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Steve Guattery

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Some Belated NiagaraCOOL Notes

by Steve Guattery » Fri Jul 14, 2006 11:39 pm

My apologies for the lateness of my impressions of NiagaraCOOL 2006 – the last month has been very busy and eventful. Hope there’s still some interest in these notes:

<b>Warm Lake Estate Visit:</b> My brother John was also visiting my mother that weekend, so I dragged him along to Warm Lake Estate. It wasn’t too hard to get him to go once he determined that <b>Ted’s Hot Dogs</b>, listed on the Roadfood website, was on our immediate route (excellent hot dogs grilled over charcoal, with great hot sauce).

Because John was cooking for us that night, we got to Warm Lake early, and had to leave before the rest of the NiagaraCOOL crew arrived. We got the tasting room presentation, which was a little different than the group got: Warm Lake is at the same latitude as famous French vineyards (I’m pretty sure that we were told Burgundy, though it’s really somewhat south of Bordeaux), that they use the same cooper as DRC, that the wines were reminiscent of Volnay, which seems to be the standard claim for any lightweight Pinot Noir. Eh, I’m not fond of that sort of hype. I thought both Pinot Noirs showed real Pinot Noir character, and that they were very good for New York State, though I thought both had too much oak, especially given their light weight. We didn’t try the 2005 barrel sample. The dessert wine was odd, and I found it unpleasant.

In addition to the oak levels, my other complaint is about the pricing. The 2004 Warm Lake Estate sells for $40 a bottle. At mid-$20’s I’d probably buy a bottle or two to show people what could be produced in New York State, but at the list price I’m not interested. Of course, the wine sells out most years, which is why only the 2004 was available for tasting, which means the price people actually pay is the futures price in the high $20’s. And hey, if it sells out every year, is it overpriced? By the way, you can purchase 2006 futures now, even before the grapes are harvested!

<b>The NiagaraCOOL Picnic:</b> I had a great time at the picnic, even though I had to leave early because I wanted to have dinner with my mother. Howie did an outstanding job with the logistics and cooking – many thanks! It was nice to meet the folks who post here, and match names with faces.

The thing that impressed me most about the wines we tasted was the high level of winemaking ability of a number of WLDG posters. There’s already been a thread about Howie’s excellent <b>Hart Cellars 2005 Unoaked Chardonnay</b>, which had a lovely pear-and-pineapple nose and a wonderful long finish. I also liked his <b>2005 Gamay</b>. Dan Smothergill opened at least half a dozen of his wines, which were uniformly excellent, clean, and well-made. The only one that I have a good note on is the <b>Salt City Cellars 2005 Cayuga</b>, which had an effusive nose full of floral notes. It was crisp and very lively on the palate, and had a very long finish. This wine was better than the commercial Cayugas from the Finger Lakes that I’ve tried. I also liked Paul B.’s <b>Labrusca Heritage 2005 Dry Niagara</b>. The dryness of the wine muted the foxiness somewhat. The nose showed candied fruit, which also came out on the very crisp, pleasant palate. There was also a long, pleasant finish. While I’m not seeking out dry labrusca wines yet, this is one that I’d be happy to have on my table with, say, a nice roast chicken.

Some of the other wines that were open that I recall enjoying:
<LI> The <b>Sagrantino Passito</b> that Paolo brought. I don’t have a note, and I’ve lost the name of the producer (if indeed I ever wrote it down), but this was the sort of wine I really like.
<LI> The <b>Bois de Boursan 1999 Chateauneuf du Pape</b> was nicely open, still a little tannic so I think it could be held for a few more years, with a long, flavorful finish. Excellent stuff.
<LI> The <b>Allegrini 1999 Palazzo della Torre</b> was very nice, with tar, leather, and black cherry notes on the nose and palate.

I found the Arbor Hill (I think Dan brought it) interesting, but you’ll need to look at other posts to get the name,

<b>The Riesling Tasting:</b> I didn’t take detailed notes on all the wines, but I do recall my favorites: Of the dry wines, I particularly liked the <b>Treleaven 2005</b>. The nose had a slight herbal note that gave nice complexity. The same note was on the palate. The <b>Breuer 1976 Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland Auslese</b> was showing its age a little, but was quite impressive. Of the sweeter wines, there were a couple that I liked: the <b>Chateau Grand Traverse 2004 Late Havest</b> showed citrus and citrus zest on the nose, and showed lemon notes and slippery acidity, while the <b>Chateau des Charmes 2004 Late Harvest</B> had a more honeyed sweetness in the nose, with apricot notes on the palate. But my favorite of the Rieslings was the <b>S. A. Prüm 2000 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese</b>, which had both the herbal citrus and the honeyed apricot notes. Excellent.

A couple of notes on two of the wines that I brought, that I thought showed poorly relative to previous tastings. The nose of the <b>Ravines 2005 Dry Riesling</b> showed the way it had previously, with forward notes of tangerine and flowers; it smells more like a sweeter wine than a wine with 0.2% rs. Something was off on the palate, though, which was very tight and slightly unpleasant. The <b>Wiemer 2003 Dry Riesling Reserve</b> was very mute. It smelled and tasted as it should, but at about 1/10 the usual intensity. This is the second bottle of 2003 Wiemer that has shown this way for me (the first was a Late Harvest Select shared with Mark S. and Rahsaan last January). This is not the way these wines have shown at the winery or at home. Travel shock? Bad bottles? A closed phase? I don’t know, but don’t write these wineries off on the basis of how these bottles showed.
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Howie Hart

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Re: Some Belated NiagaraCOOL Notes

by Howie Hart » Sat Jul 15, 2006 9:16 am

Steve - It was good to meet you there I'm pleased that you enjoyed yourself. The other wine you brought that I found quite nice was the white blend of Cayuga, Vignoles and Traminette (Ravines?). I'm going to have to try that blend in a few years, as I have all 3 varieties growing in my back yard. Incidently, I am getting ready to bottle an oaked version of my Chard, but I think the unoaked is a better way to go.
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Re: Some Belated NiagaraCOOL Notes

by Howie Hart » Sun Jul 16, 2006 9:29 am

Steve Guattery wrote:In addition to the oak levels, my other complaint is about the pricing. The 2004 Warm Lake Estate sells for $40 a bottle. At mid-$20’s I’d probably buy a bottle or two to show people what could be produced in New York State, but at the list price I’m not interested. Of course, the wine sells out most years, which is why only the 2004 was available for tasting, which means the price people actually pay is the futures price in the high $20’s. And hey, if it sells out every year, is it overpriced? By the way, you can purchase 2006 futures now, even before the grapes are harvested!

While browsing other threads on PN, it seems that several of the posts admit to under $20 PNs as not being very good. I do have a bottle of the $40 '04 on my cellar and I admit to cringing when I bought it. I bought 3 bottles of the '05 on future for $26 (to be bottled in August, I believe) and if the rest of this year turns out to be good, I'll buy a case of the '06 as a wedding present for my son, who is getting married in October. This will make a case of wine from the vintage of the wedding a family tradition my wife and I started when we purchased a case of '75 Lafite for the unheard of price of $30/bottle in '78. Although, as you mentioned, you didn't make our tour, Mike Von Heckler pointed out to us the care he takes - miles of drain tiles installed, hand harvesting and hand selecting the fruit and burying the vines in the winter. A lot of planning and dedication seems to go into these wines.
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Steve Guattery

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Re: Some Belated NiagaraCOOL Notes

by Steve Guattery » Mon Jul 17, 2006 2:08 am

Howie Hart wrote:The other wine you brought that I found quite nice was the white blend of Cayuga, Vignoles and Traminette (Ravines?). I'm going to have to try that blend in a few years, as I have all 3 varieties growing in my back yard.


Yes, that was the Ravines 2005 Keuka Village White, which they made this year instead of their usual 100% Cayuga House White. I eagerly anticipate trying your version of the blend at a NiagaraCOOL in a few years.

Also, it was clear that Warm Lake is a serious operation. I'm sorry we couldn't stick around for Mike's presentation. And more power to anybody who can sell out their production on futures in most years.

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