Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summers at the Lake and in Chicago

Like superheroes, every good blogger needs to have an origins story - some explanation as to why they do what they do. In the case of superheroes, there needs to be some explanation as to why some individuals have all the powers of a spider, dress up like a bat to solve crime or fight for Truth, Justice and the
 American Way, even though they are from Krypton. For bloggers, we need to have a ready explanation as to why we choose to devote so much of our free time to maintain and update our little-read blogs, to obsess over a certain subject and find interesting ways to present our take on topics we deem interesting to whatever audience may or may not be reading it. With that in mind, here is a brief excerpt from the origins myth of BeltwayBacchus:

Last May I had a business trip to San Francisco. Caitlin flew out to join me and we spent a long weekend in Napa. While we both enjoyed wine before the trip, exploring some of the country’s, if not the world’s, greatest wineries gave us both a newfound appreciation for the nectar of the vines. We began to understand the difference between good wine and bad wine, how the right wine can make even the best food taste that much better, and both became hooked on learning, drinking and enjoying as many different types of wine as possible. One of the wineries we went to, Summers Estate Winery, was like something out of a storybook...Provided that the storybook was written for wine-loving twenty-somethings and didn’t have a moral or life message. Still, between the classical music that the proprietors played, the bocce courts, the beautiful scenery, and the word-class wines that we were able to drink, we started down the road less-traveled - by car, anyway. That experience led to the birth of Beltway Bacchus.

So Summers Estate, thank you for contributing to my evolving obsession with wine and wanting to share what I know with the world. Or at least the 75 or so who have chosen to read this blog up to this point. While we were at Summers, one of the wines that we tried was their 2006 Charbono. Charbono is

a rare varietal - less than 100 acres are dedicated to its growth and cultivation - yet it is certainly worth trying. The 2006 Summers has a full body, and has hints of plumbs, currants and pepper in both its smell and its taste. It is well proportioned and, at least in my experience, had the chameleon-like ability to accompany whatever we were eating along with it.

Caitlin and I have recently had the two bottles that we have been holding on to, one with her parents over the Fourth of

 July holiday and one with my parents last weekend when we were in Chicago. It is only natural to share good wine with close friends and family and both weekends gave us the perfect excuse to open up some bottles of wine that we have been kept for more than a year, which must be our new record.

At Caitlin’s parents’ house, we drank it on the deck, overlooking Owasco Lake and drank it with crackers, cherries and cheese curds to nibble on. At my parents’ house, we drank it before going out to dinner. My parents’ kitchen is under construction, so we were in the living room trying to listen to Pandora over the hum of their old refrigerator.

In both instances, the wait was worth it, and those we shared it worth enjoyed it. Both Caitlin’s mom and my dad commented that it was, “very, very good.” I couldn’t agree more.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Cayuga Wine Trail - An Overview

We visited Caitlin’s parents who live on Owasco Lake over the Fourth of July holiday. As one of Finger Lakes, Owasco Lake, and Caitlin's parents' house, is conveniently located a quick drive to both the Seneca and Cayuga Lake Wine Trails. We stuck to the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, where some of our favorite wineries in the region are situated. The Finger Lakes has two main clusters of wineries concentrated around Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake. Both lake clusters do a good job promoting their wineries and their wine.

The Finger Lakes are riesling country. No other grape is as advertised and highlighted. Nor is any other wine varietal as consistently enjoyable as rieslings are in this region. Be warned, though - most wineries tend to have sweet, semi-sweet and dry rieslings. Look for the residual sugar (RS) percentages posted on winery's tasting cards, and stick to the lower RS dry or semisweet rieslings. Some of the sweet rieslings - above 5% RS or so - will make you crave salt and water for the rest of your trip, which is not an enviable position to be in when wine tasting is in order.

Although riesling reigns supreme in the Finger Lakes, Honorable Mention should go to cabernet franc. While most Finger Lakes reds are a bit on the light side for me - in terms of color, body and taste, the cabernet franc grape does well in cooler climates and thus thrives in this part of the country. To give you an idea of “cooler climate,” it was just into the 70’s when we were there... In July. Cab francs tend to be lighter and sweeter than their bigger, more powerful progeny, cabernet sauvignon, though they still have some of the same, albeit more subtle, characteristics. Cabernet Sauvignon put Napa on the map. Riesling is working to do the same for New York. If New York needs a red to aide in riesling's mission, cab franc makes for a solid candidate.

We visited four different wineries in the Cayuga Lake cluster. I noticed only one painted barrel. I plan to review the wines and the atmosphere of the each wineries we visited in more detail in their own posts in the coming days. Until then, grab a glass of Finger Lakes riesling or cabernet franc and enjoy the unseasonably cool, unhumid, and pleasant DC summer days we have been experiencing. After all, both rieslings and cab francs thrive in cooler climates.