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Damiani “Barrel Fermented” Gewürztraminer 2016

Generally speaking, the term “barrel fermented” is found almost exclusively on the labels of Chardonnay.  Fermenting Gewürztraminer in a barrel seems fairly odd, since the grape’s strengths are its exotic fruit, spice, and (sometimes) floral qualities.  All of these attributes are liable to be KO'd by spice and toast in an oak barrel fermentation.

Yet, in this case barrel fermentation works.  Because the grapes were very ripe, and the resulting wine was bound to focus on honeyed chunky fruit (oak barrels or not), the barrel fermentation just adds another interesting layer to the wine, which is rich enough to accomodate it.  Full of honeyed fruit, medium dry, with lots of toast and spice, this is a good food wine.

The Damiani Wine Cellars “Barrel Fermented” Gewürztraminer (Finger Lakes, NY) 2016 $19 [Very Good] is dark straw in color.  The aromas abound with toast and spice, but there is very solid honeyed pear and lychee fruit too.  Full bodied (nearly 14% alcohol), medium dry, with a fat and viscous mouth feel and low-to-moderate spice, this is a big mouth full of wine that manages to maintain good balance.  Flavors of pear, lychee, smoke, toast, dried mushroom and spice have very good intensity.  The finish is full of honeyed fruit, with a bit of spice and very good length.  April 2018

Note:  This wine has the power to stand up to rich curries.  It worked very nicely with Vegetable Korma.


Standing Stone Chardonnay 2017

Hermann J. Wiemer is in the process of acquiring Standing Stone.  The benefits of the acquisition are apparent in this wine, as Wiemer provided assistance with fruit sorting and blending in 2017.  The Standing Stone Chardonnay (Seneca Lake AVA, Finger Lakes, NY) 2017 $13 to $17 [Very Good] is the best Chardonnay I have had from this winery.  Very well balanced, with a delicate mouth feel, and pure flavors of waxy apple and white peach, this is a great sipping wine which scores with its finesse.  It should work well with light to moderate intensity foods.  At the bottom of the price range it is a very good value.

Medium bright yellow in color, the wine exudes scents of waxy/sappy apple and white peach, with light touches of citrus and chalky loam. Medium bodied, dry, with a touch of spritz and a gentle mouth feel, the SS is very attractively balanced.  Waxy well-defined flavors of apple and white peach have an appealing delicacy, as well as very good intensity and purity.  A chalky streak runs through the flavors.  The finish is gently soft with a light spritz and very good length. April 2018


Terrassen Rosé 2017

It is already apparent that 2017 will be a better vintage than 2016 for dry rosé.  Unlike the fat and often sweet 2016s, this year’s batch showcases lively acidity and abundant fruit flavor.  Some of these fruity wines seem natural enough, while others are marked by banana and other tutti-frutti aromas that are probably the result of manipulation via specialized yeasts.  One of the virtues of this Terrassen wine is its relatively restrained fruit, making it a more natural companion for food than the tutti-frutti wines.  Very nice balance and an attractive mouth feel are also plusses. 

Medium bluish pink in color, the Terrassen Cellars Rosé (Finger Lakes, NY) 2017 $17 to $21 [Very Good+] shows scents of strawberry, red currant jam, melon and black pepper.  Medium bodied, dry, plump and mouth filling, with energetic acidity and a mineral/pepper tingle, balance is very good.  Sappy flavors of strawberry, red currant, melon, black pepper, a woodsy note, and stony mineral are fresh and focused, with very good intensity.  The finish is even keeled, with a gentle smack of the lips and very good length.  April 2018

Note: This wine is made from Blaufränkisch.


Ravines “Le Petit Caporal” Red Wine 2015

The Ravines Wine Cellars “Petit Caporal” Red Wine (Finger Lakes, NY) 2015 $35 [Excellent] is a tremendous wine, with a complex set of aromas, intense flavors, and very good balance.  Juicy and delicious, it is simply too easy to drink; the critic’s pen often finds itself idle.  This wine also has an interesting story (see note below).  Drink it any way you like.

The Petit Caporal is beautifully colored, a medium dark velvety ruby.  Lush and forward aromas of ripe raspbery, red and black currant, vanilla, baking spice, cocoa, sandalwood, graphite and menthol are harmonious and captivating.  Full bodied, mouth filling, soft, with just enough acidity and tannin, balance is very good.  Soft lush flavors of raspberry, red and black currant, vanilla, baking spice, and graphite have excellent purity and concentration.  The finish incorporates a little sour tang (which carries it along), a great deal of fruit, and dollops of baking spice and graphite.  It is quite long, and flavors linger.  March 2018

Note: “Le Petit Caporal” (the little corporal) seems like an odd name for a wine, especially an American wine from the Finger Lakes, until one knows the back story.  Le Petit Caporal was Napoleon’s nickname.  Sam Argetsinger (of the famed Argetsinger vineyard) was a great admirer of Bonaparte, and the silhouette on the label is Sam’s.  Morten Halgren means this wine to be an "homage to the spirit of adventures and leaders; people of strength and integrity who are born to change the world,” and more specifically as "a tribute to our dear departed friend Sam.”  The Cabernet Franc grapes in this blend are from the Argetsinger Vineyard.  It is composed of 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Merlot.


Sheldrake Point Dry Rosé 2017

This is the finest dry rosé yet from Sheldrake.  Artfully constructed, with captivating flavors and just a touch of sweetness, this is far too easy to drink.  A fine sipper (gulper?), it will also work with many foods.  Drink it now and over the next few months.  At the lower end of the price range it is a compelling value.

The Sheldrake Point Dry Rosé (Finger Lakes, NY) 2017 $11 to $18 [Very Good+] is medium bluish pink in color.  Fresh and lively aromas of strawberry and raspberry are underlined by a bit of grapefruit, and accented by flowers, pepper and smoky mineral.  Medium bodied, off dry (just a hint of sweetness), with a full mouth feel and a bit of spritz, balance is very attractive.  Substantial flavors of ripe strawberry and raspberry are buttressed by light grapefruit and touched by flowers, pepper and green herbs.  The finish is broad yet tangy, very harmonious, lightly lip smacking, with very good length.  March 2018


Fox Run Cabernet Franc 2016

The Fox Run Vineyards Cabernet Franc (Finger Lakes, NY) 2016 $22 [Very Good to Very Good+] is a nicely constructed wine, with a silky texture, pure and well concentrated flavors, and very good balance.  It should be a crowd pleaser, and will work well as a sipper or with many kinds of food.

Bright medium dark ruby, the Fox Run has a violet tinge.  The aromas are compact and a bit understated, with scents of raspberry, cherry and cassis accented by light notes of tobacco, bell pepper, and metal.  Medium bodied, with average acidity and fine grippy tannin, this wine has a well structured mouth feel.  Balance is very good.  Focused flavors of raspberry and cherry also show notes of bell pepper, pepper, tobacco, and a slight metallic tang, with nice purity and intensity.  The finish is mildly peppery, well structured, with very good length.  March 2018


Forge “Sawmill Creek Vineyard” Dry Riesling 2016

The Forge Cellars “Sawmill Creek Vineyard” Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes, NY) 2016 $24 [Excellent] is a powerhouse wine, with deep flavors and the sort of stony muscularity that typifies many of the best wines of this drought year.  This is a bottle that should keep and improve for a long time.  Although bone dry, the flavors have a kind of milky/honeyed sweetness, so it can be sipped or served with richer foods.

Dark yellow in color, the big aromas feature honeyed apple fruit, tart apricot, lemon/lime, yeasty lees and an herbal/floral note that is hard to pin down.  The back label suggests “nettles."  Plump, full bodied, and mouth filling, there is a bit of chalky tannin as well as some prickly acidity, which becomes better integrated with air.  The Sawmill has an almost brawny mouth feel.  Balance is very good.  Flavors of apricot, ripe apple, honey, lemon/lime and milky lees have excellent concentration and purity.  The finish turns chalkier and more mineral, with a blast of apricot fruit in the very long finish.  March 2018


Red Tail Ridge Dornfelder 2016

Spring eludes us.  It just isn't possible to feature a rosé as the “Best Wine This Week,” is it?  So, put a blanket on, sit by the fire, and sip this very tasty Red Tail Ridge Winery Dornfelder (RTR Estate Vineyard, Finger Lakes, NY) 2016 $25 [Very Good] instead of a pink.  With aromas that sometimes suggest chocolate chip cookies, and a soft and round mouth feel that will warm you, this wine is very easy to drink — a crowd pleaser. It will work well with snacks and many dinner dishes.

Inky violet in color, the RTR has a full nose of dark chocolate, vanilla, ripe mulberry, fig, and underbrush.  Medium bodied, soft, mouth filling and satiny, with well concealed tannin, balance is very good.  Flavors of black cherry, ripe black berries and fig are accented by lesser notes of chocolate and an earthy/camphor component.  The finish is even keeled, with very good length.  March 2018


© Douglas Hillstrom 2014