Far above Cayuga wine

Lucas Vineyards Cayuga White 2008


Appellation: Finger Lakes
Grape: Cayuga White
ABV: 11%
RS: 2.4% (wow, it’s been a while since I reviewed a non-dry wine, eh?)
Price Point: $9
Closure: Extruded synthetic (boo! If you’re going synthetic, then I much prefer molded to extruded, aesthetically speaking)

Technical Notes: Machine-harvested, crushed and destemmed. 19 {Brix} and {chaptalized} to 20, and fermented dry. Total acidity 10.1 g/L, pH 3.0. Filtered and cold-stabilized. Back-sweetened before bottling. (Thanks to winemaker Jeff Houck for the info. Follow him on twitter @LucasWineTalk)

Hedonic Notes: A tutti-frutti nose comes up, with grapefruit, apple, and canteloupe. On the palate, electric acidity is balanced by considerable residual sugar (aside: I always write tasting notes before I receive the technical info), with a loooong finish of mashed banana and a slight metallic note that may just be the tingling of the acidity on my tounge. Like licking the lid of a jar of baby food, or maybe a battery. A hint, just a hint, of labrusca creeps in on the finish, but it’s certainly not a dominant characteristic.

Rating: corkcorkcorknocorknocork 3 out of 5 corks for a pretty good easy drinker.

Science! Grape Profile: Cayuga White

Listen up. Cayuga White is THE MOST IMPORTANT HYBRID in the Finger Lakes.
Cayuga White was released by Cornell in 1972 and has been the most successful hybrid wine grape Cornell has released (The others are Noiret, Corot Noir, Valvin Muscat, Melody, Horizon, Chardonel, GR7 (Geneva Red 7), and Traminette, along with a host of table grapes.) It is a cross between Seyval blanc (a French-American hybrid) and Schuyler (Zinfandel x Ontario). Many wineries sell it as a varietal wine, and it performs pretty well around here. It ripens reliably and provides interesting, fruity aromas with very little labrusca foxy aroma. You’ll find it all over the Finger Lakes, on its own and blended with other aromatic whites like Riesling, and in dry or semi-dry styles. Sometimes “cotton candy” is used as an aroma descriptor. Anecdotally, Cayuga White’s labrusca overtones increase with increasing ripeness. Perhaps the enzyme that synthesizes the foxy aroma compound methyl anthranilate increases with ripening time. That enzyme only been recently discovered, and looking at the expression vs. time data (Wang and DeLuca, “The biosynthesis and regulation of biosynthesis of Concord grape fruit esters, including ‘foxy’ methylanthranilate”, The Plant Journal, 2005, linked above), it seems that expression of this enzyme increases with ripening as well, so that makes sense.

Published in: on 29 October 2009 at 6:54 pm  Comments (3)  
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The opposite of Sagan

This woman is an optometrist.

Assumedly, this woman has been through 13 years of education up to high school and 4 years of college, including a year each of chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, higher math, and physics.

This woman has been to optometry school for 4 years and certified to practice optometry.

Assumedly, patients come to her office in the interest of vision health, vision correction, and early detection and prevention of eye diseases. They entrust their ability to see to her.



How did this happen?

If you understood this the first time, go back and listen to it again.

PS: Does this remind you of any descriptions you may have heard about wine?

Discovered on Pharyngula, a worthwhile science/evolution defending blog.

Published in: on 27 October 2009 at 8:28 pm  Comments (6)  

A still more glorious dawn awaits.

Wow, is it Friday already?
Here is some inspiration for your weekend, courtesy of Carl Sagan, with some special guests.

look out for some Cayuga White coming this way sometime soon.

Published in: on 24 October 2009 at 12:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Vincent in Brix town

Fulkerson Winery Vincent 2007

See what I did there?

See what I did there?

Appellation: Finger Lakes
Grape: Vincent
ABV: 12%
Price Point: $10
Closure: Molded synthetic

Technical Notes: Eight months in older French oak and American oak, one of 3 varietal Vincents in the U.S.

Hedonic Notes: This wine is seriously purple, anthocyanin city. Gingerbread, with a huge smoky clove component on the nose. Fruit in the background, with something sulfury (in a good way). It almost smells like mulled wine. I’m at the annual New Philly Christmas party, held at the mayor’s house after the tree-lighting ceremony. (Pretty much the whole town shows up.) On the palate, it’s like black cherry ice cream, with vanilla and almost cooked fruit and full {mouthfeel}. Alcohol and acid are both big, but nicely {balanced}. A tiny bit of {astringency} that I mostly feel on my tongue as the medium-short finish dissipated with tart, red fruit. Well-balanced and well made.

Rating: corkcorkcorkhalfcorknocork 3.5 out of 5 corks for a hybrid that exceeds expectations.

I like their decision to use some oak on this. The clove character very likely comes from the toasted oak (lignin degradation product) and complements the wine very well. If you are a hybrid-hater, then you should try this wine. It won’t pucker your mouth, but its powerful color, fruit, and body may surprise you. Did I mention it’s only $10? Find me a California Cabernet or Aussie Shiraz with this much character for $10, please! No MegaPurple here, folks, this is the real deal.

Science! Grape Profile: Vincent
Developed at the Horticultural Research Institute in Ontario (now part of the University of Guelph, what seems to be the Cornell of Canada) in 1967. Lomanto x Chelois, a French hybrid. Bred to be cold-hardy, this grape is only 20% labrusca and (at least in this case) produces little to no labrusca foxiness (not that foxy is entirely a bad thing). It’s often used in the Finger Lakes as a blender (it’s certainly got color to spare!) but the quality of this {varietal} wine indicates that either (1) Fulkerson’s team are experts at growing and vinifying this grape or (2) this grape’s potential has been seriously overlooked. Or maybe a bit of both.

Oh, the dentist is going to be mad about this one.

Oh, the dentist is going to be mad about this one.

Vincent has one of the highest anthocyanin levels around. When I say anthocyanin, I mean the various compounds (malvidin is a good example) that determine the color of red wines. Vincent has been clocked at up to 439 mg/100 g fresh weight. For comparison, the relatively light Pinot comes in around 33 mg/100 gfw
(Boss and Davies, “Molecular Biology Of Anthocyanin Accumulation In Grape Berries” in Grapevine Molecular Physiology & Biotechnology, Springer Netherlands, 2009). Compare to blackberries at 528 mg/100 gfw (Wang, “Antioxidant capacity and phenolic content of berry fruits as affected by genotype, preharvest conditions, maturity, and postharvest handling” in Berry fruit: Value-added products for health promotion, CRC, 2007) Seriously colored.

Published in: on 21 October 2009 at 11:45 pm  Comments (1)  

Brown cider, yellow cider

In the wake of the strawberry wine explosion of July (the results of which have since been tasted and largely approved of), I’ve got some more fermentations brewing. This one is an experiment with wild yeast. I bought a gallon of cider from Littletree Orchards in Newfield, just south of Ithaca. I sulfited them (25 ppm), added Fermax and pectinase (apples are low on nitrogen and high on pectin [ever have apple butter?]), and {chaptalized} up to about 20 {Brix}. (It came in around 13.5).

small text on upper right:  At Littletree Orchards, we bring you 7 generations worth of the cidermaker's skill to make this all-natural, unfiltered apple cider. KEEP REFRIGERATED! There are no preservatives added... so this cider will become "tangy" or "snappy" with age, producing a naturally sparkling drink!

In one growler I pitched a bit of EC-1118 commercial yeast. The other I left to its own devices. Since the gallon of cider was $6, if it got ruined I would only be out $3, so no big loss. Littletree flash-pasteurizes their cider, meaning that it is exposed to high heat for a short period of time. This process probably kills *most* microorganisms, but the label itself claims that if left go, the cider will become “tangy” or “snappy”. Well, if left go a little longer, it will become “boozey”, which is exactly what I’m looking for.


EC-1118: fast fermentation (left) and spontaneous, slow fermentation (right)

EC-1118: fast fermentation (left) and spontaneous, slow fermentation (right). Background: some other fermentation projects: potential vinegar, previous vintage of cider, cider co-fermented with blackcurrant juice, growler of strawberry wine. In reflection on right growler: jar of potential sauerkraut.

The above photo is a great example of the redox chemistry that goes on during fermentation. Apple cider is brown because of enzymatic (polyphenol oxidase) reactions that occur in the presence of oxygen. Browning of {must} can be inhibited by the addition of sulfites or other antioxidants (e.g., the old lemon juice on the apple trick lowers the pH and also adds vitamin C, an antioxidant). Apple cider fresh off the press is immediately exposed to oxygen and turns brown. Fermentation is a reducing environment, which is the opposite of an oxidizing environment. During fermentation, browning reactions can be reversed, turning the brown must into yellow hard cider. This is why wine is in little danger of becoming oxidized while fermentation is going on (see: open-top fermenters). After fermentation is over, however, the protective buffer of reduction is vulnerable and oxygen exposure should be limited. Aged wines have been exposed to small amounts of oxygen over many years, and the resulting golden, then brown colors in aged whites are the result of oxidation as well.

The difference in color in the photo has nothing to do with commercial vs. wild yeasts. It is because the spontaneous fermentation was a lot slower to get started (I had no bubbles for about 4 days). Coming in the kitchen one day, I was struck by the contrast, kind of like a before/after shot.

Published in: on 20 October 2009 at 1:36 am  Comments (2)