By Bernard Cannac, Winemaker
Harvest started much earlier than last year. We had more heat and more sun in 2010 than we did in 2009, which explains why the grapes got ripe earlier. We started on September 3rd with some Seyval Blanc for the Game Bird line. It was followed by some Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris dedicated to the Eclipse White blend. Then Pinot and Chardonnay came in at the same time; these two varietals tend to get ready to pick close to each other, with Pinot Noir being slightly earlier than the Chardonnay, but not this year. The Muscat has been picked at around that time too.
We actually just released the 2009 Heron Hill Muscat this week, and it is selling very quickly, people are enjoying it. We only produced 300 cases and I have the feeling they will go fast.
This week we picked most of the Riesling, trying to dodge the rain as well as we could. The decision to pick a block before another is based on the maturity level of the fruit, the sugar content and the acidity, but also the flavor profile, which we call aromatic maturity, which is for me the most important. Another factor is the weather and the sanitary condition of the block. And then we have to add the logistic factor. All this makes harvest very exciting.
Next, will be the rest of Ingle Vineyard Riesling being picked today. We will also see some Cabernet Franc be harvested next week. The picking frenzy will slow down with some Cabernet Sauvignon the following week and then we will see what the weather does and what we can hope for our dessert wines. It is always nice to have a plan or a schedule, but ultimately the weather will dictate the speed of harvest.
Once all the grapes have been picked, it might look quieter outside, but the party continues in the cellar for the fermentations, which demand constant attention and care. Even if harvest is early this year, don’t worry, we still will be busy until the Holidays!
By John Ingle, Owner/Grapegrower
It’s autumn in the Finger Lakes, harvest time, and I feel like I’m “sitting on a gold mine.” It has been the hottest summer in memory and the result is ultra-ripe grapes. The sweetness level is comparable to middle or late October. Half of the Pinot Noir, our “Old Field” has been picked and brought over, I bought these vines from Hermann Wiemer over 25 years ago. The other half of Pinot will be brought in tomorrow. These pictures are of the Chardonnay from “Carl’s Block”, which is a higher elevation vineyard, these grapes will be used in the Unoaked Chardonnay because they have a higher acidity. The other half of Chardonnay grapes, from “Vern’s Block” will also be brought in tomorrow. Last year, “Vern’s Block” was hit with frost, so it’s nice to see it bounce back this year.
Part of the excellence we’re seeing is due to the late frosts that reduced the crop size here in mid-May. Less fruit – more concentration, better ripening. Last year it was cold and wet – what we call a “Riesling year.” Moderate alcohol levels, nice crisp acidity, years like this in 2010 are red wine years. The heat builds ripeness, ups sugar levels, and creates more alcohol as well as more body and color in the wine. We used to only get 3 or 4 out of 10 years as red wine years (70’s and 80’s) in the Finger Lakes. So it’s very energizing to have this opportunity. Now that’s like “sitting on a gold mine.”
By Tambi Schweizer, Tasting Hall Manager
Over the years I have been asked numerous questions, so I have kept a journal of them. Hopefully my answers will entertain and educate….
On a typical night, what wine is in your glass?
I tend to be a dry red wine drinker, but it has been such a hot summer that I have been drinking my two favorite white wines that we carry here at Heron Hill, the Reserve Pinot Blanc and the Ingle Vineyard Chardonnay. As the weather has cooled down over the past few weeks (which puts an end to camping…oh so sad!), I have switched to one of my favorite red grapes, Cabernet Franc.
Is there a quality you like most in wine?
Alcohol….Oh wait…. I meant to say how well it pairs with food! Just this past weekend we served a roasted corn, red pepper and cheddar chowder and for dessert a maple pumpkin cheesecake drizzled with a pecan maple glaze. This matched SO amazingly well with the Semi-Dry Riesling that I paired with it for the Keuka Lake Wine Trail Harvest Tour of Food and Wine. I heard lots of great comments about how well the spiciness of the soup complimented the sweetness of the Riesling and how the acidity balanced the sweetness of the cheesecake.
Do you have a favorite piece of advice for when I am out wine tasting?
I tend to choose a color, white or red and often times I stick to a certain varietal, like Cabernet Franc, of which there are hundreds of different bottles here in the Finger Lakes region. The other advice that I usually give is to make sure you have eaten and drink LOTS of water.
Do you have a favorite hangover cure?
First, I drink close to a gallon of a water to flush out the system then take a few liquid Advil (love them…!) and finish with a few sips of one of our dessert wine, like the Late Harvest Ingle Vineyard Riesling Reserve. I think the 17.2% R.S. really helps to coat my stomach.
What is your favorite wine that you have ever drunk…Heron Hill or elsewhere?
My absolute favorite red wine that ever came out of Heron Hill was the 2002 Baco Noir Reserve. It was just an amazing full bodied syrah-style wine with plum and blackberry fruits along with tar and smoked meat notes. Unfortunately we only made 198 cases, but I am lucky enough to have put away almost a case of it! I hope to keep opening one per year on my birthday for quite a few years, as long as no bottles secretly disappear to hunting camp…..
What surprises people most about your job?
I think the fact that my staff and I are required to taste every bottle that we open; to check for corkage issues is the biggest shock. The wine tasters are usually astonished that we can “drink on the job”! I always tell everyone that is one of the “tortures” of the job!
What is the best time of the year to come wine taste?
I always am encouraging everyone to come in the off season, preferably not on the weekends, that way we can have a real conversation and really be able to spend time and be able to answer any and all question that you may have.
What else do you do around here for fun?
My favorite pastime is definitely going snowmobiling! I dream about snow ALL year round and pray for lots of it! When it’s not snowing; you can usually find me camping, especially near the fire concentrating on roasting the perfect s’more while drink out of my special light up wine glass (only $4.99 at the winery).
The other thing that I tend to do on my day off is get a friend or two and head to wine country and check out the other wineries. Just last week I went and have a great lobster bisque at my southern neighbor, Bully Hill, then continued on to a beer tasting at Keuka Brewing. I really loved the new beer called "After Burner”, it was made with Jalapeno Peppers…what a great concept; it started sweet at first and got spicier as it continued down and then finished with a calming effect. So cool! We then headed over to McGregor’s on the east side of Keuka and tried a few wines there with my former co-worker Dan. It was great to be able to catching up and share stories about all the craziness that happens!
By Mike "Ollie" Oliver, Blue Heron Café Director & Wholesale Sales Representative
Well, it has thus far been an exciting summer at the Blue Heron Café! I am proud to announce that we have been serving some great customers some amazing food. After getting settled in for the season, the Café got to a point that it could almost run itself.
On the whole, things have run very smoothly. We have been expanding beyond the menu to incorporate daily features. Some of the most popular include the Chicken Balsamico Panini and the Tuscan Roasted Pork Loin Wrap. I have been simply amazed at the volume of soup that we have been serving! Favorites here include the Lobster and Bay Scallop Bisque and the Tomato, Bacon, and Swiss soup. It would be difficult to name which Cheesecake has been the most popular, so I will have to rely on the reader to sample several to form a solid opinion! Many of these selections will have to be considered for next year’s menu.
The winery hosted a lot of our Wholesale customers in July for a V.I.P. tasting in the tower accented with hors d’oeuvres from the Café. While Christina handled the tastings, we were sending up a nice selection of wares from the Café to showcase our many talents. I did have a chance to meet with several of my restaurant and wine shop customers while this was happening. They all were pleasantly surprised by the “red carpet” treatment that we were offering!
I have just recently had the chance to get back on the road a bit. Last week, I was able to drive around and catch up with some of my more local wholesale customers. It seems that this aspect of my duties has been going well, but I look forward to going out to pour the new vintages. I have been really amazed at the volumes that some of these places have been selling!
At the beginning of the week, Paul and I attended the last of the Food and Wine Pairing Series hosted by the Switzerland Inn. We had begun talking about this in March and it was great to be there for the end product. The Chef, Brent, presented an amazing 6-course meal that we had arduously paired with our wines. (I would like to extend a special thanks to all that offered their input!) While giving a history of the winery, its mission, and explaining how and why we paired wines with the dishes, we had the chance to chat with many of the attendants. Attended by about 20 customers, this series has been a sell-out from its first day. More than half of the group had purchased tickets for every dinner! After speaking with several of the guests, it is obvious that there is a lot of local interest in this type of event. Maybe one at the winery in the near future???
By Steve and Pam Acker, Managers at the Seneca Lake Tasting Room
Our summer season is moving along at breakneck speed and we thought you should be introduced to the great group of people that make Heron Hill on Seneca such a wonderful place to visit. We will also share our best “5:05” (that is the sip of choice at closing time…..) from each team member.
Alicia joined us this spring and brings with her a wealth of wine knowledge from working in the industry for several years, as well as visiting many Finger Lakes wineries and sampling their products. Alicia’s “5:05”……..Late Harvest Riesling 2006
Barb has been with Heron Hill for 3 years and is our assistant manager. Working briefly for another winery, she is knowledgeable and interesting (their loss, our gain!), she hopes to make this her career. Barb’s “5:05”………..Reserve Pinot Noir 2007
Bill is one of our new employees this year and is our on site fix-it man and amateur winemaker. (Look out Bernard) Bill’s “5:05”…….Ingle Vineyard Riesling 2007 Dick is a 3 year employee who currently, along with his wife Diana, owns and operates Pilgrims Way B&B in Glenora. Dick’s pick…….Reserve Pinot Noir 2007
Ed joined the team this spring and is the other half of the “Ed and Gerry” team. He came to us via NYC and Florida and his “5:05” favorite is…..Classic Dry Riesling 2008
Erin, also new this year, is a preschool and physical education teacher and soccer and basketball coach! Erin rarely “sips” because she is almost always going to a game of some sort, but if she could, her “5:05” would be………..Classic Semi-Sweet Riesling 2008
Gerry was a graphic artist for romance magazines in NYC. She and Ed are “snow birds” who will leave us in October and hopefully return next May. Gerry is now romancing the Semi-Dry Riesling 2008
Pam is the tasting room manager who has been with Heron Hill on Seneca since the doors opened in 2006. Pam’s end of shift sip would be the Reserve Pinot Blanc 2008.
Last, but not least, is Steve. He is the retail manager and snake charmer who would most likely be sipping the Ingle Vineyard Riesling 2007 at the end of the day.
This diverse and incredibly talented group of individuals makes up TEAM SENECA. They are well trained, knowledgeable, fun and friendly. Stop by, say hello and taste. Find out for yourselves what makes Heron Hill on Seneca special!
Busy season is here and it has been challenging keeping our gift shop stocked. After spending several months with Paul, Steve and Tambi hashing away at what we will buy for the gift shop, the time has come. We all worked together to choose some new items and well as keep our customer favorites.
We are now carrying a variety of hand-blown glass items. Elijiah Smith is an artist out of Corning, NY. He has supplied us with pumpkins, bowls, vases, mugs and his unique wine stoppers. His glass has been a great local addition to the gift shop.
Another new line of products comes from Hunter and Hilsberg out of Syracuse, NY. They produce a number of delicious baking mixes. We are currently selling the Wild Raspberry Scone, NY Cheesecake, Raspberry Cheesecake and Cranberry Pecan Pancake mixes. They have been one of our top selling items this season. Each is packaged in 100% post consumer recyclable cardboard making them biodegradable.
The newest clothing item we are selling is the re-designed Heron t-shirt. Tambi designed this t-shirt for us with the goal of creating something new and fresh for Heron Hill this season. She did a great job and they have quickly become a staff favorite.
Hector Fudge is yet another new local product. We have been working with candymaker Kelly McCarthy to determine the bestselling types of fudge for the winery. Varieties available include: Mint Chocolate, Cookies and Cream, Peanut Butter Layered, and Hawaiian. Kelly has done a great job keeping everything in stock for us. And the fudge is so yummy!!
We have expanded our Havill Pottery display this season. A consistent favorite among our staff as well as customers. Each piece is made to perfection and is a great souvenir for out of town guests.
Finger Lakes Tiles by local artist Kala Stein have proved very popular and she has done a great job keeping up with demand for these unique items. These tiles represent every lake in the Finger Lakes and area great addition to your cottage or home.
The summer season has gotten off to a great start. If you need a gift for that special occasion, don’t forget about the Heron Hill Gift Shop. We carry a number of unique local items that you can feel good about giving.
This has been a wild and crazy spring and summer. After dodging frosts through May we've dealt with excessive heat, rain and dry spells. Every week has seen at least one or two "gully gushers" filling Canandaigua or Keuka lakes above normal levels. The vines are thriving nonetheless and it appears to be a moderate crop size with balanced leaf to fruit ratios and very good prospects for exceptional quality levels across the board in 2010. The generous rains were well timed and and greatly appreciated by winemaker Bernard Cannac and our production team as 6 acres of Riesling, Muscat and Vidal were planted at Heron Hill and an acre each of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon went in at Ingle Vineyard. Well chosen locations and carefully matched clones bode great things for future Heron Hill and Ingle Vineyard wines.
As the young vines shoot upward, the doors of Heron Hill's third tasting room fly open. Up the road from Bristol Harbor Resort, off Route 21 on the west side of Canandaigua Lake, Heron Hill at Bristol opened July 15th after over a year of work and preparation. There were many hurdles, hoops, and hassles to contend with but patience and perseverance prevailed. It was a great learning experience and it was especially the support and enthusiasm of Heron Hill fans, that carried me with the momentum to "git 'er done". With new manager Chuck Oyler on the scene along with my daughter Josie and several other enthusiastic servers, we're rarin' to bring delicious Heron Hill wine closer to Rochester and surrounding towns. Please do stop by and visit us soon!
By Steve & Pam Acker, Managers at the Seneca Lake Tasting Room
One of the things that keeps a career (and life in general) interesting, is change. With the beginning of the summer season upon us some changes have come to the tasting room at Heron Hill on Seneca. We have said goodbye to some talented and interesting staff who have moved on to their next challenges and at the same time we are welcoming new members to the Seneca team. Just as when we say goodbye to a special old vintage there is a slight sadness but then that is replaced by the anticipation of new things to come! With varied history and backgrounds there are new dynamics and ideas to share. Be assured that you will continue to find a well trained group ready to assist you in all your wine needs.
It has been a pleasure working with Kara and Paul from the Keuka location to introduce some exciting new items and terrific food items, many from local suppliers, to the retail shop.
Weather permitting we will again this summer be able to offer tastings on the patio at our outside bar. A lovely spot to sample some summer favorites such as the Heron Hill Classic Chardonnay 2008 or any one of the delicious Rieslings. Additionally, we will provide some great recipes to help you get the party started and keep it going. White wine summer sangria is featured and if you haven’t tried it yet now is the time. There are also some summer dishes(vegetable risotto!) you’ll want to try so come in and pick up a copy. This group loves food almost as much as it loves wine!
As we begin our fifth season on Seneca we invite you to stop by, have a taste, and say hello to some old friends here on Seneca and quite possibly you will leave having made some new ones as well.
WHITE WINE SUMMER SANGRIA
3 bottles Heron Hill Semi-Sweet Riesling 2008 or Game Bird Blush
1 litre bottle lemon-lime seltzer
¾ cup orange liquor (optional)
¾ cup orange juice
1 each - lemon, lime, orange thinly sliced
Freeze cranberry juice in two ice cube trays several hours before serving
Keep all other ingredients well chilled
In a large pitcher or punch bowl combine wine, liqueur, and orange juice. Add sliced fruit and let mixture sit a few minutes to combine flavors. When ready to serve, add the cranberry ice cubes and seltzer.
By Christina Bowe, Wholesale Sales Manager
With only two more weeks left until the 2010 season opening for many of the “North Country” businesses, the trusty Explorer and I ventured to Old Forge and found it to be as beautiful as ever. The sun was shinning, the temperatures were in the mid-70s, a perfect day to explore Old Forge, meet old friends and introduce myself to new customers.
I had forgotten how beautiful the drive was until I reached the town of Thendara, just south of Old Forge. Purple wild lupines lined the highway and guided my way. The roadsides are covered with these beautiful flowers. Wild lupine is a member of the pea family. It produces beautiful bluish-purple flowers in widely scattered clumps on the north and south side of the road. It is unfortunate that they do not last all summer for the entire tourist crowd to enjoy. I'm not sure if this is only in the Old Forge area, but I witnessed it last year and had forgotten until I made the turn into Thendara.
My first stop was the OLD FORGE LIQUOR STORE. Always my first stop when entering town. This store opened last season and is doing a great business. The owners, Lisa and Walt were there and gave me a big welcome. Those of you familiar with Old Forge might be aware of Walt’s Diner that serves up breakfast, lunch or dinner and never closes. They have the biggest pancake that I have ever seen, and I don’t believe anyone has actually finished it. The Liquor Store behind the Diner is Lisa and Walt’s latest venture. The store has a great selection of Heron Hill wines as well as some other interesting choices.
NORTHWOODS INN (www.northwoodsinnresort.com), 5 miles north of Old Forge was my next stop. A picturesque setting overlooking Fourth Lake, once again I was escorted by the beautiful lupines on my way up the hill. I met with Adam Shue who is new to the area and to Northwoods. Adam oversees two restaurants on the property, the Mountaineer Restaurant (fine dining) and Lakeside Tap Room for casual eats. Dine at the Mountaineer for an amazing menu with a view to match. If you go to the website you will see what a wonderful getaway Northwoods provides, with cabins, rooms and delicious dining options all situated right on Fourth Lake. If you’re just driving through the area, stop for a fabulous meal and a glass of Heron Hill wine.
BIG MOOSE INN (www.bigmooseinn.com). The Big Moose has new management at the helm this season. This beautiful historic inn built in 1903 sits on a private lake, called Big Moose Lake. I met with Lauren Sleeger who will be overseeing the dining room. New owners, Mark and Susan Mayer, who have over 30 years of hospitality experience behind them, will be in place as your host throughout your stay. After Lauren and I began to taste through our wines, the owner Mark arrived and finished the tasting. We topped it off with a Vinotini (Heron Hill’s latest concoction of Late Harvest Vidal, Vodka and a splash of cranberry, garnished with a frozen grape). Minus the frozen grape, I believe this was a hit.
If you are looking for something to do in Old Forge there is plenty to keep you busy, The Enchanted Forest Water Park, Old Forge Cruise Lines, and my personal favorite the Adirondack Scenic Railroad which leaves out of Thendara at the VAN AUKEN INN (another historical Inn www.vanaukensinne.com ). Again this summer, there are rumors that we will be on the wine trains. They are a fun time for all.
All-in-all Old Forge is beginning to wake up for the season. Two and a half hours from Rochester makes it a great getaway for the day or for the weekend. There are great restaurants and plenty of places to stay that are either family oriented or romantic getaways, OLD FORGE has it all. Prior to my position at Heron Hill, I had never visited this area and now it is probably one of my favorite places to go. If you get a chance, take a ride and discover OLD FORGE…..it is too close to home to miss.
By Bernard Cannac, Winemaker
This spring has been quite interesting so far: the latest spring frost was in mid-May, and from there the weather has been quite hot and humid.
Two weeks ago, we planted over seven acres of vines. The new planting took place mainly in front of the winery. We planted about five acres of Riesling including different clones. The diversity of the clones will bring more complexity to the wines in the future. We also planted about one acre of Muscat and one acre of Vidal Blanc, hopefully to make Icewines and Late Harvests, depending on the weather conditions.
Last fall we took some soil samples to get a soil analysis and added some lime, which was worked into the soil. In the spring, we added some natural fertilizers, which was also worked into the soil. It created a flat and smooth layer of soil for the laser planter.
We had a team of professionals come with a laser planter to make sure that the rows were at the right spacing and that the vines were planted evenly. This equipment belongs to the Hosmer Family and their partner. On the video, you can see how the planter operates. The team first makes a survey of the field, then puts markers on the field. It looks like lines of little flags with different colors. A laser beam then goes between two tripods and the photocell on the planter runs along the beam. The tractor driver has to keep the planter in line the whole time, looking at three lights: green means right in line, orange means slightly off line but acceptable and red means that the planter lost the beam. The team makes it look easy, but it takes a lot of skills to keep the ensemble in perfect alignment with an invisible laser beam. As you can see on the video, two persons feed the machine with plants, and Zac, our Vineyard Manager was walking behind the procession to make sure no vine was missing. We took turns for three days, walking in a dust cloud under the blazing sun. I have the sunburn to remind me about that weekend. It was Memorial Day weekend, and it was memorable.
For us, it has been a lot of work to get the soil ready for the planting, and now there will be a lot of work ahead of us: each vine has to have a pencil rod, so the young shoots can be lifted off the ground, we have to put the posts in the ground, then run at least one wire this season to clip the pencil rods on this lower wire.
So far the weather has been giving us enough rain, but we might have to water the plants individually in the next few days, if it doesn’t rain.
But it is a very exciting time for us, because all this work is for the foundation of a vineyard that will be there for a few decades. Once a vineyard is planted, it is very hard to change its characteristics. So we hope we did the right things and made the right decisions, because this vineyard is here to stay. It is up to us now to take good care of it, so we can get the best grapes it can produce, so we can make the best wines, for the delight of all of us.
Even though we have been busy at the vineyard, Brian has managed to get most of the wines ready for bottling. We actually bottled the 2007 Heron Hill Cabernet Franc last week. The wine is recovering from the bottling (bottle shock). It should be released in a couple of weeks. It is a solid wine, with a lot of fresh berry on the nose. It has a big body and will age beautifully. We also blended a Reserve Cabernet Franc, which will be bottled sometime in the summer.
In spring and summer, we always have something to do, inside or outside! Santé!
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