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Finger Lakes: first spits and fire pits

More wine in this post, I promise!

For some reason I was not tired after The Night Of No Sleep. My body knew. On a rainy morning dodging puddles and people, Christine, Amy, Leeanne, Sujinder and I bussed up to Elmira from NYC. This of course involved a cryptic and boisterous man who sat behind our group and modified the intensity of his New York accent depending on who he was talking to on the phone, including Joey, which included a mild conversation about picking up sodas at the dollar store; and then Beryl, to whom he aggressively told to check her mailbox and to “not worry about it” (severed hand?!). Obviously the world knew our NYC experience wasn’t over yet, and we’ve accomplished a lot before anything officially #WBC15.

Anyways, we then rented a car straight up to Hammondsport, not before visiting Forge Cellars at the Hector Wine Company. So it began: this was our first flight of wines in the sub-AVA of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes AVA! Though my mind was excited like a child (or me) on his way to the ice cream store, I was physically exhausted and maybe fell asleep in the car in only minute-long intervals in fear that I would inadvertently create the best picture of our travels.

Pictured: Sujinder judging me

Pictured: Sujinder judging me

We tasted through the wines of Hector Wine Company along with wines of Forge Cellars, which is essentially a collaboration between Rick Rainey; Justin Boyette, winemaker at Hector; and Louis Barruol, vigneron of Chateau Saint Combe in Gigondas, located in the Rhône Valley of France.

And so we arrived and legs were stretched. Hurrah.

Justin Boyette

Hector 2014 Pinot Gris, $18
Great: my first tasting note of a New York wine and I have to decipher this particular hieroglyphic tasting note. Aged in neutral French oak. A handful of white flowers and honey; savoury with a hint of herbaceousness (and a hint of something I can’t read). Soft and medium-bodied.

Hector 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, $18
A bit of nettle underlying satsuma, passionfruit, and guava. More of a supple tropical bend rather than herbaceous and high-pitched; overcast instead of sunny.

Hector 2013 Dry Riesling, $18
Steely and restrained nose, with lemons, honey, and peaches. Dry and not as jagged on the palate as I expected, with soothing moderate intensity.

Forge 2013 “Classique” Riesling, $24?
Large proportion fermented and aged in barrels of varying ages. Something cracker or yeast-like which I’ve noticed in few other Rieslings. Elegant limeade with something meaty or defiant. Focused lime zest on the palate with a pleasant bitter-acid fruit finish, like a margarita without any sugar.

Forge 2013 “Les Alliés” Riesling, $26
Fermented and aged in neutral barrels. Stands up straighter than the Classique. Dry; petrol, citrus, and a hint of cooked grapefruit. A bit of oxidized tangerine on the palate with zesty acidity.

Hector 2014 Riesling Semi-Dry, $16
Fresh sweeter stone fruit on the nose; off-dry sheen on the palate with flighty and almost effervescent peach and pit with cleansing acidity. Juicy and chuggable.

Hector 2013 Gewurztraminer, $20
A ringing burst of spice, apricots, and dried flowers. A hint of sweetness emerges like a Diglett poking its head out from the ground, and this grades into a blanket of savouriness and an impressive amount of acid for the grape. Long and rosy.

Forge 2013 Rosé
Pinot Noir. Pale pink. Floral strawberries and cream. Humble rather than arrogant on the palate, with a play between fruit and earth. Concentrated. Closer to the side of round rather than refreshing.

Forge 2013 “Les Alliés” Pinot Noir
Very pale ruby. Huge fan of the aromatic nose, but maybe I’m just a huge fan of smoke, game, and meat. Time will disentangle the palate’s rigidity. This one split our group in half, and everyone knows I love when that happens.

Hector 2013 Essence, $25
Equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. Also equal parts American, French, and Hungarian oak. Slightly charred plums and chocolate; medium-bodied and silky with sparkles of ripeness. Fair amount of chalky structure to contain the fruit. Well-made but not as individualistic as the whites; muscular with a silky man bun.

We left satisfied, but it was clearly time to deflate for a bit into our motel rooms. Though we snacked on two salads, evening sustenance was a 2 minute walk away at The Village Tavern. I missed vegetables and even though I eat meat, I ordered the menu item named “Vegan Adventure” though clearly the name was the most obvious red flag: it was basically stir fry, thin rice noodles saltier than the tears of a thousand mermaids, and a random hedged-bet garnish of pickled ginger and wasabi. Oh: is this the general “asian food” that every wine critic promises will pair divinely with every Gewürztraminer?

When in Rome, Josh. When in Rome! #burgerregret

But really: everyone else’s food was apparently amazing – and probably no one orders the Vegan Adventure to the point where they probably had to run outside immediately after my order to go and pick the carrots out of the ground – but otherwise, the wine list was absolutely divine, with no shortage of interesting varieties and back vintages of New York wines and otherwise. I almost chose a New York Rkatsiteli from my birth year (1992) for the table but decided that it might not be refreshing enough for our temporarily ragged souls. I regret it.

In lieu of dessert, we borrowed a knife from the restaurant so that Leeann could teach Amy and Christine how to saber the bottles of sparkle we picked up on the way; we then we enjoyed those plus the same funky Prosecco from a previous night and a Crémant de Bourgogne around the fire pit next to our living quarters, whose owner (Don? Ron? Shawn? Fawn?) joined us as we had conversations about the film ratings of our lives. I say that I’m PG, but I mean this whole trip is changing everything, no? Regardless, this amazing evening full of vibes and connections is an ending to an episode with credits rolling and Wonderwall playing in the background.

And the music abruptly stops as it cuts to a scene of next morning, where everyone is swimming in the lake or going for a jog or something and I obviously tangle up in sheets instead.

Read Christine’s post on this day!

Clos des Vignes du Maynes “Ste Geneviève” Crémant de Bourgogne Extra Brut (Burgundy, France)
Nutty green apple, cider, and apple pie on the nose, with some precise acidity and doughy toast on the palate. Great by the fire and a bit of drizzle on our heads.

move over, s'mores

move over, s’mores


DipWSET, Certified Sommelier, garbage person.

  • Rob

    I am almost sure you meant it rained a little, but I prefer to think that you drizzled a little of the Cremant over your heads.

    August 27, 2015 at 8:24 am
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