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The 'other' cabernet produces distinct wines from light and lively to structured and chiseled
That respect starts in Bordeaux. Though cabernet sauvignon and merlot get all the publicity, one of the most famous wines of the region, Chateau Cheval Blanc, has cabernet franc as a major component
Thought it may not have the same amount of star power, that doesn’t mean cabernet franc is not worth your time or your wine glass. Let’s give it the respect it deserves. (And sorry, petit verdot and malbec. We haven’t forgotten about you.)
That respect starts in Bordeaux. Though cabernet sauvignon and merlot get all the publicity, one of the most famous wines of the region, Chateau Cheval Blanc, has cabernet franc as a major component. Many other red wines from the so-called "Right Bank" of Bordeaux, like cheval blanc, also rely on a portion of cabernet franc.
Head up north in France to the Loire Valley, and you’ll find a totally different expression of cabernet franc. Spicy, savory flavors, and notes of green pepper and black olive give these lighter style reds their distinctness. Look for wines from the regions of Chinon and Bourgueil, as well as Saumur-Champigny. And just because Loire Valley cabernet franc tends to be more delicate doesn’t make it any less serious or age-worthy.
Is cabernet franc the sole province of France? Absolutely not. In the United States you can find it in wines from Washington, Oregon, California, New York, and Virginia. (And more.)
Click here for more from The Daily Sip.
The Best Virginia Wines: 2021 Governor’s Cup Case
The 2021 Virginia Governor’s Cup Case recognizes the best of the best wines in Virginia, choosing a select few to represent the over 300 wineries found throughout the Commonwealth. Although you can sometimes find wines from these vineyards at the local grocery store or gourmet shop, visiting the wineries allows you to see where, and sometimes how (when tours are available), these award-winning vintages are produced, tasting exceptional wines against the stunning backdrop of Virginia’s wine country. Use this 2021 Governor’s Cup Case guide to help you decide which Virginia wineries to visit this spring.
2013 Clos LaChance Reserve Estate Cabernet Franc Central Coast, USA
Cabernet Franc is a black-skinned French wine grape variety grown in most wine producing nations. The variety is most famously known as the third grape of Bordeaux and can be found in many of the world's top Bordeaux Blend wines. It most commonly appears in blended red wines, where it adds herbac.
The Central Coast AVA in California covers the long stretch of coastline from San Francisco Bay south to Santa Barbara, and reaches inland from the Pacific Ocean to the borders of the Central Valley. The climate and topography vary enormously across this immense region, making it impossible to ge.
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Vintage quality: Legendary
Current condition: Ready to drink, will keep
California had an exceptional 2013 vintage.
A mild, dry spring got the growing season off to an early start and ultimately delivered an equally early harvest. The summer was balmy and smooth and had few, if any, hiccups despite being extremely hot and dry.
Columbia River Gorge
Be sure to mention The Giving Season if inquiring for more information. Quantities and offer terms are subject to change. Visit Gorge Wine for more on the region.
Cathedral Ridge Winery ⇒
Cathedral Ridge tasting room reservations include one complimentary bottle of wine for tasting per group. Guests must make reservation cathedralridgewinery.com or by calling (541) 386-2882.
Receive 10% off any online purchase of three bottles or more, shipping is included over $100.
Cerulean Wine ⇒
Cerulean will donate 10% of proceeds to Northwest Children’s Outreach, Raphael House of Portland, and Project Lemonade to support children and those more vulnerable.
Cerulean Wine also enjoys giving back to their customers. During The Giving Season enjoy 10% off with code GIVING2020.
Idiot’s Grace Wines ⇒
Idiot’s Grace will donate a percentage of proceeds to World Central Kitchen, a food-based crisis non-profit.
Phelps Creek Vineyards ⇒
Phelps Creek will donate $5 from each purchase of the Columbia Gorge-ous Pair (Columbia Gorge Chardonnay/Columbia Gorge Pinot Noir) to One Community Health Center, for their support of Columbia Gorge agriculture workers.
Purchase an Estate Reserve wine trio (Cuvee Alexandrine PN/Lynette Chardonnay/Estate Reserve Pinot Gris) and receive a complimentary certificate for a Signature Tasting for four, valid through next summer.
For each bottle purchased in person at the Tasting Room or Vineyard, the second bottle is 50% off. Not available online.
Cabernet Franc wines from France, Napa and Columbia Valley
SOMETIMES the gallery of Bordeaux varieties resembles a dynamic trio of comic-book heroes: Cabernet Sauvignon is the beefy, muscle-bound brute -- Lord of the Medoc, as well as of Napa Valley and points beyond. Merlot is rather willowy by comparison but pleasingly so, a relative lightweight that gets by on finesse, sometimes at the expense of character. Somewhere between Cabernet Sauvignon’s intestinal fortitude and Merlot’s all-purpose weeniness a third variety lurks, a tween called Cabernet Franc.
Cabernet Franc is the Great Insinuator. When inserted into the classic blends of Bordeaux, California and Washington state, the variety is a subtle and fascinating addition. On its own, particularly in varietal bottlings from the Loire Valley, it’s a wine with oomph, but with a tender side too. In the right circumstances, few varieties on Earth are as recognizable as Cabernet Franc with its fine texture, its mid-level depth and pungent, characteristic herbaceousness.
Cabernet Franc is believed to be one of the genetic parents of Cabernet Sauvignon (the other is Sauvignon Blanc). It is grown all over the world in diminutive parcels, but aside from relatively new plantings in Italy, its most consistent and devoted expression is in the Loire and Bordeaux regions in France, with significant plantings in California and Washington.
In the Loire Valley, its reputation is centered in and around the Touraine area, and in particular the appellations of Saumur-Champigny, Bourgueil and Chinon. These villages lie among a tangle of river branches and confluences, making the geography and the soil content of each place complex and distinct, and each appellation’s expression of minerality slightly different. Most of these are ancient alluvial river deposits the great exception is Saumur-Champigny, whose vineyards rest on a deposit of limestone so dense that centuries-old troglodytic (prehistoric cave) dwellings are still in use.
In Bordeaux it is most commonly planted on the right bank of the Dordogne River in the vineyards of Pomerol, St.-Émilion and Fronsac. Blended in many right-bank wines, it’s not usually the dominant player but is prized more for its middleweight contribution, its bright core of red-tinged fruit and its firm but nimble texture. Aside from Cheval Blanc, one of Bordeaux’s most famous wines, you would be hard-pressed to find a single wine in which Cabernet Franc consistently represents the majority of the blend.
Bordeaux may be guilty of a fear of commitment, but that’s no longer true in the U.S. In California and Washington, Franc is being planted more widely than ever, and in better places. Though the number of 100% Franc bottlings remains low, the grape is contributing to blends in ever-greater percentages.
In wines made with Cabernet Franc an herbal aromatic imprint is common. The Loire Valley has been thought of as the edge of where Cabernet Franc can successfully ripen, and that cool climate lends a distinct herbal top note. Its expression has a variety of iterations, including dill, olive, saddle leather, tobacco leaf and floral scents reminiscent of lavender and violets, as well as a vast bouquet of peppers.
In fact, the herbal marker is so unique that when it goes missing, as it does in warmer sites, the wines can seem generic and sullen. Too much and the wine can be green and weedy -- “flavors [that are] better on your plate than in your glass,” says Cadence Winery’s Ben Smith, who grows Cabernet Franc in Washington state.
A signature herbal note
IN THE Loire, those herbal notes are central to the variety’s expression, almost like an antidote to the fruit bomb, but such flavors have been considered anathema in most California reds. Nevertheless, certain California winemakers strive for an herbal edge to their Cabernet Francs and blends without it, they feel, the variety has lost something.
“The most interesting wines will have a hint of [herbaceousness] -- but not have it be distracting,” says Tony Soter, who, as a consultant and with his own labels, Etude and Soter Vineyards, has grown and made Cabernet Franc primarily for blending for 20 years in California.
Winemaker John Skupny would be another Cal Franc “herbalist.” As an assistant winemaker in the Napa Valley, Skupny worked with Cabernet Franc in a number of winery cellars, mostly as a blending component. Then, in 1992, an arresting barrel of 100% Cabernet Franc at Niebaum Coppola Winery alerted him to the possibility that the grape might have a future in Northern California. “We were used to putting about 5% Franc into our blends and leaving behind several barrels. I started to wonder what it would be like to make one from the ground up.”
IN 1996, Skupny and his wife, Tracey, founded their Cab-Franc-centric winery, Lang & Reed Wine Co. Like its chosen grape variety, Lang & Reed remains an anomaly in Napa, which is Cabernet Sauvignon country. Its two principle Cab Francs -- a North Coast cuvée composed primarily of Lake County fruit, and a Napa-based bottling they call Premier Étage -- have had a distinctly cool Loire palette of flavors (albeit the Loire in a warm year).
Lang & Reed wines in the best vintages have always retained a mildly herbal edge. “With the proper volume of fruit,” Skupny says, “that herbaceous quality is an adjunct, instead of a negative.”
About half a dozen years ago, Skupny began to consider making a Franc-based wine that possessed more of the attributes of St.-Émilion, in Bordeaux. “It was a slow-percolating thing,” he says. “I figured I’d learned enough about the grape to take it in another direction.” Their new bottling, called Right Bank, debuts this week with the 2004 vintage. A pre-release tasting reveals a wine that’s much more firmly structured than his Loire-inspired wines but still lightly tannined, still fresh and still possessing a texture that points to Cab Franc’s inherent tenderness.
One of Skupny’s mentors in Napa was Soter, who has moved most of his winemaking efforts to Oregon, where Soter Vineyards is based. Soter retains a small vineyard called Little Creek in Napa, which is largely planted with Cabernet Franc. The 2004 Little Creek, blended with Malbec and a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon, is as supple as Lang & Reed Right Bank, and has a poise that’s rare in your average Bordeaux-style red from Napa. It’s a wine that plays to the Cab Franc’s strengths -- a fine-toned, red-fruited wine built on poise, not power.
Washington state might have the climate that can best steer Cabernet Franc to its sweet spot. Columbia Valley is justly praised for its Merlot, which ripens during the long hot days of a Washington summer and eases into maturity in the cooler, darker days of autumn. Cabernet Franc’s growing habits fall comfortably into this vector. Two of the region’s more successful stylists, Cadence’s Ben Smith and Chris Camarda of Andrew Will Winery, have planted significant portions of new vineyard projects with the varietal.
“It grows amazingly well here,” Chris Camarda says. “People who don’t even have a golden hand grow respectable Cab Franc.” Camarda has been making Bordeaux-style blends since 1994, purchasing Franc from some of the great vineyards in the state, including Champoux Vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills, and Ciel du Cheval, in Washington’s hot new appellation, Red Mountain. More than a third of his new Yakima Valley vineyard Two Blondes is devoted to Franc, which composes the core of his Champoux and Ciel du Cheval Bordeaux-style blends.
When Ben Smith got the chance to plant on Red Mountain, he knew he’d plant Cabernet Franc. It now constitutes half of his young vineyard, Cara Mia. Cab Franc has always played an important role in his top wine, Bel Canto, a wine that personifies the elegance that Washington achieves in its Bordeaux-style reds.
“I’m just not a fruit bomb kind of guy,” Smith says. “I prefer some savory notes.” A green edge, he admits, is not for everyone, but in Washington, the grape’s growth cycle naturally ripens past that point. “After that green goes away you get tobacco, some cedar, some cigar box -- that’s when it really pings for me.”
White wine Case Study: Making Chardonnay
by Chik Brenneman
Chardonnay is one of the world’s most popular wine grapes, as evidenced by widespread plantings in France, Australia, South Africa, South America and the United States. The grape is thought to have originated in France, and DNA evidence supports that idea. Having been around for so long, it is not surprising that there are many clones — The Foundation Plant Services (FPS) at UC-Davis lists 63 clones, and that is just for material that they have cleaned up and certified to be virus free!
In France, you will find Chardonnay in the white wines of Burgundy, hence they are referred to as white Burgundy. It is the predominant grape in the Chablis and Côte de Beaune sub-regions, but as you move south through Burgundy it tends to be blended into more value-priced wines with the Aligoté and Pinot Blanc grapes. Outside of Burgundy, it is one of the three main varieties in the Champagne region. This grape accounts for about 60% of the total area planted in the Burgundy and Champagne regions. It is found in the Loire and other regions and the rules regarding its use vary. The Languedoc was the first region to begin marketing Chardonnay wines as a specific varietal, which was a move away from the traditional French Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) dominated rules on growing and blending wines by region.
Beyond France, Chardonnay is planted throughout the world and is generally marketed as a single varietal. Cooler climate grapes tend to be higher in acid and warmer regions lower acid. Given the extent of plantings around the world, you will also find a wide range of soil types and rootstocks in use. In California, largely due to a planting boom in the late 1990s, it is the single most planted white wine grape. In 2007, there were 91,348 acres planted. This amounts to 54% of the total acreage in white wine grapes, and one fifth of the total acreage of all the wine grapes grown in the state.
Chardonnay is often made as a sparkling wine, or dry white the former as 100% Chardonnay, blanc de blanc, or blended with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in various styles. The dry white styles vary by country and region produced. In warmer regions, the fruit generally has higher Brix and higher alcohol and augmented with large amounts of oak and allowed to develop malolactic fermentation byproducts.
In my opinion, the best Chardonnay wines are from grapes grown in the cooler regions. These are wines with crisp acidity and pair best with foods. Good quality grapes when ripe present flavors of apple, pear, melon and tropical fruits. In the wine, the resulting fermentation bouquet takes on citrus and cream overtones. Subtle uses of oak and, in some rare cases, (for me at least), a partial malolactic fermentation may be suitable. Malolactic fermentation can add some mouthfeel to a sometimes thin wine. The disadvantage of the malolactic fermentation is if allowed to go to completion, the wine can be overpowered by malolactic flavors, including diacetyl, or buttery characters.
Typical Brix levels at harvest are 23.5 to 25 °Brix. Outside of this range leads to wines that are largely flat with no varietal character. The high Brix leads to higher alcohols and a total overwhelming of your taste buds. The pH is an important parameter to monitor as well, which rises as the fruit hangs on the vine longer, leading to flatter, thinner wines. That said, while pH is important and should be noted, I prefer to pay more attention to the titratable acidity (TA) of the grapes and resulting juice. The pH is important in driving the chemical stability of the wine, but it is the TA that contributes to mouthfeel and enhances the natural flavors in the grape. Target your acid levels to be around 6.0 to 7.0 g/L. Remember that this is the sum total of the weak organic acids in the wine. I will supplement acid deficient juice with tartaric acid to 6.0–7.0 g/L if the acid in the grape is too low. For partial malolactic fermentation, target for 7.0 g/L, and if you will prevent the ML, target for the lower number. Your goal here is to be in the range of 6.0 g/L on your finished wine. The variability of rootstock, soil type and region will affect the TA in the juice and even some good quality juice will require a supplement from time to time. Make sure you supplement at this stage, but don’t overdo it. I find that one of the biggest problems in home winemaking is making decisions about adding acid.
Premier Cuvée yeast works well for a Chardonnay fermentation, providing you can maintain 55–60 °F (13–16 °C). After fermentation taste your wine critically. Is the wine thin? At this point, if you are fairly comfortable with your winemaking skills consider aging the wine sur lie, which means “on the lees.” Only consider this if the lees do not smell of rotten egg, otherwise discard the lees. When aging sur lie, stir the lees every two weeks, until you are ready to begin clearing the wine for bottling.
If you had to remove the wine from the lees, you can add mouthfeel with oak products. Experiment with oak alternatives in small batches. Remove the oak before it imparts too much flavor. Remember there are other components in the product that will be extracted as well. Do not assume that a longer extraction will get more of what you are looking for.
Chardonnay Recipe (without malolactic fermentation)
Yield: 5 gallons/19 L
• 100 pounds (45 kg) Chardonnay fruit or 6 gallons (23 L) juice
• Distilled water
• 15% potassium metabisulfite (KMBS) solution: To make,weigh 15 grams of KMBS, dissolve into about 75 milliliters (mL) of distilled water. When completely dissolved, make up to 100 mL total with distilled water.
• 5 g Premier Cuvée yeast (also known as EC1118, Prise de Mousse)
• 5 g Di-ammonium Phosphate (DAP)
• 5 g Fermaid K (or equivalent yeast nutrient) *Wait to prepare this until the fermentation has initiated. Boil about 50 mL of water, let cool, suspend the powder and add to the juice.
• 5 gallon (19 L) carboy
• 6 gallon (23 L) plastic bucket
• Racking hoses
• Inert Gas (nitrogen, argon or carbon dioxide will do)
• Refrigerator (
45 °F/7 °C) to cold settle the juice.
• Ability to maintain a fermentation temperature of 55 °F (13 °C). This isn’t always possible for home winemakers, but you can control the fermentation in smaller carboys by submerging them in cold water or an ice bath, as required, and monitoring the temperature closely.
• Thermometer capable of measuring between 40–110 °F (4–43 °C) in one degree increments.
• Pipettes with the ability to add in increments of 1 milliliter
• Clinitest® tablets
• Tartaric acid
1. Clean and sanitize all your winemaking equipment, tools and surfaces.
2. If using fresh grapes, crush and press the grapes. Do not delay between crushing and pressing. Move the must directly to the press and press lightly to avoid extended contact with the skins and seeds.
3. Transfer the juice to a 6-gallon (23 L) bucket. During the transfer, add 7 milliliters of 15% KMBS solution (This addition is the equivalent of 50 ppm SO2).
4. Move the juice to a refrigerator.
5. Take a sample to test for acidity and pH.
6. Let the juice settle at least overnight. Layer the headspace with inert gas and keep covered.
7. When sufficiently settled, rack the juice off of the solids into the 6-gallon (23-L) bucket.
8. Dissolve the DAP in as little distilled water required to completely go into solution (usually
9. If you need to adjust for acid, this is the time to mix in your acid. Prepare yeast.
• Heat about 50 mL distilled water to 104 °F (40 °C). Do not exceed this temperature as you will kill the yeast. If you overshoot the temperature, start over, or add some cooler water to get the temperature just right. The end result is you want 50 mL of water at 104 °F (40 °C).
• Sprinkle the yeast on the surface of the water (not the must) and gently mix so that no clumps exist. Let sit for 15 minutes undisturbed
• Measure the temperature of the yeast suspension
• Measure the temperature of the juice. You do not want to add the yeast to your cool juice if the temperature difference exceeds 15 °F (8 °C). Acclimate your yeast by taking about 10 mL of the cold juice and adding it to the yeast suspension. Wait 15 minutes and measure the temperature again. Do this until you are within the specified temperature range.
10. When the yeast is ready, add it to the carboy and move the carboy to an area where the ambient temperature can be maintained at 55 °F (13 °C).
11. You should see signs of fermentation within about two to three days. This will appear as some foaming on the surface and the airlock will have bubbles moving through it. If the fermentation has not started by day four, you might consider warming the juice to 60–65 °F (16–18 °C) temporarily to stimulate the yeast. Once the fermentation starts, move back to the lower temperature. If that does not work, consider re-pitching the yeast as described above.
12. Mix up the Fermaid K in about 50 mL of previously boiled water (to sterilize it so you can add it to the juice)
13. Normally you would monitor the progress of the fermentation by measuring Brix. One of the biggest problems with making white wine at home is maintaining a clean fermentation. Entering the carboy to measure the sugar is a prime way to infect the fermentation with undesirable microbes. So at this point, the presence of noticeable fermentation is good enough. Leave well enough alone for at least two weeks. The cooler temperature will cause the yeast to ferment slowly.
14. If your airlock becomes dirty by foaming over, remove it and clean it and replace as quickly and cleanly as possible. Sanitize anything that will come in contact with the juice.
15. Assuming the fermentation has progressed, then after about two weeks, it is time to start measuring the sugar. Sanitize your thief remove just enough liquid for your hydrometer. Record your results.
• If the Brix is greater than 7 °B (1.028 S.G.), then wait another week before measuring.
• If the Brix is less than 7 °B (1.028 S.G.), begin measuring every other day, and transfer to a 5-gallon (19-L) carboy (it’s ok to transfer some of the lees here), and place a fermentation lock on the carboy.
• When the Brix is about 2 °B (1.008), add 4 mL of the 15% KMBS solution (this addition is the equivalent to 20 ppm SO2).
16. Measure the Brix every other day until you have two readings in a row that are negative and about the same.
17. Measure the residual sugar using the Clinitest®. Follow the kit instructions.
• If the wine is dry, that being about 0.5% or less, add another 4 mL of KMBS (20 ppm) and begin to lower the temperature to about 40 °F (4 °C). A refrigerator works for this.
18. Taste the wine
•If there is any sulfide like (rotten egg) odors, rack the wine off the lees.
• If the wine smells good, let the lees settle for about two weeks and stir them up. Repeat this every two weeks for eight weeks. This will be a total of four stirs.
19. After the second stir, check the SO2 and adjust to 30–35 ppm free (see note at the end of the recipe)
20. After eight weeks, let the lees settle. At this point, the wine is going to be crystal clear or a little cloudy. If the wine is crystal clear, then that is great! If the wine is cloudy, then presumably, if you have kept up with the SO2 additions and adjustments, temperature control, kept a sanitary environment, and there is no visible sign of a re-fermentation, then this is most likely a protein haze. Clarify the wine with bentonite.
21. While aging, test for SO2. Maintain at 30–35 ppm.
22. Once the wine is cleared, it is time to move it to the bottle. This would be about six months after the onset of fermentation. Keep in mind this wine has had the MLF inhibited. If all has gone well to this point, given the quantity made, it can probably be bottled without filtration. Your losses during filtration could be significant. That said, maintain sanitary conditions while bottling and you should have a clean, crisp Chardonnay that pairs well with lemon-based chicken or seafood dishes.
Sulfur Dioxide Additions:
This recipe calls for specific additions of sulfur dioxide at specified intervals. Once these scripted additions are made, you must monitor and maintain to 30–35 ppm. Adjust as necessary using the potassium metabisulfite solution previously described or by methods of your own choosing.
What Is The Drinking Window For Wine?
Wine experts and critics reviews will give you a period when they think the wine will be at its peak age - their drinking window.
When it comes to the drinking window for any type of wine, you need to consider how the wine has been stored since it has been bought.
Fine red wines (Cabernet or Merlot) will need some time to evolve into their full character before they are ready to be opened. Open it too early, all you will taste are the tannins. Wait too long, and the fruity flavor you were looking forward to will vanish.
Drinking windows are not set in stone, but you should rather use it as a general guide when you are buying or storing your next bottle of red wine.
Wood Worth the Effort
While the winery itself may be modest, the barrels that fill it are anything but. Jess Jackson was an early pioneer in vertical integration, at least when it came to production. He purchased a small stave mill in France in 1994 as a way of reducing his costs while improving the quality of his barrels (some long-time California winemakers suggest that the barrels on offer from French coopers in the early Nineties were not exactly the cream of the crop).
Jackson’s barrel operation has grown from an initial set of 10 employees to more than 150 today.
Seillan quickly moved to exploit this asset of his parent company, crafting a custom barrel program for himself that would be the envy of almost any winery. Indeed, he suggests he may be the only winery in the world that selects and controls every single piece of wood he uses from tree all the way to barrel.
The raw wood (as uncut trees) is purchased three years in advance at auction from 14 different French forests and one in Germany. It is cut to Seillan’s specifications, shaped into staves, and aged in the forests surrounding the mill for 24 to 36 months, after which it is made into barrels, each piece of which can be traced back to the individual tree it came from.
The long air drying, tight grain, and non-aggressive toasting regime that Seillan specifies means that he can use 100% new oak on his wines without introducing significant oak flavors and aromas.
Why This Master of Wine Moved from Napa to the Finger Lakes
FLX wine country is booming with Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Gewürztraminer. Master of Wine Nova Cadamatre has the scoop on what’s new and exciting.
I moved from Brooklyn to California five years ago, and even amidst a veritable sea of Napa Cabernet, never lost my love for New York State wines and all their cool-climate glory. While my Napa counterparts may roll their eyes, I know well the world-class wines to be consumed from the Finger Lakes, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley. If I close my eyes and think about it, I can still recall my first taste of the scintillating Hermann J. Wiemer’s Magdalena Vineyard Riesling and its honeyed finish, or Channing Daughters’ mesmerizing earthy and bright Blaufrankisch, and a 2002 Lenz Merlot that I swore was an old Right Bank red. So, when I heard that Nova Cadamatre MW𠅊 Master of Wine—had moved to the Finger Lakes to make Riesling, I quietly jumped for joy.
Although Nova was not the first woman to become a Master of Wine, she can undoubtedly brag of several 𠇏irsts.” For one thing, the South Carolina native, who became a Master of Wine in 2017, is possibly the only MW to boast of working her first harvest in Pennsylvania. And in 2004, she enrolled in Cornell University’s newly formed Viticulture and Enology program. She knew nothing about wine, but liked to grow plants, and was attracted to grapevines because of their temperament and needs—similar to that of roses.
When she graduated from Cornell in 2006, the wine industry in the Finger Lakes wasn’t quite developed enough, and there wasn’t demand for full-time winemakers. So, after college, she moved to California and spent nine years making wine for Souverain, Beringer, Château St. Jean, and Robert Mondavi Winery. But almost a decade later, the wine industry in the Fingers Lakes—known as 𠇏LX” to locals—was booming, the energy palpable. And in 2015, she decided to move back.
Q: It isn’t every day that a Master of Wine moves from Napa Valley to the Finger Lakes region of New York State. As a winemaker, what attracted you to FLX?
Nova Cadamatre: The climate and soils are what drew me in—the Finger Lakes region boasts a cold, continental climate, so without the lakes, vinifera vines, which benefit from radiant heat off the lakes, would be impossible to grow here. The lakes were formed around 10,000 years ago after the Wisconsin glaciers swept through the area and scoured the land to expose the bedrock, which is Devonian era shale, rich with fossil deposits.
The topsoil is composed of glacial deposits, and vineyards vary in the number of deposits, even within the same vineyard, which makes planting a vineyard a bit challenging, but leads to a wide diversity of expressions from the various grapes planted. Vines must be close to one of the lakes to take advantage of the radiant heat given off by the water during the winter. Since the lakes are so deep, they act as a heat sink during the summer and then a heat source during the winter. Seneca lake—the largest and deepest at 600 feet—has only frozen over completely four times in recorded history.
Q: What are the main styles of wine produced from FLX’s primary grapes?
NC: The most widely planted grape is Riesling. But we also have Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir, as well as Blaufränkisch (known as Lemberger locally), Saperavi, and Teroldego.
But Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, and Cabernet Franc reign supreme. Rieslings range in style from bone-dry to very sweet and for me are close in style to those from Pfalz in Germany. Many winemakers are trying some cool experiments, like neutral barrel fermentations and skin contact to increase complexity in their Rieslings.
You can find anything from pure stainless steel Chardonnays all the way to fully oaked bottlings. Because we share a climate similar to Chablis, FLX Chardonnay acid tends to be very lean and the style mineral-driven.
The best Gewürztraminers rival the best that Alsace can produce. These whites are exquisite with vibrant aromatic expressions and balanced, fresh acid, which distinguishes them from more flabby and fat examples made in warmer climates.
FLX Cabernet Franc tends to be light-bodied, with red berry fruit and earthy notes, but a few winemakers, including myself, are making more medium-bodied, fuller styles. Some winemakers are experimenting with unoaked Cabernet Franc, more akin to the reds of Beaujolais at the village level.
There are also several FLX wineries making sparkling wine from the local Cayuga grape, similar to Prosecco, as well as beautiful sparkling wines from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the traditional methodrmented in the bottle like Champagne.
Q: You make two Rieslings that are entirely different stylistically from one another. Tell me about them.
NC: One is a more classic Finger Lakes style, which is off-dry, fruit forward, and approachable early. I do use about 20 percent neutral-barrel fermentation, which adds complexity and richness on the palate — this is typical of the best producers in the area.
Under my label, Trestle Thirty-One, I take a more avant-garde approach. Just after pressing my grapes, I allow two hours of skin-contact to increase the tannin levels, followed by a five-day cold-soak of the juice and solids before I rack off the juice and start fermentation. I ferment the wine completely to make a bone-dry style, and then bottle age for a significant time before releasing it to the public—the time in the bottle makes my Riesling more approachable young but will age a long time.
Q: Can you name some of your favorite producers in the area? How about favorite wine experiences?
NC: I highly recommend planning your trip, as many of the wineries are spread apart by the lakes, and it takes quite a while to drive between them although it is a beautiful drive. Here’s my short list of favorites: Ravines Wine Cellars, Fox Run Vineyards, Red Newt Cellars, Keuka Spring Vineyards, Sheldrake Point Winery, Thirsty Owl Wine Company, Kemmeter Wines, Anthony Road Wine Company, Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, and of course Dr. Konstantin Frank Wine Cellars.
Q: How do you see the FLX winegrowing scene changing in the next ten years?
NC: Right now we are still relatively unknown to a large number of people, but word is getting out, and it’s clear that the next 10 years will see a rapid growth of the industry and tourism. I like to think we are in the sample place Napa was back in the 1970s. As more and more people realize how fantastic the wines are from FLX, we will continue to develop into a national destination for food and wine.
Q: Have you had a chance to taste any aged bottles of New York State wine?
NC: The oldest bottles of Riesling I’ve tasted have been around 15 years old from Thirsty Owl Wine Company — and they are still singing. The acid helps wines age well, and I can only imagine that as the quality of winemaking and grape growing improves that the wines longevity will continue to develop as well.
What NOT to Buy
Walking into any wine store to pick up gifts without a firm plan in mind can be an overwhelming experience. A sea of confusing labels all compete for your attention in a cacophony of choice. Therefore we will start by reducing the seemingly endless array of options through the process of elimination.
Unless you are very sure that the gift recipient likes any of the following styles (in which case you are unlikely to need this advice) or the person is exceptionally well-versed in the subject of wine is open to trying all kinds of obscure styles, it is advised that you avoid gifting the following wines. Wine is a highly personal beverage, and although you may be temped to want to introduce someone to something unique or unusual, few people are truly super adventurous when it comes to their wine taste preference. Your well intentioned and gift may be re-gifted, returned -or worst of all: opened and not enjoyed, causing the rest of the bottle to be wastefully dumped out! Best gift-giving practice when you are unsure is to play it on the safe side.
The following may all be good wines, but they tend to be too specific or niche to go with when you are flying in the dark and trying to pick something to give as a gift from the vast world of wine.
Wines to avoid giving as gifts:
- Fortified wines such as port, sherry, Madeira, Marsala or any other wine with spirit added, as these tend to be mainly enjoyed by those with an acquired taste for them.
- Dessert wines such as late harvest or ice wine, as the intense sweetness and syrupy mouthfeel of these wines can be very off-putting for some
- Fruit wines, which are also not typically for everyone.
- Wines made from rare grape varieties or from very obscure or unestablished wine regions.
- Flavoured or infused wines such as Vermouth, mulled wine, or Greek retsina wine
- Wines on the extremes: very light or overly powerful reds, excessively rich, oaky and buttery whites or wines with too much unbalanced sweetness (like sweet Italian Asti Spumante or Vin Santo, or sweet styles of Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Muscat or Chenin Blanc), or wines with very high acidity such as one would find in classic Portuguese Vinho Verde or very dry Alsatian Riesling.
- Rosé or blush (pink) wines as they tend to be seasonal, don&apost age well if the recipient doesn&apost drink it right away, and also are not for everyone
- Heavily discounted wines. Chances are that they are not selling for a good reason.
- Wines "made" by celebrities. Unless your recipient is a big fan, these wines tend to offer less value per dollar due to the marketing premium related to celebrity branding.
- Homemade wine. Unless you are a professional commercial winemaker who experiments in your garage in your off-hours, others (polite as they may be) are never going to be as enthralled with your fermented home creation as you are.
- Large-format bottles, as they are difficult to store due to their size (they don&apost fit on wine racks) and are a large commitment to finish once open.
- Wine packaged in specialty bottles such as tree ornaments or animal shapes - the look may be fun but wine inside is usually the lowest possible quality.
- Canned, boxed, or tetra-packed wine. Alternative packaging carries a "cheap" stigma and should be avoided as gifts.