Wine & Spirits

By Stef Schwalb

We were first enchanted with the Finger Lakes after stumbling upon a plethora of ravishing Rieslings. The region is renowned for its mastery in producing them, and the beautiful countryside where so many vineyards reside make it all the more enticing as a wine destination to delve into. A recent tasting revealed that a number of reds also deserve some serious recognition. Sponsored by The Finger Lakes Wine Alliance, eight selections were introduced during the session and included Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Lemberger, and some Red Blends (vinifera).

The session was divided into two flights. The first flight featured Silver Thread Vineyard’s 2011 Blackbird (; Swedish Hill Winery’s 2007 Optimus (; Heron Hill Winery’s 2010 Cabernet Franc (; and Damiani Wine Cellars’ 2010 Cabernet Franc Reserve (; and there were different aspects of each wine that we really enjoyed. The 2011 Blackbird took flight as a Bordeaux blend with 70% Cabernet Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Merlot. Light in tannins and color and putting forth balanced berry flavors, it served as an easygoing introduction to the session. Next up came the 2007 Optimus, a fuller-bodied Bordeaux blend of 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, and 25% Cabernet Franc. It took the tannins up a notch, transforming darker fruit flavors into a velvet-like finish. The 2010 Cabernet Franc from Heron Hill also demonstrated some delightful dark attributes and take-charge tannins, as well as a nice slice of spice. Damiani’s 2010 Cabernet Franc Reserve was one of the most popular picks of the evening. It’s an ideal example of this varietal finding viticultural victory in the region. Decadent dark fruits are on display here with hints of sumptuous spice and earthy elegance.

The second flight showcased Rooster Hill Vineyards’ 2010 Lemberger (; Atwater Vineyards’ 2010 Pinot Noir (; Hector Wine Company’s 2011 Essence (; and McGregor Vineyards’ 2008 Black Russian Red ( We’ve found varietal we’d like to try more of when it comes to Lemberger. Rooster Hill served as a good entry delivering hints of dark cherry, berry and black pepper with a nice touch of tannins. Pinot Noir is one of our faves, fickle but fabulous as she is. Atwater’s 2010 was light and lovely on the mouth, showcasing balanced fruit flavors that make it first-rate as food-friendly. The 2011 Essence is a Bordeaux blend of 40% Syrah, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Merlot. This ruby red beauty featured dark fruit flavors with a hint of spice and some serious acidity. We ended the night with the 2008 Black Russian Red. This blend features varietals that were new for everyone in attendance. The wine combined Saperavi and Sereksiya Charni grapes, which originated from Eastern Europe; the former hails from the Republic of Georgia, and the latter from Moldova. Together, they make for a divine dark brew whose complexity features fierce fruit flavors balanced by sumptuous, sultry spice.

Originally published April 2013
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