Finger Lakes Reds with Grilled Steak Tips
The producers of the Finger Lakes are sharing their wines through a series of virtual tastings again this year including several in the month of May which is Finger Lakes Wine Month. If you are curious about the wines from the region these tastings go a long way to help you understand what is possible.
In the past I have participated in the Riesling and White Wine tastings so for this most recent series I selected reds. The sample kit included the following wines:
- Fox RunVineyards 2010 Lemberger
- Goose Watch Winery 2011 Lemberger
- Rooster Hill Vineyards Cab Franc/Lemberger blend
- Wagner Vineyards 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir
- Heron Hill Winery Ingle Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009
- McGregor Vineyard 2008 Black Russian Red
Prior to the 8PM virtual tasting I opened each of the bottles and gave them a taste. As I considered the sensory feedback I fired up the grill and got the steak tips going. A summary of our initial impressions goes a little something like this:
- The first taste of the Fox Run 2010 Lemberger set high expectations for the flight. Earthy & spicy in the nose with tart currants, dark berries and a healthy dose of black pepper. Upon returning to this wine for a second taste both my wife and I found the nose to be a bit funky and there was also a prickle on the tongue that was not there previously. Neither was profound enough for us to think the wine was flawed, just noticeable different between tastes. I came back to this wine today and the nose was the same but the prickle on the tongue was gone. I'm not going to knock this wine for a subtle funkiness that doesn't detract from the rest of its attributes.
- The Goose Watch 2010 Lemberger is a different style from the Fox Run, softer and more fruit forward. It is medium to full in body and smells like a dark berry jam with a restrained spicy component. Very quaffable.
- The Rooster Hill Cab 2011 Franc/Lemberger blend is a bit floral in the nose with a healthy dose spiciness. In the mouth it is very peppery and the combination of spice, acidity and presence of fine tannins creates quite an experience. On its own this wine was my favorite of the six.
- The Wagner 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir leads off with crushed red fruits both in the nose and mouth. It has enough tartness to keep everything lively and has a subtle tannic profile. This is a very straightforward, smooth and eminently drinkable Pinot.
- The Heron Hill Ingle Vineyard 2009 Pinot Noir was off to us. Some volatile elements in the nose came off as a chemical in nature. The flavors were unblemished and the balance of acidity/tannins was good. I also returned to this wine today and found the odd elements in the nose to be subdued, but the wine was very acidic and tart compared to the tasting the night before.
- The McGregor 2008 Black Russian Red was a new-to-us wine and producer from the region. The grapes are also nearly new to us as well. It pours very purple and has a nose that blends dark fruits, dried flowers (even sweet tobacco), spices and wet earth. The wine is tart and dry with dark berry flavors, balanced acidity and fine tannins. I look forward to finishing this bottle!
Once dinner was ready we got down to round two. In addition to grilled steak tips we also had a pine nut couscous and Brussels sprouts on our plates.
We brought wines in to try two at a time. The two that paired best were the Rooster Hill and McGregor Vineyard wines. The Fox Run Lemberger paired nicely as well, but we were giving it some air (see the notes above) and thought it might do even better overall on day two. The Goose Watch wine was too fruity for the pairing. Yes, the Pinots were overrun by the beef and marinade, but I didn't have any salmon on hand! The spice notes and acidity of both of these wines were the assets that made them work with the steak. The marinade on the steak was both sweet and spicy so a wine with some body and spice character of its own would be destined to work best.
After dinner I headed to the computer to watch the live stream from the tasting event, listen to Q&A from participants and interact with folks in Twitter who were tasting and sharing notes on the same wines. The most important message I heard producers relating to those participating is that their region is distinct from others and they need to continue to work to figure out which grapes work best and on which sites in order to continue to improve the wines. The specific questions about how Lemberger does in the region affirm this notion. Peter Bell from Fox Run indicated that while Pinot Noir is hard to grow anywhere in the world, including the Finger Lakes, Lemberger is proving to less fussy and produces quality wines when sited in a number of places around the region. Eschewing comparisons to other wine-making regions all of the winemakers assembled kept the focus on what their regional experiences are telling them and what work they are doing to continue to grow given the conditions they find in their vineyards.
This event was, as they always has been, a great way to learn more about what the producers are doing in the Finger Lakes region. Thank you to all the producers who participated and the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance for organizing the tasting series again in 2013. Being able to celebrate Spring and Finger Lakes Wine Month with delicious wines and seasonal grilling definitely made me smile!