It’s been well over a month since I’ve posted but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy on the wine trail. Just before Christmas, my girlfriend Katy and I visited two wineries, Deer Run on Conesus lake and Ventosa Vineyards on Seneca Lake. The week after Christmas, I visited Kings Garden Vineyards on Seneca Lake as well.
Deer Run hosted a holiday food and wine event featuring seven dishes paired with as many wines. The menu included Cranberry Dip an Pita Chips paired with Fawn, a fortified blend of estate grown Traminette and Valvin Muscat, Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup paired with Valvin Muscat, Horseradish Encrusted Salmon paired with Traminette, Greek Beef Stifado paired with Merlot, Sweet Potato Apricot Bake paired with Cayuga White, Spinach, Apple and Glazed Pecan Salad paired with Seyval, and Pears Poached In Wine with Vanilla Ice Cream Paired with Cabernet Sauvignon. My favorite dish by far was the Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup. It had an Asian twist with lemongrass, ginger, and coconut. We received copies of the recipes so I was able to make the soup for Christmas dinner. It was delicious and a big hit. The Sweet Potato Apricot Bake was also very good but I didn’t like the wine pairing. The Cayuga White was overpowered by the orange in the dish. The beef and Merlot paired well but I would have switched the Merlot with the Cabernet Sauvignon because I think the Cab would have held up better to the beef and the Merlot would have been lighter with the pears. Both of these reds were delicious and were my favorites of the night. Katy’s favorite was the 2008 Corot Noir that we sampled before the main event. I liked it as well so a bottle made the trip home with us. We happened to enjoy it the other night for dinner.
Our evening at Ventosa was highlighted by jazz and holiday music by the trio of Johnny Russo, Doug Robinson, and Brian Earle. These talented musicians from Ithaca are well known in the area and I have seen Johnny and Doug perform on several occasions in the past. The crowd was in a festive mood as we broke out in song with every holiday tune the trio played. The staff at Ventosa is wonderful. Melinda happened by as we walked in and she whisked us over to the tasting bar and pored us samples of their newest wines. Jessica and RJ were there as well and we had a great conversation as we listened to the music, sang, and drank wine. They are a great team and took care of all the guests like they were family. The cafe staff did a great job as well. Katy and I shared a specialty pizza that was fantastic. I’m sorry I didn’t take notes on the wines and food to provide a better description. I was having too much fun to worry about details. Fortunately, I’ve written about their wines in the past so you can refer to earlier posts to get a feel for Ventosa’s wine.
I stopped in at Kings Garden before heading out on the trail in the Finger Lakes National Forest for an overnight hiking and camping trip with my nephew Brian and friend Chris. I wanted to see what happens at a winery on a mid-winter week day. I emailed Corinne Oleksyn, who owns the vineyard along with her husband Mike, telling her I would be in the area and would like to visit. She said Mike would be busy racking wine and I was welcome to stop in. I startled Mike when I arrived. He was standing right behind the barn door as I opened it and probably wasn’t expecting anyone at that particular moment. He was cleaning the hose and pump used to rack the wine between barrels. He explained the racking process and its importance in removing sediment from the wine. As the wine matures in the barrel, particles suspended in the wine settle and form a sediment in the bottom of the barrel. The wine is periodically drawn off into a clean barrel, leaving the sediment behind. It’s a relatively simple process but labor intensive. Mike hefted a barrel off its stand, rolled it outside to the concrete pad next to the barn so he could rinse out the sediment using hot, high pressure water. It took about ten or fifteen minutes to clean the barrel thoroughly. He then brought the barrel back into the barn, hefted it back onto the stand, put one end of the transfer hose into the clean barrel and the other end into an aging barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon, and turned on the pump. It took several minutes for the wine to transfer. He then turned off the pump, withdrew the hose from the barrels, and repeated the process using a different barrel of maturing wine. Watching Mike lift the 100 plus pound barrels on and off the stands impressed me. Looking back into the barn where dozens of barrels were waiting to be racked impressed me even more. Mike was kind enough to share a sample of the wine as he racked it. It was delicious with a wonderful body and deep red color and the plum and berry flavors enhanced by the oak. This wine is going to be great once it finishes and ages a bit in the bottle. I also sampled a Chardonnay that was produced with Sauternes yeast which gave it a hint of grapefruit. It was off dry and very bright. This is another star in the making. Mike sent me off with a bottle of the Cab and the remaining Chardonnay that we sampled to enjoy around the campfire that night. We drank the wine as the fire blazed and warmed us in the clear, fifteen degree winter’s night air. It was a treat having the wine as we looked into the moonless sky, awestruck by the stars and Milky Way.
Be sure to check out the event calendar for your favorite wine trail or winery. There are plenty of events scheduled this winter so there is sure to be something for everyone.