VERY few vines are grown in North America anywhere near the swath of earth that falls underneath the 43rd parallel, but for one band of land in upstate New York. If one extended this line west, it would place vineyard sites in such frigid places as northern South Dakota or southern Montana. No Good. The one great exception to this rule however is embodied in the state’s Finger Lakes region.
The secret to this region’s success is none other than the source of all life on this planet, good old H2O. Lots of it. The Finger Lakes, as the name indicates, is a series of very large, but long and narrow array of lakes that are oriented more or less in a north/south direction that appear on maps as a series of fingers, as the name directly implies. And but a few clicks north of these lakes is a REALLY big lake – a Great Lake – by the name of Ontario. Water is a great moderator of both heat and cold – it takes lots of solar energy to heat it, but once warmed, it retains and gently radiates this heat, a factor that makes this northerly region very amenable to viticulture. But wait, there’s more! The fact that these lakes’ lengths are oriented decidedly east, and more importantly WEST, this truth of geography makes the eastern shores of these lakes truly sun-soaked as they collect the hot, setting western sun. And what’s more, these lakes, like mirrors, reflect a great deal of solar energy into these vineyards, further contributing heat and light to this surprisingly viticulturally friendly meso-climate.
Most of the over 100(!) wineries in this region (New York is the 4th largest grape-growing state in the U.S.) raise white, cold tolerant vines like Riesling and Rkatsiteli (look it up) – despite all of the special circumstances of aquatic geography described above, upstate New York is not Spain – it still gets pretty damned cold here…BUT…in certain particularly warm MICRO-climates in the region, certain RED varieties can be ripened, and that’s what we’ve got here with this wine.
And what it is by name is none other than the Austro-Hungarian signature black-skinned grape Blaufrankisch. And to be clear, most of the places in which Blaufrankisch is planted in these two nations is a fair bit warmer than the Finger Lakes,but it’s still true that Blaufrankisch is a north-of-the-Alps variety that ripens quite early, and is physically quite cold resistent. So if you’re ever up that way, look for this Austrian flipping the bird to the rest of 43rd parallel, as well as to the world of carbon-based fuel, by the way, at least in this case – over 50% of the energy used to run this particular winery comes from geothermal power…
Dinner: Cheeseburgers with pickles and onions, fries, and a green salad with tomatoes and carrots.
Red Tail Ridge Finger Lakes Blaufrankisch 2010
Translucent, violet-tinged ruby color. Slightly smokey nose of mixed berries, red plums, blueberry compote, damp earth, aromatic flowers, and brown spices. The palate is medium in body, with a prominent, expressive acidity, smooth, lightish tannins, and flavors of cherry, black raspberry, vanilla bean, mocha, and a touch of vegetable pate’. Very crunchy, clean and freshly dry finish.