( Cute little vineyard plot at Red New Cellars in Hector, NY )
It’s Wine Blog Wednesday again and this month is installment 75! Six years is an eternity online and it is always exciting to be part of this long-running wine blogger swap meet of sorts. Hosting this month is Joe Roberts, aka 1WineDude. Thanks Joe!
This month’s them is “Singles Night”, single vineyard wines that is. What’s so special about single vineyard wines? Hey Joe, where you goin’ with that bottle of single vineyard in your hand?
In a 2010 post that gave a nod to wine being made in the vineyard Steve Heimoff makes a statement that rings true to me, “a wine grown in a single place shows a unique sense of that place.” In the case of single vineyard wines that place is very, very specific, and in extreme examples that place can be very small; resulting in very limited production. Grapes from single vineyard designations are typically given special focus, and winemakers who choose to make such products definitely know what attributes the grapes possess that they wish showcase in the final wine.
Is all wine made from single vineyards special? In my experience single vineyard bottlings are unique in comparison to their peer products from the same winery and area. As a winemaker I can imagine that unsuccessful single vineyard experiments don’t to see the light of day in a rough or unbalanced state. Into the blender they might go! We also have to consider the choices a winery and winemaker might make as to which wines are released with the singled vineyard designation. Sound wines that are not judged to be truly special may be released without the designation. Logically I then conclude that the single vineyard wines consumers actually see are special because no self respecting winemaker would intentionally want to make and promote a pedestrian wine with so much specificity in its source.
I haven’t kept track amongst all the wines I have consumed which ones were single vineyard and not, but I do recall a few single vineyard gems; and they’ve always stood out amongst other wines from the same producer or region. The McGinley and Watch Hill Syrahs from Andrew Murray Vineyards were standout examples for me in 2011. The McGinley was bigger and more concentrated than the other Syrahs from AMV and the area, and the Watch Hill had a underlying funkiness to it that made for a different unique experience. Overall, whether the wines were more concentrated, had focused specific aromas or flavors, or projected unusual attributes, those single vineyard wines I can recall all gave me something above and beyond to consider. I do agree that there are plenty of non-single vineyard designates that offer the same qualities, but for me there is a much higher likelihood of mundane wines in this group.
During a visit to the Finger Lakes in September 2011 I came across the 2008 Red Newt Glacier Ridge Vineyards Merlot. It was one of the finest wines I tasted on the trip. My words on this wine when looked at in contrast with reviews of other reds from the trip hint at the fact that this wine was special for me. After my first taste I said:
The first thing that grabbed me about this wine was the intensity of the color, it is deep and concentrated. The aromas followed on with lots of raspberry, cherry and whiffs of oak. The intensity of the color was matched by an incredible body. The mouth is rich with berries, a little meaty and finishes with velvety tannins. This wine is full bodied and bold in the friendliest of ways.
The color and concentration of this wine was more intense than any other red wine I had on that trip. It was also fuller bodied, in fairness I can’t compare this to the Pinots from the same trip, than the Meritage blends, Cab Francs and native red wines I also tasted.
I recently shared a bottle of this wine with friends who will be making a trip back to Finger Lakes with my wife and I in June. I introduced the bottle as an example what the finest red wines from the region can be. My notes from this tasting line up with my initial tasting, however this time I got to pair the wine with food.
( The view from the deck at the Red New Bistro. Glacier Ridge Vineyards is down the hill towards the lake shore which isn't visible beyond the trees. The west side of the lake is what you see at the horizon. )
The intensity of the color definitely stands out. We tasted it alongside a Lemberger that offered plenty of contrast, the Red Newt is heading towards opaque. The oak leads out in the nose in the form of and alongside baking spices (cinnamon, allspice, vanilla) that offer inviting warmth. Cherries and red fruits are first up in the mouth. The next thing I noticed was a touch of mint. The body of the wine is moderate to full and the tannins are sizable and developing. The wine finishes dry, is a little smoky and lingers pleasantly.
The wine was paired with a medium-rare T-bone steak. I’m usually a well done guy, but pairing with the wine further convinced me that beef on the rare side has a place, especially when paired with an assertive red wine. The touch of meatiness of the wine was matched well in the steak. The bottle was emptied in record time, yet more confirmation to me that it is something special.
It is clear that I think single vineyard wines are special, but of course with consistently growing experience in the world of wine I can’t really say I am in a position to declare anything settled. I don’t believe I would go on a mission to specifically sample single vineyard wines, but only because there is plenty of worthy wine out there and it all has its place. Not that I think doing so wouldn’t be fun…