2012 Red Wine


As Chris Gerling said in his wrap-up of the 2012 season, "2012 looks really, really good.”

Chris, an associate at Cornell University Cooperative Extenstion, wasn’t the only enthusiastic voice in the fall of 2012:

Scot Osborn, owner of Fox Run: “...it is probably the best fruit we have harvested on all varieties in all the years we have been farming.”

Tom Higgins, owner of Heart and Hands:  "The dry weather afforded us the opportunity to wait for optimal ripeness on each Pinot Noir clone and vineyard block.”

Damiani Wine Cellars:  "the 2012 season turned into an exceptional vintage.”

These winery owners knew what they had. All of them produced very good wine. Fox Run and Damiani impress with the quality and breadth of their red wine offerings.  Heart and Hands deserves applause for an exceptional Finger Lakes Pinot Noir.  Red Tail Ridge, Atwater, and Hector Wine Company also made some very nice wines.

An important note: this report does not include Cabernet Franc, which was  profiled earlier this year.  Also, some very good producers have not yet released their reds.  The 2012 wines from Ravines, Bloomer Creek, and Shalestone may take a year or more to appear.

We have established that some very-good-to-excellent wines were produced in 2012, but what kind of wines are they?

• In general, the best wines have rich fruit flavors.  They are soft wines with low acidity.  They are complex and show their terroir.

• Few of the 2012s are “keepers.”  Low acidity and lack of structured tannin mean these bottles are best consumed now and over the next couple of years.  There are a few exceptions.  The Fox Run Merlot, Red Tail Ridge Teroldego, Atwater Blaufrankisch and Damiani Cabernet Sauvignon may last longer, but even these wines are probably best over the next three or four years.

• Quantities of the best reds are miniscule.  Only 147 cases of the Heart and Hands “Mo Chuisle” were produced. Red Tail Ridge made only 170 cases of its Teroldego.  You will have to visit the winery or order these wines online.  Few bottles are available in wine shops.

• Low quantities mean high prices.  Only one of the very good to excellent wines sells for less than $20 (the Damiani MC2).

• The lack of  low-priced quality red wine is a real deterrent to the growth of red wine culture in the Finger Lakes.  Yes, many wineries produce cheap red wines, but these are almost invariably sweet. There are almost no very good entry-level dry red wines made in the Finger Lakes.

• Buy these wines now, while they are still available.  It is unlikely that the 2013 and 2014 vintages will be as successful.

Can we say anything about which varieties fared best in 2012, or which varieties may claim a bigger stake of the Finger Lakes’ red wine future?

• Pinot Noir was probably the least successful of the red varieites in 2012, in part because this grape requires a somewhat cooler growing season and is a fussy grape to grow.

• Blaufrankisch/Lemberger appears to be an up-and-coming variety.  Three of the top nine wines were made from Blaufrankisch.

• The Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot) made some nice wines in 2012, but it’s unclear if these grapes are right for the Finger Lakes.  The 2012 growing season was, after all, something of an aberration.

As usual, seek out Very Good, Very Good+ or Excellent wines.  Most of the time, ife is too short to drink “Good” wine.  There are some exceptions though. First, the Eminence Road wines are distinctive, and I would urge drinkers to try one of these. Second, a few wines (not highly rated) made from unusual varieties and/or well-priced  are worth a look. These include the Red Tail Ridge Dornfelder, the Stony Lonesome Barbera and the Swedish Hill Maréchal Foch.


© Douglas Hillstrom 2014