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)  

Harvest Winespeak

Any longtime readers will note that the Winespeak Dictionary is an an integral part of this blog. Here is a piece I wrote up for the New York Cork Report where I define and explain some terms related to bringing in grapes and preparing juice for fermentation. All these terms will be added to my own winespeak dictionary as well.

Published in: on 16 October 2009 at 2:49 pm  Comments (1)  
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Wine Blogging Wednesday 62: A grape by any other name…


This month, for Wine Blogging Wednesday, Boston wine bigwig Dale Cruse selected a very clever theme. The idea: drink wines called by their lesser-known synonyms. For example, if you like Zinfandel, have a Primitivo. This exercise is also interesting because regional names tend to denote regional winemaking styles. (Think about Syrah vs. Shiraz!)

In this case, since it is Regional Wine Week (and since I forgot to stop at the wine store on the way home), I decided to hit on what has become a bit of a touchy issue in the New York wine community.

Blaufränkisch or Lemberger?
Same grape, two goofy names, and strong opinions about said names.

(Note: these wines were tasted together, blind, in identical ISO 9000 glasses)

Channing Daughters Blaufränkisch 2007
Appellation: The Hamptons, Long Island, NY
Grape: 75% Blaufränkisch (or whatever you want to call it), 25% Merlot
ABV: 12.5%
Price Point: $25
Closure: Natural cork

Technical Notes: from the website: Estate-grown in the Hamptons. “…[A]ll the fruit was hand-picked, de-stemmed, crushed by foot and punched down by hand. The wine was handled minimally and bottled by gravity.” 12 months in older oak barrels.

Hedonic Notes: Brilliant bluish-purple color. Smells like purple, and according to Homer Simpson, purple’s a fruit. Kind of a black raspberry thing. A little H2S at first, but that blows off quickly. An herbal component is thrown in for good measure. The acid backbone shines through, all the way to the medium-length finish. It might be a tad too acidic for me. The {astringency} that comes in at the end seems a bit late and not really necessary. A little woody/cardboard as well on the finish. This wine has its really good moments, particularly after swishing around for a little while, but it’s far from perfect.

Rating: corkcorkcorknocorknocork 3 out of 5 corks

I’ve written about a Channing Daughters wine before, the Meditazione. This winery is doing some really innovative things on Long Island, and I’m all about more people growing this grape. I wish more Channing Daughters wines were available up here, as I’ve found interesting characteristics in almost all of the wines that I’ve tasted from there.


Keuka Spring Lemberger 2007
Appellation: Finger Lakes
Grape: 100% Lemberger (or whatever you want to call it)
ABV: 13%
Price Point: $19
Closure: Natural cork

Technical Notes: Estate-grown, harvested at 21 Brix (pretty ripe). Whole berry fermentation, cold soak before and extended maceration after fermentation (for color and tannin extraction), mix of older and new French oak.
Hedonic Notes: Wow. Big, pure fruit up front. There is distinct citrus which brings to mind a sort of mixed berry marmalade. Beyond the fruit is a toasty and vanilla oak component which I rather like. It is integrated very well. Acid is present but subdued in the mouth by substantial alcohol, which also contributes to a nice, full-bodied {mouthfeel} without running {hot}. The mid-palate is a fruity blast of cherry. It just keeps on giving into a long, slightly earthy finish. Lovely. Good to the last glass.

Rating: corkcorkcorkcorknocork 4 out of 5 corks for a wonderful effort from Keuka Springs, who continues to surprise me with great offerings.

Honestly, when I tasted these two, I thought that this one was the Long Island. Not because it was better, but because of the noticeable oak. It was a mistake, though, since Channing Daughters isn’t your typical Long Island winery and they make very judicious use of oak. Shows what stereotypes can do. When I found out that this one was the Finger Lakes Lemberger, I was very pleased.

A note about names: Lots of people seem to prefer the name Blaufränkisch and I’m not sure exactly why. I talked about this a little bit before, but I’m convinced it must be the ümlaut. The name itself has become a cause célèbre to some naïve people who feel as fancy as a maître d’ when they are able to coördinate their sentences to put a smörgåsbord of diacritical marks on words like açaí, El Niño, and crème fraîche. They say that Lemberger reminds people of Limberger and thus stinky cheese. I say whatever helps people remember the name of the wine is fine by me. Blaufränkisch just seems a tad too Teutonic to be memorable to the average consumer. Lemberger is like hamburger! In fact, I would love this wine with a hamburger. Or even a frankfurter. Not that it really matters, but for the record, I am in the Lemberger camp.

Thanks to Dale for hosting a thoughtful and thought-provoking WBW.


Who says the Finger Lakes can't make bold, dark reds?

Who says the Finger Lakes can't make bold, dark reds?

The Lemberger was cold soaked and given extended maceration for maximum extraction of color and tannin. Cold soaking, leaving the grapes in cold storage for a day or two after harvesting and usually adding dry ice, can have several purposes, including weakening the cellular structure of the skins to promote the release of color compounds. I sort of did this with my strawberry wine, but only because I forgot to buy yeast that day. You’ve got to be careful with extended maceration, though, especially if your fruit isn’t ripe. In this case, the Lemberger seemed to be pretty ripe. Overly long macerations, I’ve found, can lead to a spicy aroma that is not unlike potpourri. I have detected this aroma in many Finger Lakes reds, and I think that some tend to overextract in hopes of gaining the most possible color in a region that sometimes has trouble adequately ripening reds. This is one reason I think Lemberger has such a bright future in this region. It ripens well in the cool climate and provides stunning purple color. In my winemaking class last year, one group’s project was a thermovinified (must heated at 65C for a bit before fermentation) Lemberger, and the result was extremely purple.