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Finger Lakes red wine rivals French

Northside Staff
Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Jason Wentworth, and Mark Britten

It is fairly clear that the signature white wine grape of the Finger Lakes region is Riesling, which is widely viewed as the source of the area’s finest whites. There is, however, less agreement on a signature red grape.

Area winemakers have looked to grapes grown in regions with cool growing seasons similar to that of the Finger Lakes. Pinot Noir, which in northeastern France’s Burgundy region produces some of the world’s finest red wines, is one candidate. Another is Cabernet Franc, grown in France’s Loire Valley, and the grape behind the wines of Chinon and Bourgueil.

Finger Lakes notables such as Ravines Wine Cellars’ Morten Hallgren and Sheldrake Point Winery cofounder Bob Madill are proponents of Cabernet Franc. Madill cites Chinon, where “they take Cabernet Franc very seriously,” as a model (Life in the Finger Lakes, Summer 2013). Hallgren touts Cabernet Franc partly due to the fact that it is “much more forgiving and consistent” than Pinot Noir (The New York Times, October 11, 2011).

The Northside staff recently blind tasted 19 Finger Lakes Cab Francs against 8 from the Loire Valley. Most displayed dark cherry and raspberry fruit framed by the hints of cedar, bell pepper, and grilled herbs typical of Cabernet Franc wine -— the best delicately balancing these elements with an appetizing piquancy.

Two wines tied for the top spot in the tasting, the $21 Bonnaventure 2011 Chinon and the $[?] Hermann J. Wiemer 2012 Cabernet Franc (Finger Lakes). The Bonnaventure was a knockout — its spicy nose leading to a complex flavor imbued with hints of dark cherry, smoke, pepper, and chocolate.

The Wiemer was remarkably similar to the Chinon with a ripeness that may be an indicator of the quality of the 2012 vintage in the Finger Lakes. Unfortunately, the wine hasn’t yet been labeled! Area wine drinkers can look forward to its release sometime after May 1.

Meanwhile, the Bonnaventure will make an outstanding accompaniment to a rosemary-scented roasted leg of lamb or a succulent spring ham. Its brisk, mouthwatering character makes it an ideal springtime red!

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