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For many years and many reasons eastern North America has lagged behind the west coast in viticultural prominence. California's intoxicating, inimitable, iconic sunlight attracted viticulturalists. Oregon's Willamette Valley was revealed as a perfect place to grow Pint Noir. Even the cold deserts of eastern Washington were planted to the vine at a time when the east coast was considered a viticultural hinterland. And yet in the past few years the east has slowly begun to appear in the national conversation. While a difficult climate, a long history of neglect, and marketplace conventions have contributed to the perception of eastern winemaking regions as being second-best, we here at Chambers Street Wines have found that the same things that produce great wine in other regions are equally true here: attention to detail in the vineyard, sound low-intervention winemaking with the aim of expressing a sense of place, and, lastly, the care and attention only a thoughtful, caring producer focusing on a small area of vines can bring. Today, we will focus on three producers whose wines are made in areas that benefit from the moderating effects of large, voluminous freshwater lakes.
We begin in Canada, with the wines of Pearl Morissette. In Canada, the main issue is, of course, the cold. Making fine wine north of the border involves finding very small warmer mesoclimates and microclimates. For Francois Morissette, that microclimate is created by a famous topographical feature: the Niagara Escarpment. Running along the southern edge of western Lake Ontario, the geological feature that the Niagara river tumbles over holds in the moderating influence of the lake. Only here, between the looming escarpment to the south and the warming waters of the lake to the north, can grapes regularly ripen.
Another lake provides temperature moderation further east in the Finger Lakes. Seneca lake, by far the deepest lake in New York, has a powerful moderating influence on its surroundings. This is important on the east coast, where high annual temperature differences make viticulture hard. Here in New York City our average July highs are less than a degree different than they are in Marsala, in Sicily, and our January daytime averages are exactly the same as they are in Trier, in the Mosel. Seneca lake, so voluminous it doesn't freeze in the winter, moderates the climate along it's shores. In the so-called "Banana Belt", the warmest area along the eastern banks, the temperature is on average 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the surrounding area in the winter, and 2 degrees cooler in the summer. Located right in the midst of this area is Standing Stone Vineyards. Their 2017 Dry Riesling is sourced from the oldest Riesling vines along Seneca Lake, planted in 1972. In addition, we have the wines of Eminence Road, whose proprietors, Andrew Scott and Jennifer Clark, make some of the most precise and elegant bottles being produced in New York State. We are also excited to announce that Andrew will be here pouring his wines on Wednesday, April 17th from 5-7PM. We hope you enjoy these intriguing wines that are possible only because of the moderating influence of freshwater lakes. Andrew Farquhar
Francois Morissette is one of the most creative and uncompromising producers making wine in Canada. His Irrévérence Blanc is a new cuvée exploring skin contact aromatic white grapes. 64% Riesling, 22% Chardonnay, and 14% Gewurztraminer, each of these grapes was fermented separately and using very different methods. The Riesling was fermented in stainless steel, the Chardonnay was fermented in concrete and spent 6 months in foudre, and the Gewurztraminer was fermented on the skins in qvevri for six months. After blending, another three months were spent in foudre before the wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered. The Gewurztraminer marks its territory with light, delicate tannins and a distinct but not overbearing floral aroma, and the Riesling gives fantastic citric energy and tension. The Chardonnay insinuates itself more subtly, lending a certain breadth of texture, a structural elegance, and ephemeral wisps of orchard fruits to the long finish. This is a perfect aperitif wine that is taking the wine bars of Toronto by storm. Andrew Farquhar
This is a 100% Chardonnay sourced from two different parcels of younger vines, one planted in sandy, stony soils, the other in red clay rich with iron. Spontaneous fermentation and aging in a combination of neutral barriques and demi-muid. This is an expressive cold-weather Chardonnay, which walks the line between tartness and richness. Subtle notes of creamy sweet spices with a dash of mint play with a touch of lemon and unripe pear on the nose, while the palate is broad and textured, though with a fine vein of acidity. On the palate, the minerality comes to the fore, making this a fantastic food wine. 390 cases produced. Andrew Farquhar
This Riesling is from vines planted right next to Lake Ontario in sandy soils. Spontaneous fermentation occurs in a combination of stainless steel tank and foudre before being racked into concrete tanks for elévage. This is a very funky, terroir expressive Riesling, with lots of dense, funky notes of pollen, silt, and an earthy, orchid floral character. On the palate a nice note of lemon curd comes through, with fantastic, razor-sharp acidity. Would benefit from a little decanting. This wine has excellent structure, which will pair well with food. Not only does this ache for freshwater fish, it is a natural pairing for more strongly flavored cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, or brussels sprouts. Andrew Farquhar
Sourced from the oldest Riesling vines along the banks of Seneca Lake, planted in 1972 on the warmer eastern bank of the lake. Seneca is the deepest of the Finger Lakes, which allows it to moderate the temperature along its banks more than the other lakes. Cayuga, to its west, while having a larger surface area, is much shallower, and you can tell along its muggy banks during the summer. This is a beautiful textured Riesling with fine balance, great acidity, ripe citrus and apple fruit, and just a tiny hint of residual sugar. This is a steal for the price, and one of the best deals I've ever seen coming from New York State. While this will pair well with food, I think this is an ideal summer aperitif. Organic practice in the vineyard, awaiting certification, and low sulfur in the winery. Andrew Farquhar
Eminence Road is one of the most consistent producers of high quality wines in the Finger Lakes. This Riesling is from vines planted in loam over shale and limestone, sourced from the eastern bank of Seneca Lake. This is big and structured with a crystalline brilliance on the palate that is breathtaking. A wine of precision, this will age gracefully for 5-10 years, and is designed to complement the offerings of the country table. Andrew uses very little sulfur in the converted hillside cow barn. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. Andrew Farquhar
50% Cabernet Sauvignong and 50% Merlot, this Bordeaux Blend tastes like anything but. From old vines planted on a thin loam over broken shale, this wine is brimming in electric acidity, with the stone fruit character on the nose becoming a pleasant surprise of tangerine and blood orange on the palate. It is rare to have a red wine with citric fruit character, but this is one. This wine is almost Italianate in style, and would pair excellently with red pasta sauces, but also has the oomph to stand up to lamb or a more delicate cut of beef. The Elizabeth Vineyard, sustainably farmed, is located on the east side of Seneca Lake. Andrew Farquhar
This 100% Pinot Noir was foot stomped and then added whole cluster to one ton bins for spontaneous fermentation. The grapes received once daily punchdowns for 8 days before being bucketed into the half-ton bladder press. Settled juice was pumped into old French oak barrels to finish fermentation which continued into June of 2018. In September the wine was racked off its lees and gravity bottled by hand without fining or filtration. This is a beautiful Pinot Noir, bursting with fine ripe cherry fruit that mixes with notes of herbs, spice, and a little sandalwood character. This is one of the most complete and dynamic Pinot Noirs I've had from the Finger Lakes. Andrew Farquhar