Recently I attended a reserve release party at Hunt Country Vineyards, located on the north-west branch of Keuka Lake – also known as the Crooked Lake. It was a festive event among the tanks and barrels, with the Hunt family, winemaker Craig Hosbach, Chef Kasey Angelo and with other great staff.

All were engaged and enthusiastic to share their newly released wines.

The 2017 Riesling Reserve ($24.99) has great aromatics, white florals, apricots, nectarine, lemon, lime, and pineapple. A bracing level of acidity and harmonious blend of fruit and minerality, smoothly balanced with a medium body, making this a great complement to any meal that has a touch of spice or some semi-aged cheeses. This Riesling has had a touch of oak which adds to the texture, spice and body, producing a well-balanced, delicious and aromatic wine. The oak contact was a “crazy” experiment, per Hosbach, that worked.  Two hundred and forty gallons of Riesling was racked in and out of neutral American oak barrels for 10 days and another two hundred and forty gallons for 6 days, average time of 8 days. They found that it started to slightly pick up barrel aromatics around days 9-10, with the idea to add a little more texture and length to the wine.  Great research that helps to further prove how wonderful and diverse styles Riesling can be in the Finger Lakes.  Another reason I love this area, still experimenting to find the best ways to produce the best wines.

And that brings me to another point. I often have people ask/tell me that the Finger Lakes have really good Rieslings (agreed), but no good reds. Our Rieslings are great, no doubt, but regarding the rest of that statement, I respectfully and completely disagree. We have some great reds and I want the world to know.

Cabernet Franc is a grape in the Finger Lakes that deserves major recognition – and Craig has created a great example.

Hunt Country Vineyards’ new 2017 Cabernet Franc Reserve

The Cabernet Franc Reserve 2017 ($34.99) was delicious, with fresh tart raspberries, black and sour cherry, gravel, herbaceous and smoky notes along with touches of black pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon spices. The earthy, savory notes paired nicely with the earthy rosemary, mushroom dish Chef Angelo prepared. I brought a bottle home and in the spirit of pairing adventures, checked the fridge to see what might inspire me. I found some uncured pepperoni (no nitrates/nitrites) from The Piggery, our local Ithaca butcher with pasture-raised meat and house-made charcuterie. It was one of those pairings enhancing both the food and the wine, bringing the taste sensations to greater heights; bringing out the red fruits of the wine, taming the heat of the meat, enhancing the spice of both. Eat, drink and repeat.

Not yet bottled, we tasted also a Vidal Blanc ice wine from the tank. It was lovely with aromas and flavors of dried apricots, lychee, ginger and honey. It was paired with a buckwheat walnut shortbread that was a divine combination, bringing out the fruit flavors of the wine and nuttiness of the sweet confection, a perfect complement. The story is that Joyce Hunt, (she and Art are the owners), created the recipe and it won a local contest for buckwheat recipes. It’s absolutely delicious.

Hunt Country is the oldest continuous producer of ice wine in the United States, their first vintage was in 1987 and when the weather cooperates, every year since. The farm has been in the family for seven generations and the commercial winery was started in 1981.

Suzanne Hunt, daughter of Art and Joyce has brought an environmental responsibility to the farm. They have electric car charging stations in the parking lot and wind, thermal and solar power providing for their power needs. The whole concept of sustainability seems to be embodied in this estate. I felt a real sense of family, dedication to creating great wines and a sense of environmental awareness strongly illustrated in this visit and I look forward to tasting more of the wines that Craig and the Hunt family continue to create.

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