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A look at Finger Lakes Wines — part 1

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COLUMN BY PHILLIP SILVERSTONE

The Finger Lakes is truly an amazing region to visit for the accommodations, the food, the views and, of course, for the wines. Riesling and Pinot Noir lovers will have a field day here with some of the most incredible versions of these grape varieties, along with many other familiar grape varieties that thrive in the region’s micro-climate.
So as my radio show embarks on a series of interviews with winemakers and innkeepers in the region, the next couple of columns will be written in tandem, and as companion pieces to the show, but will be covering different wineries and their extraordinary selections.
Wagner Vineyards and Wagner Brewing Company, in Lodi, NY (www.wagnervineyards.com) is both a winery and a brewery. They also have the Ginny Lee Café where we enjoyed lunch before our tasting tour. I decided to order the beer sampler to accompany the food since you have an opportunity of tasting six beers from the menu for $8.50. Small samplings but more than enough to give you an idea which ones fit your palate. And they are presented on an upright rack that keeps your selection in order and not scattered around the table. I can recommend the Mill Street Pilsner, a light lager that is a fab summer quaff. Wagner Valley IPA has some strong hop flavors, and still a beautiful quaff but with a more bitter aftertaste. Summer Sail Hefelwein is Bavarian style weiss bier (which is a particular favorite of mine) gentle on the palate but with plenty of character. I enjoyed it with their delicious Classic Burger ($9.25) and a stunning vista. My favorite wines at Wagner were their Dry Rielsing 2012 ($14.99) very dry but like most Finger Lake wines packed with gorgeous fruit. A mineral, stone, fruity wine, gushing with personality. Melody is a Cornell University hybrid grape which I found had lots of grapefruit and pineapple flavors. Refreshing, crisp and clean and at $7.99 it’s a steal! For the more robust plum and cherry flavor fans, the 2012 Merlot ($15.99) is smooth and yummy and a great partner for lamb chops.

Katie Roller, director of marketing & PR, Wagner Vineyards/ Wagner Valley Brewing Co. is shown with Phillip Silverstone. Photo by Linda Silverstone

Katie Roller, director of marketing & PR, Wagner Vineyards/ Wagner Valley Brewing Co. is shown with Phillip Silverstone. Photo by Linda Silverstone

If you are an occasional wine drinker who prefers your wines on the sweeter side and not too complicated then I highly recommend a visit to Americana Vineyards, located very close to the shores of Cayuga Lake, NY. The tasting room is housed inside a restored 1820s swing-beam barn (www.americanavineyards.com). The driest wine I tasted was the Pinot Gris ($16.99) with hints of apples and pears and easily one of the most suitable wines for a Summer soiree. If you don’t enjoy heavy-duty reds try the Baco Noir ($15.99) and chill it for a few minutes. It has dark berry flavors but the fruit offsets anything non-red drinkers find unpalatable. You’ll love it.
Also, for you non-red lovers you must taste Indian Summer which is a semi-sweet red blend that will have you thinking you’re drinking a Lambrusco from Italy. And everybody who enjoys fun summer slurps adores Lambrusco. Finally, again for the “I don’t like red wine” brigade, Barn Raising Red is a light bodied Catawba wine with sweet red berry flavors and a pleasing, truly delicious lingering taste on your tongue. And if you don’t go for the wine do yourself a favor and go for the winery’s Crystal Lake Café where I had their grilled cheese sandwich. The BEST grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever eaten on this entire planet. Cheddar. Gruyere, goat cheese, smoked Gouda and tomato on sourdough ($12). It’s worth the drive to the Finger Lakes just for that sandwich.
Finally this week (I’ll conclude my Finger Lakes wine overview next week) I am not going to select a single wine from Montezuma Winery in Seneca Falls NY (www.montezumawinery.com ) as it’s an impossible task. For $3 you can sample six wines and you’ll be hard pressed to decide what to taste. Bill Martin (owner/winemaker) and Phil Plummer (winemaker) aren’t afraid to experiment and challenge themselves to make some esoteric wines as well as the classics of the region (their distilled spirits are also awesome). Among some of their gems are the 2012 Lemberger and 2012 Pinot Noir and 2012 Dry Riesling. They also have a semi-sweet Traditional Honey Wine (mead) and a sparkling version. Pintail is a sparkling Rhubarb wine and Pear Perfection is a pear wine. Don’t scoff at these fruit wines. I normally avoid them like the plague but Montezuma Winery has very skilled winemakers at its helm and the product line is made with an intense passion that only true artisans of the wine and spirits world have displayed to me over the years.
To find out where to buy the wines visit the respective websites.
More from the Finger Lakes next week. Cheers!

Phillip Silverstone’s column appears each week in this newspaper. “Time Out With Phillip Silverstone” is a weekly two-hour podcast heard exclusively on TuneIn radio anytime and anywhere worldwide either on the free TuneIn app for all smart phones and tablets (Search: Phillip Silverstone) or online on Tunein at: http://bit.ly/1gY2Ht4. “Follow” the show for weekly updates. You can also LIKE Phillip on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Phillipsilverstone and follow him on Twitter: @wining

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