The day started out like a novel. While drinking mimosas on the 1926 Schooner “True Love” on lake Seneca, we spoke with the first mate who grew up on the east side of the lake. He gave us many recommendations for wineries on his side of the lake, and expounded upon how wineries on this side are more down to earth, smaller operations versus the west side which has more of the commercial wineries. I instantly thought of Bordeaux and the differences between the right bank and left bank, and the economy of scale. To be honest I see the virtue in and enjoy both. But this would not be the last time we heard this on this day. We took him on his recommendations and headed back up the east side of the lake where we had been the day before at Hazlitt 1852 Winery and Red Newt Cellars, but this time trying some of his suggestions. I told him I was a dry red wine lover so he suggested two vineyards a little farther up the road, Shalestone, and Damiani. I explained I hadn’t had many reds from the area yet that had made much of an impression, though there were a few. Understandably the cool climate is not ideal for powerful, tannic, dry red wines. I was about to get a nice surprise.
Shalestone was started by a man named Rob Thomas and his wife. He has also been a consulting winemaker at other area vineyards. We were fortunate to have Rob himself pouring for us. And, part of the joy of making wine for him is talking with customers and sharing his experiences and views. This was great because I love talking to the winemakers and hearing their approaches and philosophy. Rob also spoke of the more personal style of winemaking on this side of the lake. I was thrilled to find that his Pinot Noir was not green but had ripe fruit and nice body. He said he used six different Pinot clones to achieve this. Way more ambitious than most I imagine, and to great results. I bought one on the spot.
I tried and bought a great Lemberger blend (AKA Blaufränkisch) with Merlot and a bit of Syrah called the “Lemberghini,” a custom blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot called “Harmony,” and two Cabernet Sauvignons. One was a delicious and complex 2008 reserve and the other a 2010, both which were fantastic and reminded me of some of the great California and French cabs I love. The decor reminds me in an endearing way of the Shire in the Lord of the Rings, consisting of an elven style tasting room building and a production room built right into the hillside, in this case to keep temperatures perfect for winemaking and aging. It is located in Lodi, NY.
Rob recommended some other wineries down the road to try next so on we went to Atwater Estate Vineyards. They have a nice tasting room perched high up on the edge of the sloping vineyards and a deck overlooking the lake and several tasting counters with views. The whites tasted were the 2011 Dry Riesling, 2012 Pinot Gris, 2012 Cecil Chardonnay, 2011 Reiwürz (Riesling, Gewürz blend) and Stone Bridge White (house blend). In reds, the 2010 Pinot Noir, 2010 Blaufränkisch, 2009 Cabernet-Merlot and the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. I bought this delicious Cab as well.
We both tried a sweet wine made from Chancellor, the 2012 Celsius – a dessert wine made from Vignoles (a Seibel 8665 and Pinot de corton hybrid), and the 2012 Dry Rosé which is made from Pinot Noir in the French style and which we also purchased for a mere $16. Also brought home were the Stone Bridge White which features the art of Robert Gillespie depicting 1951 Watkins Glen Race winner Phil Waters as he crosses a stone bridge on the Grand Prix circuit in his white Cunningham C2R, and the 2011 Dry Riesling. The Stone Bridge White is the official wine of the International Motor Racing Research Center here and every bottle purchase benefits their research. Watkins Glen, in case you don’t know, is home to a raceway, going back many decades. At Atwater, you can also make your own custom wine labels as gifts that they will make and place on bottles for your special occasions. And, they host gourmet dinners in their vineyards. All of this information you can find on their website.
Last stop for the day was Damiani Wine Cellars, in Burdett, which had a nice selection and some nice dry reds. I liked their Lemberger and their Cabernet Franc very much, and the Semi-Dry Riesling was nice as well. They also do winemaking classes and harvesting opportunities, into which i inquired. While they are only 2 hours long and I think I’d like to do at least one full day if I could somewhere, I think it is great that they offer these experiences in the first place and I’ll take what I can get. They also have a chocolatier on site and offer chocolate and wine matching as well as wine release parties, wine club member events and regular art exhibits.