By John Ingle, Owner/Grapegrower
I could blog about the assorted sources of stress in the “idyllic” life of a winery owner. Or I could rant about the hassles, hurdles and roadblocks encountered in dealing with government, laws and politics when trying to provide alcohol to the masses. Instead I’m returning to my roots and talking about grapevines.
I love being in the vineyard, it’s always different and always the same. There is a cyclical process that occurs over a year’s time and for grapevines, it’s call a “vintage”. Each vintage is different with the type of weather and growing season Mother Nature deals and it’s the same in that the recurring tasks and procedures required to yield the best grapes are quite similar each year.
It is now late January and for the 38th year in a row, I am in the vineyard pruning grapevines. People ask what do you do in the winter as a winery owner? Go to Vegas? Au Contraire, it’s the balmy breezes of negative digit wind chill readings that greet me each morning or I stand bundled up like an Eskimo to whack away at some 150+ grapevines a day.
Each year a vine will produce long canes, 2 to 6 feet, with buds or internodes along each cane, up to 200 buds per vine. If these canes aren’t cut back, the vine will over produce and shut down. The 150 buds must be cut back to 20-50 buds to “balance” the vine’s leaf surface with the crop load. You can get a bigger than normal crop one year but you probably won’t the next year.
Pruning 1 acre, about 600+ vines a week means I have twenty weeks to hand prune my vines myself, take out weekends, holidays, white outs or freezing weather and I’m busy from December 1st to April 1st. I’m tired just thinking about it. But I do love it, each vine, creating the “balance”. I feel like an artist.
I recently answered some questions from Lenn Thompson of the New York Cork Report, a blog devoted to New York Wines. Here’s a link to his online article: Q&A with John Ingle, Owner of Heron Hill Winery.
By Tambi Schweizer, Tasting Hall Manager
2010? Can it really be so? I just got back from 3 weeks in the Bahamas and headed back to work immediately!!! I always seem to be a glutton for punishment; I mean really…who is going to do my laundry?
While down south I worked for about 3-4 hours a day fixing up Adirondack chairs that I found either at the local dump or alongside the road, painted our new wraparound deck on the beach house and spent many hours in the back yard cleaning brush. I also spent many hours trying to get all the sand back to the beach that was deposited on our front porch from a large blow that had come through a week before we got there.
Well, it wasn’t all work and no play. My boyfriend and I headed to the Abaco Inn on an almost daily basis to check out the Jack and Ginger specials at noon (we did get very thirsty from working SO hard during the morning hours)! Can you see our drinking buddy, Mr. Lizard who joined us on a fairly regular basis!
The weather wasn’t the greatest for the first 10 days, so we focused on working and hanging out with the family. It was a great family vacation, as my mom and dad were there along with my sister and her two adorable kids and of course my fabulous boyfriend, who became my bike mechanic during the vacation.
During the trip we went kayaking over on the bay side and ran across a great statue named Kate (who seemed to be playing more than studying…I can relate!) A couple of our friends who live on the island, Mike and Gail, found the statue and donated money to the school to be able to acquire the statue and locate it to the perfect spot in the cove at Fry’s Mangrove. When we were out bicycling one day on our way to the Abaco Inn I saw this sign by the side of the road that really cleared up any questions as to which way to go…this way or that way! Oh, I can’t forget that we found a huge treasure chest and ran/swan into a large school of fish…aren’t they cool?
Well, January in 2010 has brought a nice warmth from down south and here in the north the warmth is coming to my cheeks as I sit here drinking a glass of one of Heron Hill’s library wines, (want access…join our Platinum Wine Club for limited releases of our library wines) our 2002 Baco Noir. It has aged very well over the last 8 years with softening tannins and huge fruit on the finish. Here’s to many glasses of wine over the next year with hope that all our resolutions come true in 2010!
By Christina Bowe, Wholesale Sales Manager
T’was the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Sales at Heron Hill have slowed down for the season, however, in the October-December season, my cap switches from selling wines to retail customers to selling wines to consumers. There are many events; store-tastings and wine presentations in the past three months that keeps me busy, changing my focus to the actual consumers of Heron Hill Wine.
FIRST STOP - Syracuse Harvest Festival
November 13-16, 2009
At the Harvest Fest customers enjoyed a full weekend of unlimited sampling and purchasing fine quality food, wine and beer from New York growers and producers. Festival goers could taste everything from savory sauces to sophisticated wines and beers. There were also quality locally raised meats, specialty cheeses and fresh produce. There were cooking demonstrations and wine education seminars, which unfortunately, I was unable to attend. The attendance exceeded expectations, which surprised many of the festival organizers and vendors.
SECOND STOP - Palo Santo Restaurant, Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York
December 5, 2009
Whenever I have an opportunity to get to Brooklyn, I have to stop at Palo Santo. For those of you who have never been or are planning a trip, this is a “must go” restaurant.
If you are an adventurous diner and excited about sustainability and local foods, you are in for a real treat. This restaurant's cuisine is “Latin Market Cooking with South American Wines." However, he is now beginning to bring in a small selection of NY Wines. We are thrilled to be on their list! Many of the foods served are grown right on the roof of the brownstone above. You need to check out their website for their interesting horticulture endeavors.
Bernard and Lisa Cannac (winemaker and wife), Whitney (my helper for the weekend) and I ventured to the restaurant on Friday evening after a long drive to the city from Upstate. Bernard and Lisa were up for the challenge, but my daughter, Whitney, was not quite as daring and a little reluctant. Our server guided us through a fantastic dinner with the true taste of South American market cooking. The meal was exceptional; it was so good we never thought to take some pictures. After the meal, Whitney expressed that it was the “best meal she had every eaten!”
THIRD STOP - City Winery, Sip, Savor and Shop, New York City
December 6, 2009
The City Winery venue was amazing! Again, the turn out was more than expected. New York City has always been a difficult market for NY wines and the showing of people proves that NYC is beginning to realize the quality of their home state wines. Local restaurants, food purveyors from throughout the State were also present.
On this trip, I was excited to have Bernard Cannac, our winemaker and his wife Lisa attending. My “side-kick,” Whitney and I had tremendous feedback on Heron Hill wines. The positive attitudes and looks of surprise on everyone’s faces made the afternoon one to remember.
FOURTH STOP - Pride of NY (Desmond) Harvest Festival, Albany, NY
December 12-13, 2009
The following week, another event that brings the far eastern part of the State together for a celebration of NY wines and products, the Pride of NY Harvest Festival. This is the 13th year and the turnout was great. They probably should have named it the “Holiday Festival” since harvest has long past, and most people are thinking more about the holidays. The attendance was down, but the people there were repeat customers that enjoy the event. Proceeds from Harvest Fest benefits the Classroom Enrichment Fund at the Community Foundation of the Capital Region, to help local teachers purchase curriculum and classroom.
So, until next year when I hop behind the wheel of the trusted Explorer and hit the Interstate spreading the word about Heron Hill Winery, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good-night! Have a happy, healthy and safe holiday
By Bernard Cannac, Winemaker
The 2009 harvest has been “interesting” for me, to say the least. I started it on Long Island, but continued and finished it in the Finger Lakes. It is easier to start a new job at a winery at a more quiet time, but I was up for the challenge.
The 2009 vintage has been full of challenges on its own: the weather hasn’t been cooperating all season long, too much rain in the spring, not enough heat and sun in the summer, an early frost... But nature doing things well, the fact of having rain during flowering induced a smaller than expected crop, which in turn was able to reach ripeness precisely because it was a small crop given the circumstances.
So all in all, I am very happy with the quality of the 2009 wines at Heron Hill Winery. The fact that it was a smaller harvest made it even easier for me to adjust to my new environment, and all my co-workers made it even easier. A big thank you to all the employees at Heron Hill, from production to retail and office, for welcoming me into the clan. I also feel honored by the trust owner John Ingle has put in me. We tasted the 2009 wines last week, and John was pleased by the results: it is always gratifying for me to see people enjoy the wines we have crafted in the cellar.
Now that the last whites are gently finishing fermenting, and the reds are waiting to get into barrels, I can take some time to discover the area. I have to say, my wife and I love Hammondsport. The village is only a couple of miles from the winery. We love to walk around the square and do some shopping, or just sit on a bench and enjoy the ambiance. It is an ideal place for a getaway weekend, and I am fortunate that it is where I live now, just a few steps away from Keuka Lake. What can I say? I love it here and I love the snow! Some of my co-workers think I am nuts…
By John Ingle, Owner/Grapegrower
The end of the harvest season is a time of mixed emotions. There is the feeling of satisfaction and completeness as another vintage comes full cycle and all the work – pruning, tying, cultivating, picking, etc. yields the bounty of a successful harvest. There is the apprehension as to how the wine will turn out. Will the Rieslings and Chardonnays be crisp and bright, will the Pinot Noirs and Cabernets be rich and bold, will the dessert wines be tantalizing? As the baton is passed from grower to winemaker, there is a bond and a trust that is renewed and cemented every year.
Along with the completion of the vineyard harvest, there is also the grand finale of the garden growing season. The freezer is full of bags of peas, spinach, beans and all kinds of berry fruits. The root cellar is loaded up with potatoes, carrots, parsnips, cabbages, onions and brussels sprouts. The little freezer has sweet cider and grape juice, frozen so that it will be as fresh and delicious all winter as it was the day it was pressed. It all adds up to a lot of work that has been accomplished and the prospect of a long, cold winter enjoying the fruits and bounties of our labor. The cycle of life: plan-work-produce-enjoy-plan again.
By Tambi Schweizer, Tasting Hall Manager
I just returned from NYC where I poured wine at two different events. The first one was Cook. Eat. Drink. Live. 24.7.365. and the second one was Spit & Twit. They were both located in amazing places.
The Cook. Eat. Drink. Live. venue was down in the Chelsea area in an amazing post and beam warehouse located on The Tunnel & La Venue at 608 West 28th Street @ 11th Avenue in New York City. They had a lot to offer at this amazing site. For the “Cook.” Section of the event they had over 35 restaurants sampling their products…my favorite was this great homemade macaroni and cheese, with the creamiest cheese sauce I have ever tasted. It just melted in your mouth! Down in the tunnel area was the “Eat. & Live.” section with almost 30 different gourmet food brands, including cheese samples, lots of amazing sauces and some fabulous brownies from “Hot Blondies Bakery”. I even traded some wine in return for a couple brownies that I was able to actually save to take home for a gourmet chocolate treat in upstate! I was located in the “Drink.” area that included a sophisticated collection of fine wine from all over New York State with wine for both the novice collector and expert oenophile. Thank you to The Grape Exchange for sponsoring this section. They did a great job of getting about 40 wineries together to pour wine for a great crowd. I spent two days educating the public about the Finger Lakes wines and in general where the Finger Lakes region is located. Heron Hill’s Semi-Dry Riesling and the Ingle Vineyard Pinot Noir were the hit of the show. Most people seemed to really be into finding wines to pair with the Thanksgiving meal that is happening next week. The Pinot Noir is very smoky and earthy which pairs well with the roasted veggies as a great side dish. The crispness of the Riesling is amazing with the sweet potatoes and the softness of the turkey. Overall I think the show was a great success, I was able to get the word out about Finger Lakes wine with many retailers seemingly interested in pricing up at least a few of our wines. Hopefully our outside sales manager, Christina Bowe’s phone is ringing off the hook. Look for her in the NYC area in the near future.
On Sunday I headed down to City Winery located on Varick Street in the Soho district of NYC. City Winery hosted a really cool consumer tasting event called Spit & Twit. This was the first of its kind event, incorporating the Twitter platform throughout the tasting. As the consumers came through and tasted all the wines there were then encouraged to spit them out in the provided dump buckets and then Twitter about each of the particular wines. It was a fascinating idea that I believe just need a little bit of “tweeking”. I found that there wasn’t a lot of spitting actually happening, but that’s to be expected…it was a fun afternoon to have a few glasses of wines and try new wines that many people had never tried before. I found that people really needed to have a few snacks and after a few winery tastings and actually twitter about the wines they were trying. I think they forgot to keep twittering as the event wore on. I did get a lot of really great contacts from the event and would love to keep supporting these types of events, as I think they could be really effective in the social media aspect of marketing. The photo is of Morgen McLaughlin (President of Finger Lakes Wine Country) and I courtesy of Metromix.
Overall, NYC was a blast. I was lucky enough to bring by boyfriend (I even put him to work), we had some great food, did a little bit of Christmas shopping and for the first time ever went to a dueling piano bar called Sweet Caroline’s (located on 322 W 45th St.). I love to visit the city for a few days, but am glad that I live here in the Finger Lakes region, as it is one of the most beautiful (…and quiet) spots in the world!
By Steve & Pam Acker, Managers at the Seneca Lake Tasting Room
The last thing we remember at the end of August was looking forward to fall, harvest time and anticipating many busy days in the tasting room. Since then, we’ve said good-bye to many of our neighbors who have shuttered their lake homes and headed south, loading their cars with ample supplies of Heron Hill wines for the months to come.
The blur that was September and October brought all that we thought it would…along with some pleasant additions. The long awaited outside tasting bar was a great success. For the few truly beautiful afternoons that this autumn held, guests were eager to enjoy their wine sampling al fresco, basking in the sun and enjoying the view of the rolling farmland. We shared many stories, recipes and of course many conversations about wine while they sipped and sampled the best that Heron Hill has to offer.
As we transitioned from fruity summer blush and light crisp Chardonnay to soul warming reds, the release of the 2007 Reserve Pinot Noir couldn’t have been better timed. What a pleasure it has been to pour that wine and the customer response has been so exciting! Of course Riesling goes with everything and I can’t wait to whip up my first Choucroute of the season where I will use the 2006 Ingle Vineyard Riesling both as an ingredient and an accompaniment. Yum. (Light a fire, grab a book and pour a glass of wine while it simmers away, the recipe follows.)
It has been a great season and the crew here on Seneca has enjoyed meeting and serving so many wonderful guests. We are still open daily and look forward to seeing you as the holidays approach, and are always eager to assist with your wine needs and food pairing questions.
CHOUCROUTE (pork and sausage with sauerkraut)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1 small apple cored and sliced
2 pounds sauerkraut rinsed and drained (fresh or in glass jars, not canned)
1 cup 2006 Ingle Vineyard Riesling
1 cup chicken stock
2 pounds country style ribs
2 pounds sausage (best with fresh Polish sausage like Kielbasa or a light garlic sausage)
Heat a 6 to 8 quart enameled cast-iron casserole (do not use aluminum or black iron) and warm the olive oil. Lightly brown the spare ribs and remove from pot. Add the onions and garlic and lightly sauté. Add the apples, sauerkraut, wine and stock and lightly stir to combine. Top the mixture with the spare ribs, add a pinch of freshly ground black pepper and cover. Place casserole in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Add the sausages and return to oven for an additional 40 minutes or until meat is falling off the bone and sausage is cooked through. Wonderful served on a family style platter with mashed potatoes on the side. Enjoy!
By Christina Bowe, Wholesale Sales Manager
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure to travel to the Catskills to present wines to stores and restaurants in that area. The scenery was amazing and the leaves were beginning to change. Each winding road had scenery and the climb up and down the mountains was stunning with a little town nestled around each turn. Just when I thought we were beyond civilization, we happened upon the town of Catskill established in 1788.
Our first stop in this quaint little town was Bell’s Café, which I understand has been a long-standing establishment on Main Street, Catskill. While I was there, a woman and her young daughter came in to see what kind of changes had been made. She had frequented Bell’s when she was a girl and wanted her daughter to have the same experience.
The owners Yael and Keith were fantastic. The cuisine is Israel/American food. Unfortunately, it was a little early for lunch, but the smells coming out of the kitchen were incredible. The lunch menu appetizers consisted of duck ravioli with pesto sauce and roasted eggplant with tahini. Lunches also included interesting salads, paninis and burgers. The dinner fare was equally exciting with panko encrusted lamb and Moroccan-style spicy shrimp.
Yael and Keith are committed to local products and being creative with the bounty from the local harvest. Because of Heron Hill’s commitment to this style of living, we all had a lot to talk about and I hope I did not overstay my visit. They were currently carrying out Semi-Dry Riesling and have brought in the Unoaked Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc. Their wine list is very eclectic and Heron Hill is proud to be present.
Before entering Bell’s I noticed a row of colorful cats on pedestals lining the street of antique shops, boutiques and galleries. I asked Amber Dennis, my wholesale representative from Southern Wine and Spirits, what the meaning of all these beautiful cats that made me want to stop my day and spend the afternoon prowling about these imaginative kitties.
This years Quadricentennial Celebration of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the beautiful Delaware river; the Catskill Cats will be decorated in themes depicting the wonder of this great valley they call home. Sixty painted fiberglass felines will be sCATered along the historic Main Street in the Village of Catskill for this summer-long celebration.
On October 4th, all of the cats were auctioned to be adopted into permanent homes, something I wish I could have returned to do.
The rest of my visit was wonderful, exposing Finger Lakes wines to the area stores and restaurants. The Finger Lakes is a relatively unknown wine region in this area and I get sincere gratification when I see the simple smile on their faces and the nods of their heads indicating that “Yes, the Finger Lakes makes some exceptional wines.”
By John Ingle, Winery Owner
Fall is my favorite season. I love the peace of winter, the promise of spring, the activity of summer, but the bounty of the harvest is what makes Autumn so rewarding. When you throw in the beautiful colors, the crisp air and all the food from the garden and it’s a soul-satisfying time of year. Right now we’re eating sweet, fragrant melons, plum cabbages, nutty winter squash, apples and seedless grapes.
All the planning last winter, the planting last spring, the hoeing and mulching this summer pays off in fruits and vegetables to freeze, store and eat fresh. Going into October we’re focused on the harvest in the vineyard as well. Slowly, day-by-day, the brix (sugar level) increases and we taste the berries for signs of maturation. It’s a waiting game, greatly influenced by Mother Nature, requiring patience and a positive attitude.
Right now it appears that Pinot Noir will be picked first – they look clean and ripe but need another week. The bees like Pinot Noir and cause more damage than one would imagine. Next will be Chardonnay, already turning gold and plump – a tougher grape that can take some rain or cold if need be. Later in the season, the Cabernet Franc which is very slow to turn blue and ripen this year will be picked and finally our beloved Riesling. It will probably be November before the Riesling is ready to go. We also have plans to make Icewine so this will be a long, busy, patient fall.
By Tambi Schweizer, Tasting Hall Manager
Well, it has been great summer, full of lots of free live music on the Blue Heron Café terrace. This past weekend we had Brett Beardslee, a local musician from Hector, NY (East side of Seneca Lake), he was fantastic, singing some of his own tunes while also playing a few of the standard classics! Brett was the talk of the day on Saturday with his amazing 1958 Volkswagen van with the most astonishing paint job!
While Brett was here he had a glass of our newly released Pinot Noir Reserve. (Can you see wine in the photo?) The 2007 Pinot Noir Reserve is a medium to fuller bodied cold weather Pinot Noir. Our Reserve Pinot Noir is gracefully silky with a bright raspberry with a touch of tobacco mid-palette earthiness, finishing with rich raspberry fullness. The crimson color emphasizes aromas of cherry and raspberry, which combines well with the soft touches of oak. This Pinot Noir Reserve tends to be fuller in alcohol, fairly soft in feel and has a light smoke from the barrel. The soft tannins of this Pinot Noir Reserve make this wine a very sleek smooth easy drinking wine that goes well with meats with some degree of fattiness, especially with a twist of pepper accompanied by slightly bitter vegetables on the side. Smoke wood roasted braised beef, lamb and pork are excellent main courses. Another main dish that works excellent is a roasted turkey topped with a cherry salsa.
Another new release that is coming out soon is the much anticipated Pinot Blanc Reserve. This Unoaked Pinot Blanc is energetic and lively with an intense pear aroma, finishing with slight green apple fruitiness. This 2008 vintage release has a great mouthwatering lemongrass and grapefruit tartness that gives it a long refreshing finish. The Pinot Blanc is excellent as an aperitif served with something small to eat, such as creamy dips, crackers & vintage cheeses served with various kinds of finger foods. The vibrant mineral flavors of the Pinot Blanc are enhanced when paired with turkey and chicken dinners.
With these Reserve wines, we only release a very limited amount of cases, anywhere from 100 to 450 cases per release. The Reserve wines are wines that have come from a specific lot of grapes that are of a higher quality than usual, usually only made in a year that had an incredible growing season. Traditionally winemakers would "reserve" some of their best wine rather than sell it immediately, coining the term. Reserve is meant to indicate that the wine is special and has a different unique flavor and a longer aging potential.
We are finally relaxing after the Keuka Lake Wine Trail event that happened this past weekend (Sept 19th & 20th). The Harvest Tour of Food and Wine was an experience of incomparable beauty of the fall season with locally grown foods bursting with the flavors of harvest time in the heart of the Finger Lakes. Almost a 1000 people tasted the exquisite wines of Keuka Lake and sampled dishes prepared from the finest locally produced foods. It was a great celebration of New York's agricultural heartland, an experience that certainly delighted the tastes, pleased the eyes and warmed the soul. Here at Heron Hill, we featured our Classic Heron Hill Pinot Noir with a Garden Harvest Frittata with an Apple and Pear Chutney. The Classic Pinot Noir is lively and exciting, with rich ripe red cherry and raspberries on the nose. This crisp, textured Pinot is accented by an earthy flavor that runs through the pallet. Soft and supple tannins finish this bright, fruit-driven wine. If you missed the Keuka Lake Harvest Tour of Food & Wine, please check out the Keuka Wine Trail website for our last event of the season, the Keuka Holidays Wine Tour. You can ring in the holiday season in vintage form at one of our Keuka Holidays weekends...every year a sell-out! Each winery offers delicious hardy winter foods along with their finest wines. Ticket holders receive a handmade grapevine wreath at their starting winery and collect a Christmas ornament at every winery. The wineries will have holiday decorations and the gift shops will be stocked with unique and local items perfect for almost anyone on your shopping list. Join the fun! Tickets are $35 per person or $55 per couple and they are available as Advance sale only!
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