up Sereksia, which is also found around around the FL due to Dr. Frank's early efforts. Apparently, the BATF does not allow this to be sold as "Sereksia", which explains why McGregor sells their version as "Black Russian". The staff tells me that Frank will be releasing a Sereksia soon, but I'm not sure what it will be called.
A bit further south, one finds Keuka Lake Vineyards, a relative newcomer with a focus on Riesling and Vignoles. They also have some old-vine Labursca and hybrid grapes that came with the lovely property and make some wines from these out of respect. A bit of Pinot Noir is coming on stream and they make a Cab Franc from purchased grapes. Owner Mel Goodman is doing some interesting things here and is doing a lot of different bottlings designated by the different vineyards on the property (some quite steep and rocky). If you ever wanted to be impressed with Vignoles, this is your place. The 2010 Gently Dry Vignoles is a brilliant, hedonistic wine, bursting with tropical fruit aromas and flavors, backed by tons of acidity. My favorite of the Rieslings was the 2010 Dry Riesling Evergreen Lek Vineyard
, which was very structured and mineral. The 2010 CF was nicely weighted, bright with just enough CF green leafy/pepper to let you know. Mel assures me that the small amount of Pinot from the estate grapes is very promising. A quirky place that is definitely worth a visit.
On this visit, in general, 2011 is more uneven, a "winemakers vintage", where 2010 was very successful all around. This year the vines got started very early due to the freakishly warm weather at the beginning of the year, but a cold snap caused some damage in less fortunately sited vineyards. So far the hot summer with little rain has been good, but the vines could shut down if the lack of rain continues. Oddly, I came away with more Pinot Noir than Riesling on this trip, which was mostly from the 2010 vintage.