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Red Tail Ridge Pétillent Naturel 2016

The Red Tail Ridge Winery Pétillant Naturel Sparkling Riesling (RTR Estate Vineyard, Finger Lakes, NY) $25 [Very Good+] is RTR's richest Pét Nat to date.  Very flavorful, with a strong stone fruit component and beguiling milky/yeasty notes, this wine is a fine sipper.  Although it will also pair with some foods, RTR’s Sekt is a better dinner wine, albeit more expensive.

Medium yellow in color, this wine is a bit cloudy.  There is a nice chunk of sediment on the bottom of the bottle.  Rich aromas of stone fruit (nectarine, apricot), green apple, and orange are allied with attractive milky/yeasty notes and some slate minerality.  Medium bodied, medium dry and quite frothy, balance is very good.  Flavors of stone fruit, green apple, orange, milky/yeasty notes and mineral have a good deal of concentration as well as nice purity and focus.  The wine finishes fairly dry, with a citrus zest note, a light smack of the lips, and very good length. November 2017.


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White Birch Cabernet Franc 2015

The White Birch Vineyards Cabernet Franc (Hobbit Hollow Farm, Finger Lakes, NY) 2016 $27 [Very Good+] overflows with candied raspberry fruit.  Apart from its depth of flavor, this wine is also nicely balanced with a very long finish.  Drinkers who love pure fruity exuberance will especially enjoy this wine.

Medium ruby in color, the aromas are initially very sweet and candied, with a great deal of raspberry fruit, accented by chocolate, tobacco, nut oils and graphite.  There is very little of the peppery spice that so often dominates Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc.  Medium bodied, soft and silky, with a good deal of tannin, balance is good.  Flavors of raspberry and cherry liqueur are quite powerful, accented lightly by graphite and mineral notes, along with a smidgen of Cabernet Franc spice.  The finish is moderately gritty and mouth puckering, with considerable length.


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Ravines “Maximilien" Red Wine 2014

Attention carnivores! The Ravines Wine Cellars “Maximilien” Red Wine (Finger Lakes, NY) 2014 $25 [Very Good to Very Good+] may appeal to meat lovers like no other Finger Lakes wine in the marketplace.  Somber smoky aromas and a strong ferrous mineral streak strongly suggest the fire and blood of a seared steak.  For non-meat eaters, a good chunk of Parmesan (or a dish of Pasta Primavera) is a nice substitute. The butterscotch notes of the cheese seem to fill out the wine perfectly, making both cheese and wine more perfect.

Medium dark ruby garnet in color, the aromas are somber and smoky, featuring cassis, black cherry, ferrous mineral, toast, leather and earth. Medium to full bodied, soft, with a good deal of tannin, balance is good.  Solid flavors of (mainly) black and red fruit are accented by ferrous mineral, with lighter contributions of earth, vanilla, leather, and a touch of bitter green stems.  The finish is balanced, a bit gritty, with a strong ferrous mineral note and good length.  October 2017

Note: This wine should improve with age, and can be cellared for some time.


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Terrassen Gamay Noir 2016

Gamay is rare in the Finger Lakes.  Sheldrake Point is the largest producer by far.  The only other wineries to produce small lots of red Gamay recently (there have been a couple of rosés) have been Bet the Farm and Eminence Road.

None of these Gamay wines have come close to the gold standard for the grape — namely, French Beaujolais.  Until now, that is.  The Terrassen Wine Cellars Gamay Noir (Finger Lakes, NY) $24 [Very Good+] is a wine with verve, compelling aromatics, a good deal of flavor intensity, and the ability to pair with many types of food.  Drink now or put this wine away for a year or two.

Light ruby in color, the aromas are compelling, with scents of candied cherry, dates, exotic brown spice, herbs and a dusty mineral note.  Medium bodied, dry, with light firm tannin and a round Burgundian mouth feel, balance is very good.  Mouth watering flavors of candied red cherry, date, peppery spice, bitter herbs, dusty mineral and a saline undercurrent have verve and very good concentration.  The finish is lightly lip smacking with very good length.  October 2017

Note: This wine is not easy to find.  In the Finger Lakes, Ryan’s Wine in Canandaigua had a good supply as of 10/20.


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Stony Lonesome Zweigelt/Cabernet Sauvignon

The Stony Lonesome Zweigelt/Cabernet Sauvignon (Finger Lakes, NY) 2016 $23 [Very Good] is a soft, round, easy-drinking wine with good flavor intensity.  The balance of this wine is initially rather awkward, so decant it or imbibe slowly.

Medium ruby in color, the aromas show plump jammy fruit (black cherry, cherry, black currant), with accents of cedar, sweet vanilla, black pepper and tar.  Quite soft and full bodied, with medium intense gritty tannin, balance is an issue initially, but improves markedly with aeration.  Open-knit and easy-drinking flavors of black cherry, cherry, black currant, vanilla, tar and black pepper have nice intensity.  The finish turns a bit gritty and peppery with good length.  October 2017


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Heron Hill Reserve Gewürztraminer 2016

The Heron Hill Reserve Gewürztraminer (Finger Lakes, NY) 2016 $17 to $25 [Very Good to Very Good+] is yet another fine Gewürztraminer from the 2016 vintage.  Very well made, nicely balanced, with quintessential Gewürztraminer flavors and some complexity, this is a fine bottle to sip -- or drink it with mild to moderately spicy dinner fare.  It is a very good value at the lower end of the price range.

Medium lemon yellow in color, the aromas are fresh and sappy, with solid scents of pear, lychee, rose, citrus and a mineral note.  Full bodied, dry, with a touch of spritz (which dissipates), this is a nicely balanced wine which hides its elevated alcohol level very well.  Sappy ripe flavors of apple, pear, lychee, citrus, tropical fruit, rose, and a moderate amount of Gewürztraminer spice are pure and forceful.  The finish is lightly bitter, well structured, with very good length.  October 2017


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Hickory Hollow Chardonnay 2016 | Nathan K. Chardonnay 2015

After purchase by the Kendall family, Hickory Hollow has been transformed.  It is now the only winery in the Finger Lakes that offers both well made “commercial” wines (Hickory Hollow) as well as a handcrafted “artisanal” lineup (Nathan K.)  Wine drinkers now have an opportunity to taste these two types of wine side by side, and ask themselves: Which style of wine do I prefer? If the Nathan K. wines are more to my liking, is it worth it to me to shell out the extra dollars?

Both of these Chardonnays are very fine.  The Hickory Hollow is fruit-forward and shows off the ripeness of the 2016 vintage.  The Nathan K. leans on its elegance and superior balance.


The Hickory Hollow Wine Cellars Chardonnay (Finger Lakes, NY) 2016 $18.50 [Very Good] shows the richness of the vintage, with its ripe flavors of apple and pear.  It is a well made wine, with some complexity, and will work as a sipper or with food.

Medium lemon yellow in color, there are airy aromas of ripe apple and pear, coupled with a light floral note and accents of beeswax and butterscotch.  You sense the ripeness of the grapes in this wine.  Medium to full bodied, a bit viscous, with a round mouth feel, balance is good. Flavors of fresh ripe apple, pear, pineapple, white pepper, and hints of butterscotch and beeswax have very good focus and intensity.  The finish turns more mineral and peppery, with very good length.  September 2017


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The Nathan K. Chardonnay (Finger Lakes, NY) 2015 $35 [Very Good+] is the best Chardonnay I’ve tasted from the 2015 vintage.  Not a “knock your socks off” kind of wine, this bottle scores with its svelte mouth feel, beautiful balance, subtlety, and length.  Wax encapsulates this bottle's cork, with good reason.  It should age very well.  Those with cellars might put a bottle away for a few years.  This wine can be sipped, but would be better with some fancy French food,  fish or fowl.

Medium straw colored, there are scents of steel, smoky mineral, ripe apple and Crème Brûlée.  It is a subtle and reserved nose, which has not yet blossomed.  Medium bodied, dry, with a lightly viscous, svelte, and sexy mouth feel, balance is excellent.  Flavors of ripe apple, pineapple, Crème Brûlée, and a touch of white pepper have very good concentration and focus, but need a good deal of coaxing and air to blossom. Decant this wine or drink it slowly.  The finish is nicely balanced with very good length.  September 2017


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Hector Wine Company Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Not much Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in the Finger Lakes, and the resulting wines can be disappointing.  The relatively cool climate of the region is not always appealing to this grape.  When a tasty and well made example hits the wine shop shelves, one must take notice.  The Hector Wine Company Cabernet Sauvignon (Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes, NY) 2015 $30 [Very Good to Very Good+] is a svelte and appealing wine, extremely well made, with good flavor concentration and the capacity to age.  Drink it with dinner.

Medium ruby/garnet in color, svelte and sexy aromas of black currant, tart cherry, vanilla, smoke and graphite are very appealing.  Full bodied, with average acidity and moderately intense fine grained tannins, the HWC has a satiny mouth feel.  Balance is very good.  Flavors of black currant, tart cherry, vanilla, peppery spice, and hints of tar and licorice are impressively pure with very good focus.  The finish is of-a-piece with good length. September 2017


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© Douglas Hillstrom 2014