“New World Saperavi” Report

     I have developed a fascination for the Saperavi grape. This may seem odd even if you have heard of Saperavi wine because it is nothing new to the wine world. The Saperavi that fascinates me isn’t from the Kakheti region of Georgia , Russia but “New World Saperavi” that is being produced here in the Northeastern U. S., namely the Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York and in Central Pennsylvania. Saperavi is a very deeply colored red wine made from the ancient Saperavi grape that originated in one of the oldest wine growing regions of the world. Saperavi grapes are a teinturier grape, meaning its skin and flesh both have pigment which leads to a very delicious dark wine. What follows is the current state of Saperavi in America as told to me by the producers themselves.

Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellar

When the Finger Lakes Wine Region is mentioned undoubtably the first name that comes Dr Frank Logoto mind is the iconic Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery in Hammondsport. The legendary Dr. Frank proved everyone wrong not only by growing vinifera grapes in the FLX but producing world-class award-winning wine from them. I would like to thank Frederick Frank for the time and attention he showed me while assisting me with this post. Dr. Konstantin Frank first planted Saperavi vines in his vineyard in 1958. Dr. Frank would use that fruit to produce his first vintage in 1962. Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery now has 1.5 acres planted in Saperavi vines and expects to produce 250 cases of Saperavi wine. That 1.5 acres of Saperavi vines is divided between their Keuka Lake vineyards in Hammondsport and their Seneca Lake vineyards (on the eastern side) in Hector. Dr. Frank’s Saperavi is only available at their winery tasting room in Hammondsport but they are planning to expand their plantings and hope to offer their Saperavi wine to their wholesalers in the future. Due to high demand and limited production they haven’t entered Dr. Frank Saperavi into wine competitions.  drfrankwines.com 

Standing Stone Vineyards

For years Marti Macinski owner/winemaker of Standing Stone Vineyards has extolled the virtues of Saperavi while methodically expanding her Saperavi vineyard and constantly improving her wine. Having appeared in many local, regional and national publications Standing Stone wine sales have ridden a steadily ascending arc but no member of Marti’s Standing Stone Saperavisolid menu wine appears to have create a devoted following like her Saperavi has.

Standing Stone planted their first 80 vines in 1994 and they are the source of the fruit for their newly released 2013 Reserve Saperavi. Since 2006 a deliberate and steady expansion of the Saperavi program has led to a vineyard that is just over 5 acres. 2005 was a trial run that yielded 23.5 cases. 2010 was Standing Stone’s first commercial release with 200 cases produced that year. This year the 2015 vintage is anticipated to be about 500 cases but Marti adds the caveat ” if we manage to hold off the deer.” Those deer will have more fruit to choose from because Standing Stone continues to plant more Saperavi vines to increase supply and build inventory for market after the winery has enough grapes for their own wine production. That future production may include experimenting with longer aging, some sweeter versions of Saperavi or possibly a Rosé or Port. Standing Stone Saperavi is very round with delicious ripe flavors of tart cherry fruit when young that evolves into plum and pomegranate that are integrated into complex layers of aroma and flavors as it ages. Marti doesn’t enter her Saperavi into many competitions so when she does it comes as no surprise that Standing Stone Saperavi 2012 was awarded the Wine & Food Classic Gold Medal last year and the 2013 Saperavi  won “Best Other Red Vinifera” at this year’s Classic. A special thanks to Marti Macinski for all the time and effort that you have taken to help me with this post and all the other projects you have assisted me on. standingstonewines.com 

Fero Vineyards & Winery

Fero LogoFero Vineyards & Winery is the only winery in Pennsylvania that I am aware of that has Saperavi planted in it’s vineyard. Chuck Zaleski owner/winemaker of Fero planted his first 500 Saperavi vines on 1/2 acre of his Lewisburg, Pennsylvania vineyard in 2010. He conducted trials as his vines matured until he released his first vintage from the 2013 harvest which consisted of 50 cases. The first Saperavi I ever tasted was Chuck’s 2013 Saperavi  from that first 50 cases he produced. After tasting that wine I was sold on the potential of this Georgian red grape here in the East. The 2014 harvest produced 125 cases and the 2015 harvest , expected to be in October, is estimated to yield similar volume. With the addition of 1/2 acre of Saperavi plantings the projected production will be 4-5 tons per acre. The final production number for Saperavi produced should be approximately 300 cases.

Chuck’s philosophy is to let the grape determine the style, so the style of his Saperavi really does remain “Fluid”. He let the 2013 vintage hang and made a ripe jammy style the both of us loved. He picked earlier in 2014 for added acidity and weather concerns plus because of some reading he had done. He said the 2014 may take a little longer to soften but may have more longevity. Chuck doesn’t use much oak at all because he wants to showcase the grape’s unique rich flavor. He tries to mimic traditional methods as much as possible by fermenting in tall containers at constant temperature, very similar to a Qveri and age it with minimal disturbing on the lees. Fero Saperavi 2013 won a Gold Medal at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition this year. Enough said!

Chuck’s most intriquing observation about this varity is it’s ability to rival the full-bodied red wines of the warm climate regions. He doesn’t know where the ideal location to produce Saperavi in the U.S. is but is pretty sure it isn’t too far from Central Pa. Chuck’s only problem with Saperavi is that it is selling out too fast before he can satisfy demand. Looks like a great problem to have. Thanks to Chuck Zaleski for introducing me to Saperavi and all the help he has given me.  ferovineyards.com

McGregor Vineyard

John McGregor and his McGregor Black Russian Red have always been an enigma in the FLX. In the Spring of 1980 he planted Saperavi, Sereksiya Charni, Rkatsiteli and Sereksiya Rosé in a limited area of his vineyard. From that first planting his Saperavi and Sereksiya Charni has expanded to 4 acres. In 1985 John made a small experimental batch from these grapes and bottled it in half bottles. McGregor Saperavi and Sereksiya are bottled together and produces over 300 cases per year. That number is certain to rise as more Saperavi vines are planted over the next 3-5 years.

If you are wondering what McGregor Black Russian Red Saperavi & Sereksiya blend taste like here is how John McGregor described it to me ” It’s a very rich, dark red wine that typically spends over two years in oak barrels. It has great structure and depth with flavors typically reminiscent of black currents, blackberries and elderberries entwined with a sweet oak character. It has plenty of tannic structure and generally high acidity, lending it well to long-term cellar aging.” 1985 Saperavi (label)

McGregor Saperavi is entered into few , if any, annual competitions but earlier vintages have been awarded Double Gold and Gold Medals. The 2010 vintage received an 87 point rating in the May 2014 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. After decades of hard work Black Russian Red has grown into what John calls “The Cult red wine of the Finger Lakes.” No matter what you call it the one thing you can call it is “Successful.” The label to the right appeared on the McGregor 1985 Saperavi bottle. Thanks John McGregor for the invaluable help you gave me with this article.    McGregorwinery.com 

Will Saperavi develop into the signature Red wine of the East? The quality is certainly there and the vines are able to express the terroir of the vineyards in which they are planted to produce a wine on par or better than their Russian counterparts. The demand for Saperavi is increasing to the point where demand is out pacing supply while supply is also increasing but at a slower rate because of many factors. I believe Saperavi will find its place as the top varietal Red wine of the East but it will take time simply because there are so many obstacles to overcome and that things move slowly for new wine grape development in any region of the world. If you can’t find Saperavi from one of the producers mentioned in this post I recommend that you try a Saperavi from any of the regions where it’s made. Help me tell the secret of Saperavi  wine to wine lovers everywhere. Please repost this article. 



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Georgian Wine & Food Festival NYC

Saperavi Grapes

Saperavi Grapes

     Anyone wanting to “Discover Georgia in New York” from Sept. 25 – Sept. 27 at the Chelsea Market at 75 Ninth Ave. between 15th and 16th St NYC should check out this link to their Facebook page. Georgia W & F Festival By Georgia I mean the country of Georgia not the “Peach State” here in the U.S. of A. You can find great Saperavi there but you can also find excellent “New World Saperavi”  here in the Northeast. I’m writing a post about the Saperavi producers in the East as told to me by the winemakers themselves. I think you will be surprised by what you are missing if you haven’t discovered this big Red wine yet. Stay tuned! 

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2015 Seven Springs Wine Festival


     The 2015 Seven Springs Wine Festival will be held August 28th through the 30th at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort Champion, Pa. With paid admission you can enjoy complimentary tastings from 31 Pennsylvania wineries with your free souvenir wine glass along with wine-themed seminars, live musical entertainment and other interesting attractions. A 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. Friday night session has been added this year in addition to the regular 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. hours on Saturday and Sunday. More information and the option to buy tickets can be found at the Seven Springs Resort website. www.7springs.com/events/wine-festival/ 

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Narcisi Wine Dinner

Narcici     The wine dinner this month at Narcisi Winery will feature Italy’s often overlooked region of Marche. Centrally located on Italy’s Adriatic coast, Marche draws from rich farmland , rugged mountains and bountiful sea to mold the regions distinctive culture and unique cuisine. Dinner at the winery starts at 6:30 pm Thursday, August 27th 2015 with tickets priced @ $55 + tax. Please call for reservations because seating is limited.

Narcisi Winery  4578 Gibsonia Rd  Gibsonia, Pa 724-444-4744


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The Meadows Racetrack & Casino Presents


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FLX: Epilogue

Vineyards above Keuka Lake.

Vineyards above Keuka Lake.

     My latest trip to the FLX was enjoyable, informative, surprising, relaxing and like always too short. I learned many things from the people I met and the events I observed. Here are a few things that I learned by mingling with the locals. The latest fad in the vineyards is to plant Grüner Veltliner. The east side of Seneca Lake felt cooler in summer than the west because the wind blew across the cold waters of the lake. Marti Macinski, Standing Stone’s owner/winemaker was a lawyer before she followed her dream of becoming a winemaker. Saperavi is in demand and is selling out around the lakes, even at premium prices. Wine tourism is on the rise and wineries are competing more aggressively to attract customers. I just can’t get used to mini marts with craft beer taps and growlers at the cash register.

In the FLX there are some things that never change. Some of the best Riesling in the world can be found at great prices. Scenic views of beautiful glacial lakes surrounded by vineyards that you can’t find anywhere else in this country. Welcoming and hospitable people that are happy to see you and strive to put the region’s best foot forward to visitors.

It’s not Sonoma and it’s not Napa, it’s the Finger Lakes Region of New York, a truly unique place. My suggestion to you would be not to take my word for it but to go see it for yourself.

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Highlight of FLX Visit

Entrance to Standing Stone Vineyard & Winery

Entrance to Standing Stone Vineyards & Winery

     On every trip there is one experience that stamps its indelible mark on your memory. On this trip it was meeting Marti Macinski and the time we spent at her Standing Stone Vineyards & Winery. Upon our arrival she greeted us with a genuinely heart-felt welcome. Marti was accompanied by her personable and outgoing intern Griffin Lehman. She lead my wife and I through a tasting of all of her excellent wines. I was very impressed by how good all the wines were. If I were to use one word to describe all of the Standing Stone wines we tasted that day it would be balanced. Balance is very important to me when I taste wine because it allows me to taste all aspects of the wine without having certain overdone or underdeveloped characteristics create a biased wine. When you drink a wine made by Marti Macinski you can taste every nuance of the wine and the terroir of her vineyards.

     Her Riesling were some of the best that I tasted in the FLX and I tasted the best Riesling that I have ever tasted there on this visit. I really liked her Saperavi and it confirmed my opinion that this grape has great potential in the Eastern U.S.. She convinced us to try her Ice wine even though we were never fans of Ice wine. We are glad we did because we loved all four of her offerings : Chardonnay, Vidal, Grwürztraminer and Riesling. The entire menu of wines offered by Standing Stone Winery are well crafted and certainly worth your attention when you visit. I can highly recommend a visit to this Seneca Lake winery in Hector N.Y. for anyone attending the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference or someone visiting the area looking for superior wine.  Standingstonewines.com  607-582-6051   9934 Rte 414  Hector, N Y 14841

View of Seneca Lake & Vineyards from Standing Stone

View of Seneca Lake & Vineyards from Standing Stone

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Around and Around We Go

Tall bottles of Riesling At Herman J. Wiemer Vineyards

Tall bottles of Riesling At Herman J. Wiemer Vineyards

     Our drive to Finger Lakes Wine Country took us from the rolling hills of Southwestern Pennsylvania through the center of the state pass Penn State University then into the Northern Tier, home to some of the most rugged and sparsely populated mountains in the East. We crossed the New York state line south of Corning and drove north to our first destination Watkins Glen. Watkins Glen is on the southern tip of Seneca Lake, the largest of the eleven Finger Lakes. We drove up the east side of the lake through a torrential downpour on our way to Wagner’s Vineyards and it’s Ginny Lee Café for lunch while the storm passed. They have a large wine menu ranging from currently popular varieties and blends to Niagara, a regional classic. Wagner’s also has a brewery on site, a growing trend around the lakes. I always manage to find a very drinkable Chardonnay and this year was no different with me purchasing the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay. By the time we had finished lunch the rain had stopped and the skies began to brighten. Before we left the east side we stopped at another winery but found their offerings not as good as other years and we left empty-handed.

     We usually stay on Seneca Lake but this trip we stayed at the northern end of Keuka Lake in the small town of Penn Yan. You are constantly skirting the lakes because there are no bridges to mar their natural beauty so good planning is a must to save time and miles. On the way to our hotel we traveled back through Watkins Glen and drove up the west side of Seneca Lake to the world-famous Riesling producer Herman J. Wiemer Vineyards.

    I find that many wine makers are limiting or eliminating taste descriptors from their tasting notes. I agree that their overuse has lead to people not forming an opinion of their own and I will be using less of them in my posts beginning now.

      The Riesling I tasted in the H.J. Wiemer tasting room was as stylishly produced as my surroundings, sophisticated and well-made with depth and balance. These Riesling could be easily matched to a myriad of food or enjoyed by themselves glass after glass. Riesling is what H.J.W. is known for and rightfully so , but the other wines they produce can be easily overlooked because the Riesling is so good. But ignoring the Sparkling, Noble Select Dessert and Reserve wines could cause you to miss out on something very special. Note: The Sparkling wines are aged on lees for up to 72 months, hand-riddled and hand-disgorged. After loading our trunk with our newly found treasures of Riesling and a Rosé Cuvée we were on to Keuka Lake.

Herman J. Wiemer Vineyards

Herman J. Wiemer Winery


Herman J. Wiemer Winery

Herman J. Wiemer Winery

Clearing skies over Wagner's Vineyards

Clearing skies over Wagner’s Vineyards

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New York State of Mind

sign     The Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York (FLX) is only a 5 hour drive from my home in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Having a World-Class wine-producing region so close provides my wife and me the luxury of making a trip to the area when the mood strikes us. During our trip last week we visited old favorites Herman J. Herman Winery and Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery while adding a new favorite Standing Stone Winery. All three of these wineries produce excellent Riesling along with other notable wines. Cool-climate white wines have always been this region’s claim to fame but on this visit I was curious to see first-hand how the development of the Saperavi grape was progressing. In the following series of posts I will give you my personal take on the wine, grapevines, trends and scenic views I encountered around these glacial lakes. Come along with me and see what’s new in the FLX.

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Greg Norman 2012 Malbec Mendoza Argentina

malbec-sm     You may remember me mentioning this wine in a post last month. My wife and I dined at Greg Norman’s Australian Grille in Myrtle Beach, S.C. and I had this wine with my dinner. I enjoyed this wine because it is very representative of Malbec from Argentina’s Mendoza Region. It is crimson-red and inky purple in the glass. The body is medium with understated oak that come from being cool fermented and spending 12 months in French and American oak barrels. The flavors are classic Malbec blackberry and cherry with a balance of full tannins and a long “grapey” Malbec finish. Greg Norman 2012 Malbec Mendoza Argentina can be found in P.L.C.B. stores as a Chairman’s Selection at the discounted price of $9.99 (Product Code 33631). A Malbec of this quality is seldom found at this price making it a must try if you are a fan of Mendoza Malbec. I should know because I paid 9 bucks for a glass at his restaurant.  

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