Since I’ve started my blog, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many people associated in one way or another with Finger Lakes Wine. I’ve met winery owners, wine makers, tasting room managers, tasting room staff, and every day people who simply enjoy wine. One new acquaintance is Jeff Arnold, founder of Discover Rochester and the Finger Lakes Wine Trail Card. Discover Rochester is a Facebook page and soon to be launched online magazine dedicated to all things Rochester. Finger Lakes Wine Trail Card is a Finger Lakes wine discount card that entitles the bearer to discount wine purchases at over thirty five Finger Lakes Wineries. As part of these endeavors, Jeff hosts various wine related events including limo tours, social mixers, and wine tastings. Katy and I invited a couple of friends to join us at one of these events; a wine and culinary tasting at Lyons Mansion on East Avenue, home of the Rochester Academy of Medicine. This event featured wines from Shaw Vineyards, Billsboro Winery, and Fox Run Vineyards. Also featured were the culinary creations of Chef Carlo Peretti, executive chef at the New York Culinary Center in Canandaigua. Chef Don Antinore added colorful commentary throughout the night in introducing the wineries and Chef Carlo. Chef Don was recently inducted into the American Academy of Chefs’ Hall of Fame.
Lyons Mansion is one of East Avenue’s grand mansions and was home to the prominent Lyon family until 1938 when it was donated to the Rochester Academy of Medicine. It provided the perfect setting for the wine and culinary event. The large, wood paneled parlor is flanked by a library, dining room, and sun room and provided ample space for the guest to mingle while we enjoyed our wine and hors d’oeuvres. There is also a mezzanine overlooking the parlor that is accessible through a hidden door off the main staircase.
The first hour of the wine tasting was dedicated to white wines with the second hour dedicated to reds. We started the tasting with Shaw Vineyards. Steve Shaw and his son Steve Jr. were pouring their 2007 Riesling and their 2009 LiBella Pinot Grigio. The Shaw label is used for their serious, premium wines while the LiBella Label is marketed to more relaxed wine enthusiasts. This dual label approach is not new to me. Dr. Franks on Keuka Lake has Salmon Run as a second label. Heron Hill Winery brands some of their wines with the Ingle Vineyard label. The Riesling had 3.2% residual sugar that was balanced with a fair amount of acid that made it drink like a 1.5% RS wine. That is to say, it tasted a lot drier than the sugar numbers would suggest. I found this very interesting. It goes to show that numbers don’t always tell the whole story. I enjoyed the crisp lemon finish of the 2007 Riesling as well. The Pinot Grigio at 1.4% RS tasted slightly sweeter than the Riesling. It was light bodied with a crisp clean fruit flavor. Steve Jr. pointed out that the Pinot Grigio is the first Finger Lakes wine to be listed by K & L Wine Merchants, a high end California wine retailer. We also sampled Shaw’s 2006 Gewürztraminer.
Next we visited the table featuring Billsboro and Fox Run wines. Noel Uzemack represented both wineries. Noel is an instructor at the New York Culinary Center. He poured a 2009 Pinot Gris and a2009 Riesling from Billsboro along with Fox Run 2009 Dry Riesling and 2007 Reserve Chardonnay. The Pinot Gris was dry, with medium body with plenty of citrus flavor up front. The Billsboro Riesling at 2.5% RS tasted sweeter than Shaw’s Riesling and also was very fruit forward with a slight tart finish. The Fox Run Riesling was light, dry, with a slightly tart, lemon finish. The Reserve Chardonnay was bone dry with a light oak flavor achieved by fermenting and aging in oak barrels.
We circled back to Shaw when the red hour started where we tried the 2005 Merlot and the 2005 Cabernet Franc. Both of these wines are aged three years in oak, which Steve Jr. told me is unique in the Finger Lakes. The fruit is also hand picked. No beating up the grapes while making these wines. The Merlot was light in fruit and body and was very smooth. The Cab Franc was medium bodied with hints of plum and cherry. Billsboro offered a 2008 Cabernet Syrah and a 2008 Pinot Noir while Fox Run offered a 2007 Pinot Noir and a 2007 Cabernet Franc/Lemberger blend. Both the Billsboro and Fox Run Pinot Noir were comparable to Shaw’s. I particularly enjoyed the peppery finish of the Cab Franc/Lemberger.
Hors d’oeuvres were served throughout the evening. There was an assortment of artisan cheeses served with crackers, pâté, a fruit conserve, and a jalapeño pepper jelly. There was also watermelon cubes topped with goat cheese, smoked sausages, and salmon with goat cheese. Chef Carlo gave a cooking demonstration where he prepared pan seared scallops over pickled cabbage slaw. I’m sorry I didn’t take better notes on the food since it was delicious. This was due in part by me focusing on the wine and taking pictures and not paying enough attention to the food. I hope Chef Carlo forgives me. If I get the opportunity I will ask him for details.
Jeff did a great job organizing the event, the wineries brought excellent wines for us to sample, Chef Carlo served up an array of wonderful appetizers and gave a great cooking demonstration, and Chef Don provided entertaining and informative commentary. I’m looking forward to more wine tasting events by Finger Lakes Wine Trail Card.