Standing Stone Barrel Bonanza

Photo Courtesy: Standing Stone Winery
Photo Courtesy: Standing Stone Winery

     This is the perfect event for any wine enthusiast that simply can’t get enough. What is Barrel Bonanza? Barrel Bonanza is an opportunity for you to tour the Barrel Cellar and taste finished and just finished fermented wines every hour on the hour. Learn what type of yeast you like and compare the difference in flavor that new oak verses older oak has on  Chardonnay and Saperavi. Taste the 2014 Reserve Saperavi straight out of the barrel and if you like it you can buy futures at a 20% discount. You can also choose a mini Vertical Tasting of Saperavi, Cabernet Sauvignon or Petit Verdot. If you need to take a break there will be live music and delicious food for you to enjoy.

Barrel Tastings are noon, 1, 2, 3 and 4 – you pick one. Saperavi Vertical is @ 12:30, Cabernet Sauvignon @ 2:30 and the Petit Verdot is @ 3:30. The cost of this event is $20 per person and includes one Vertical Tasting. Extra Vertical Tastings are $10 each.              

Date: Dec. 12, 2015     Time: 12:00 to 5:00   Place: Standing Stone Vineyards 9934 NY-414 Hector, NY.  Call or e-mail for reservations.  607-582-6051   ssvny@standingstonewines.com

Entrance to Standing Stone Vineyard & Winery
Entrance to Standing Stone Vineyard & Winery

Standing Stone Rocks The Harvest

     Next up in my series documenting the 2015 harvest is Standing Stone Vineyards in Hector, N.Y.. Owner/winemaker Marti Macinski echoed the sentiment of vintners throughout the East that the 2015 harvest was extremely good. The Georgian (Russia) event that Marti makes reference to in her e-mail was an event held in Washington D.C. and N.Y.C. earlier this fall. The comparative tastings she mentioned would involve her excellent Saperavi and others from U.S. and forgien producers. Saperavi lovers may want to attend the Barrel Bonanza, Saperavi Vertical Tasting at Standing Stone on Sunday November 15th, 2015. This will be a rare opportunity for Saperavi aficionados to taste for themselves how Saperavi evolves as it matures. The following is an excerpt from an e-mail in which Marti briefly describes the 2015 harvest at Standing Stone.

“This year’s harvest was good, but as always, very intense. Saperavi was a big star in terms of vineyard performance. The fruit was beautiful and wines are shaping up nicely. Mike Barlett, who works for us in the tasting room and some helping in winemaking, went to the Georgian tasting in D.C.. I could not spare the time to get away, but I think we made some contacts and may have some comparative tastings in the future.

Overall quality was excellent some varieties were a bit light on quantity (Gewurz and Merlot, totally excepted after 2 rough winters, but we fared better than most). Cab Sauv and Petit Verdot brought up the tail end in great shape, with lovely flavors, robust color and almost picture perfect numbers in term of winemaking.”

Thanks to Marti Macinsk for keeping us up to date on the happenings at her winery. The photo below show just how deep the color of Saperavi juice really is, unbelievable!

Basket Pressed Saperavi @ Standing Stone Winery Hector, NY
Basket Pressed Saperavi @ Standing Stone Winery Hector, NY

Rumor Has It Wine News

     I would like to share some interesting news that I heard from wine makers around the region.

     I recently visited Tod Manspeaker at his Briar Valley Vineyards tasting room in Bedford, Pa. He told me he was removing all the Viognier from his vineyard because of Primary Bud Blight and replacing it with Malbec. He had to pick about 1 1/2 weeks early because of the forecast for a big storm hitting the East Coast but the storm missed his

Briar Valley tasting room in Bedford, Pa.
Briar Valley tasting room in Bedford, Pa.

vineyard and they had a great harvest even though it was earlier than planned.

After getting a tip from fellow blogger Armchairsommelier about a vineyard in Virginia growing Saperavi I contacted Rik Obiso at White Barrel Winery in Christiansburg, Va.. White Barrel was formerly known as Attimo Winery. Rik told me that they do grow about 250 Saperavi vines on a 1/3 acre section of their vineyard but haven’t produced from them yet. He is planning on 2017 being their first vintage but for now they are keeping the vines pruned to encourage them to grow strong roots. When I asked him about his Viognier he said that they are also removing all of it from their vineyard and that job will be completed this winter.

     The harvest at Standing Stone Vineyards Hector, NY went very well. The harvest around the FLX was good and maybe great, only time will tell but if I were to bet I would bet on great. Standing Stone was featured in several articles, here are just two! Syracuse.com published this article about Harvest at Standing Stone.  Syracuse.com article 

Saperavi juice runs from press @ Standing Stone Winery
Saperavi juice runs from press @ Standing Stone Winery

Foodnetwork.com got into the act with this mention of Standing Stone and its unique pairing of Standing Stone wines and local artesian cheeses. Foodnetwork.com article Don’t miss their Saperavi vertical tasting on November 15th, 2015, it will be something special. Check out the color of the Saperavi juice in this photo courtesy of Marti Macinski.

It’s easy to keep up with what’s going on at your favorite wineries by following them on twitter.

“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 of 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. 

 

      

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.

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

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.