Megapost: Anthony Road Open Cellar Tasting

Two weeks ago I went on a wine tour of Cayuga Lake (west side) organized by the Cornell Glee Club and Chorus. It was intended to be a social trip, and even though I brought my trusty notebook, I considered myself off the clock. We even had freshmen to drive us around! However, right before the trip, I got a comment on the blog from Peter Becraft, associate winemaker at Anthony Road Winery in response to my review of their 2007 Semi-Dry Riesling. It invited me to their Open Cellar Tasting event, where they were pouring around a dozen rieslings from their library (and tank samples from not yet released rieslings!), but it was the same day as the Glee Club wine tour, which wouldn’t get back to Ithaca til about 4:30. I know, rough life I have, right?

Anyway, I was bummed that I couldn’t make it but as we went along I did quite a bit of spitting anyway (turns out that the people who just buy a bottle and sit outside usually get drunker on the wine tour than those who are actually tasting…). It turned out that we got back into Ithaca early, around 3:45. I decided to give it a shot and head out to Penn Yan (on the other side of the OTHER lake) to try and get to the tasting by 5…in a thunderstorm.

Grapevines on a grey and gloomy evening, lake esconced by billowy fog.  The view from AWRC.

Grapevines on a grey and gloomy evening, lake esconced by billowy fog. The view from AWRC.

Long story short (too late?) I arrived at Anthony Road at 5:05, walked in the door to see a tasting room employee not too pleased about my arrival, who then directed me to the cellar where Peter and Johannes (the winemakers) were holding the riesling event. I arrived at the cellar, breathless, as the last patrons were leaving and they were starting to clean up. I introduced myself and Johannes and Peter were gracious enough to pour me every single wine (and a few extras), with Johannes staying to chat until 7 PM (in spite of multiple phone calls from his wife!). I even got 3 glasses at once to compare and contrast. I took quick and, frankly, illegible notes, so I won’t go into too many details about the wines.

Flight 1: Tierce

The Tierce logo.  I like it.

The Tierce logo. I like it.

Tierce wines are a collaboration between the winemakers at Fox Run, Anthony Road, and Red Newt. The aim of the project is to develop a riesling blend that showcases the best of three Finger Lakes growing regions, and the best that the three winemakers have to offer. The winemakers seem to lock themselves in a room with their wines until the ideal blend shows itself. Anthony Road was pouring 2004, 2005, and 2006 Tierce. 2006 is the vintage currently for sale, but I believe you can still get some 2005 at Fox Run. Tierce 2007 (not yet released) is a red blend, taking advantage of the hot, dry 2007 growing season, which according to many winemakers was a banner year for Finger Lakes reds. Another notable fact about Tierce wines is that they are all bottled under screwcaps, somewhat of an anomaly in the Finger Lakes region.

Tierce Riesling 2004 (library)  petrol around, still great acidity, herb/shrimp component
Tierce Riesling 2005 (~$30) looong finish, petrol/rubber amongst the fruit.
Tierce Riesling 2006 (~$30) really nice. I wrote a better descriptor for this than “nice,” but I can’t decipher it. It looks like “Cronunt”, but alas, that’s not a word. I will have to scare up some of this wine for a real review.

Flight 2: Anthony Road Dry Rieslings
According to Johannes, the cleanest fruit goes into dry rieslings. These should be able to stand on their own without relying on the balance and sweetness that leaving some residual sugar can provide.
Anthony Road Dry Riesling 2006 (library, 0.6% RS) good fruit, not as long on the finish. unfortunately, a bit of oxidized character is creeping in.
Anthony Road Dry Riesling 2007 ($16, 0.6% RS) I got an interesting piney note from this one.
Anthony Road Dry Riesling 2008 (NYR, 0.7% RS) Wow. Tropical, citrus, and green fruit (think honeydew melon). I wish I could have bought some of this, but I don’t think it’s been released yet. Quoth my notebook: money!

Flight 3: Anthony Road Semi-Dry/Semi-Sweet Rieslings
Just because the cleanest (read: not infected by {botrytis}) fruit goes into dry riesling doesn’t mean that semi-dry riesling can’t step up to the plate. In all of these, the sweetness is not just there for sweetness’ sake. It provides not only a bit of balance to the acidity but the sugar also seems to contribute to the mouthfeel.
Anthony Road Semi-Dry Riesling 2007 tasted great, see previous review
Anthony Road Semi-Dry Riesling 2008 ($15, 2.5% RS) stick candy (like you might get at an old-timey general store), passion fruit, with a nice acid background.
Anthony Road Semi-Sweet Riesling 2008 ($14, “around 3″% RS) big acidity on this one, tutti-frutti

Flight 4: Martini-Reinhardt Selections
These are the cream of the crop. The best wines from the best fruit of the year. They don’t make these every year. It seems like they really want to showcase fruit that really stands out from a vintage. Very limited production on these.
Anthony Road Martini-Reinhardt Selection Riesling 2005 (library, in fact I think that the one I had was from the very last bottle!) again, some oxidation leaking in. I don’t think it’s entirely a bad thing, as a little bit can add a toffee/caramel type note.
Anthony Road Martini-Reinhardt Selection Semi-Dry Riesling 2007 ($22) great harmony of sugar and acid. Very well-balanced and complex! Also, full-bodied mouthfeel.

Flight 5: Non-rieslings
Some non-rieslings thrown into the mix for good measure, including some interesting red blends.
Anthony Road Gewürztraminer 2008 ($16, 1.1% RS) good balance of floral and fruit on the nose.
Anthony Road Martini-Reinhardt Selection Cabernet Franc 2007 ($30, 85% cabernet franc, 15% lemberger) black pepper is the name of the game here, but with great fruit in the mid-palate. Not too much tannin, but it is certainly there.
Anthony Road Cabernet Franc-Lemberger 2006 ($18, 55% lemberger, 45% cabernet franc) fruitier than the 2007, and a bit more {astringency}

Flight 6: Berry Selections (unreleased so far)
These wines are very labor-intensive. Most of the work is done on the sorting table, selecting berries shriveled and dried by the noble rot, and separating them from those shriveled by sour rot, foot-stomping, then what I assume is a very slow-going fermentation in a syrupy {must}.
Anthony Road Martini-Reinhardt Riesling Berry Selection 2008 (NYR, Beerenauslese-style, ~60% {botrytized} grapes) pineapple, white peach, currant (currants smell like ketchup to me, so I guess you could say ketchup too). Some {volatile acidity} up in this piece, not too obnoxious though.
Anthony Road Martini-Reinhardt Trockenbeeren 2008 (NYR, 100% botrytized grapes) rich, syrupy, apricot. Spicy on the tongue. The only wines I can compare this to is Sauternes, Barsac, and Montbazillac, and well, that’s saying a lot. Will be worth the likely high price tag.

Overall impressions:
One topic that came up, and one that has been discussed lately a bit on LENNDEVOURS as well, is libraries. This was technically a series of vertical tastings, but the oldest wine was from 2004. Peter apologized, but noted that holding on to wines for a while just isn’t a priority for many wineries. It could be a financial decision. Lots of wineries don’t have the space or the capital to hold on to cases and cases of wine. (Overheard: “In the Finger Lakes, they make money with wine, in Long Island, they make wine with money.”) Storage is also an issue. When you’re next to a lake, it’s hard to find a passive cellar. And in an aluminum-sided facility, it gets hot in the summer. Johannes laments the lack of good storage space and library holdings but seems powerless to to anything about it.

With 25 years combined of vineyard management and winemaking experience, Johannes Reinhardt has a pretty good idea what he’s doing. When I asked if they whole-cluster pressed or destemmed the grapes, his response was that it depends on the fruit (then he showed me their destemmer-crusher, which can be adjusted to just destem in a modular fashion, pretty cool.). There is never a set policy. He’s not just following a recipe book, he is reacting to what the vineyard gives him. The BA/TBAs are a good example of this approach. When the climate was right to make botrytized wines, he did it, even a difficult and labor-intensive 100% botrytized berry selection. And those wines are something special, believe me.

and PS: Soft-spoken, extremely polite, slight German accent? Johannes is pretty dreamy.

Botrytis cinerea can be a blessing and a curse to vineyard managers. Most of the time, it will destroy grapes. However, under certain conditions, a controlled infection of botrytis dries the grapes out, concentrating the sugars and acids inside. It’s way too complex of a topic to blow in one “Science!” episode, so I’ll only be looking at one characteristic aroma compound this time. Plus, I love botrytized wines, so I want to taste and review more!

4,5-Dimethyl-3-hydroxy-2(5H)-furanone aka sotolon, sugar lactone, or my personal favorite, fenugreek lactone

4,5-Dimethyl-3-hydroxy-2(5H)-furanone aka sotolon, sugar lactone, or my personal favorite, fenugreek lactone

The molecule of the day is sotolon, also known as 4,5-dimethyl-3-hydroxy-2(5H)-furanone. At low concentrations, it smells somewhat like maple syrup, while at higher concentrations it tends to smell more like curry, and, if you get a whiff of it really highly concentrated, vomit. Just trust me on the vomit part. It was first isolated in botrytized wine (Masuda et al., “Identification of 4, 5-Dimethyl-3-hydroxy-2(5H)-furanone (Sotolon) and Ethyl 9-Hydroxynonanoate in Botrytised Wine and Evaluation of the Roles of Compounds Characteristic of It”, Agricultural and Biological Chemistry, 1984), but exactly how it shows up in BW’s is not quite clear. It also shows up in fino sherries, madeiras, and vin jaune, hinting that acetaldehyde may contribute to its formation. Others propose that it is a product of Maillard browning reactions in the berry, which also makes sense to me (Slaughter et al., “The naturally occurring furanones: formation and function from pheromone to food”, Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 1999). At any rate, it’s a characteristic aroma compund of botrytis, and one to think about with your next Sauternes, Tokaji Aszu, or Trockenbeerenauslese.

Published in: on 1 June 2009 at 8:41 pm  Comments (5)  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What compound can give a tba wine a plastic/action figure smell. I think I pick some up in a friends tba.

  2. Awesome stuff. Love the reviews. My suggestion for a future Science! will be an explainer as to why the initial onset of oxidation can occasionally trigger a toffee-like component.

    Nice observations on the tannins in the reds; you’re probably aware that Johannes is militantly anti-tannin addition. That puts him in contrast to many of his peers, but clearly the presence of tannin here indicates there is a decent amount of it already in the grapes and wine.


  3. I’d heard about the Tierces before but not tracked them down. I’m pretty interested in trying them now! Maybe you mean “coconut” or “cromulent”?

    Something fun, but probably out of your way for a single trip, if you’re interested in some more non-grape wines: It’s owned & run by my friend’s family, and I love what they do with apples.

    • Bryan: that’s interesting. never smelled that before, i’ll have to do some homework on that.

      Evan: acetaldehyde is the product of wine oxidation, and has a kind of nutty aroma. also, many nutty aroma compounds are aldehydes as well, so as their alcohol forms oxidize to aldehydes, which are more potent aroma compounds.

      Neil: i considered “cromulent.” after all, it is a perfectly cromulent word. coconut is possible but unlikely, given that riesling is almost never done in oak, and coconut usually comes from whiskey lactone. maybe coconut though, i dunno.

  4. […] about 4:00. Living in Ithaca, I usually only get a chance to visit Cayuga and East Seneca wineries (barring a special trip), so this was going to be a treat for me. Our goal was to get up to the hallowed Hermann J. Wiemer […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: