2012 Fox Run Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay

8 09 2016

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

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The ultimate value Chardonnay? Quite possibly.

Casting my eyes on this maroon label sends me back down memory lane, to what seems like forever ago but was really only about three and a half months.  In May I was lucky enough to pay a visit to the beautiful and unspoiled Finger Lakes region in central New York State – you may remember this because I basically wrote a Lonely Planet book about the area on this site when I got back.  Our very last winery on that winery-intensive voyage was one I already knew well thanks to its expanding presence in the wine scene in Calgary some 3,600 km away:  Fox Run Vineyards, which has acted both as a gateway drug and as a proud brand ambassador for the Finger Lakes in Alberta.  They have taken to this role so well that one of their whites was an official bottle of choice at the Calgary Stampede this year; can’t get much more YYC than that.  

Fox Run is made up of 50 acres of estate vineyards due south of Geneva, New York, on the western shores of Seneca Lake, the largest and deepest of the long, thin Finger Lakes.  The site was previously a long-time dairy farm, but grapes were first planted there in 1984, with a winemaking facility following in 1990.  Present owner Scott Osborn took over in 1993 and has been a fixture since, and the crazy thing is that he isn’t even the biggest example of the winery’s clear commitment to continuity:  vineyard manager John Kaiser was responsible for first developing the vineyards back in 1984 and is still there today – I met both men when I was there.  Winemaker Peter Bell is 21 years into his Fox Run career, and Sales Manager Dan Mitchell, who is more or less a permanent resident of Canada at this point after forging a successful new northern market for the FLX over the past few years, has been there for 12.  They are a family at this point, and it shows.     Read the rest of this entry »

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FLX: Finger Lakes Extravaganza – Part VI

29 05 2016

Well, we made it.  When I started this trip recap I wasn’t thinking it would be a 15,000-word Greek epic, but that’s what happens when an area has so many stories to tell that so many people may not have heard.  To retrace your steps:

Finger Lakes Intro & Conclusions
Part I – Long Island, Hudson River, Dr. Frank
Part II – Keuka Spring, Chateau Lafayette Reneau
Part III – Red Newt, Knapp Winery
Part IV – Hermann J. Wiemer, Lamoreaux Landing
Part V – Boundary Breaks, Anthony Road

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Our last winery visit was probably also our most anticlimactic, but only because it felt for many reasons like Fox Run Vineyards had been with us all along.  In many ways Fox Run was the catalyst for our whole trip, the Finger Lakes producer with the deepest and most established Alberta presence, to the point where its unoaked Doyle Vineyard Chardonnay was recently selected as the official on-venue house white of the 2016 Calgary Stampede.  A key piece of the winery had literally accompanied us on nearly every stop of our grand FLX winery bus tour:  Sales Manager Dan Mitchell had given us the scoop and filled in the blanks about the region and the wineries who hosted us, never once seeking to undermine any one of them in favour of his own employer, delivering honest yet community-minded feedback that gave us a better sense of what the Finger Lakes were all about than any tasting room.  Winemaker Peter Bell was almost a mythical figure, his impact and his protégées spread across the entire region, his reputation eagerly preceding him even though he is certainly not the kind of person who would revel in it. Read the rest of this entry »





FLX: Finger Lakes Extravaganza – Part V

28 05 2016

Roll call for the previous chapters in this saga:

Finger Lakes Intro & Conclusions
Part I – Long Island, Hudson River, Dr. Frank
Part II – Keuka Spring, Chateau Lafayette Reneau
Part III – Red Newt, Knapp Winery
Part IV – Hermann J. Wiemer, Lamoreaux Landing

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Kees Stapel, Boundary Breaks Vineyard

Ten wineries into our multi-day tasting tour of the Finger Lakes, we continued along the eastern shoreline of Seneca Lake for a different kind of meeting with a different kind of winery.  Rather than gather around a tasting room counter with a winemaker, we were told to head out to the vines at Boundary Breaks Vineyard for a grape-growing lesson with the winery’s conscientious viticulturist, Vineyard Manager Kees Stapel.  He is such an integral part of what Boundary Breaks is all about that he is the very first person listed and pictured in the list of personnel on the winery website; owner and president Bruce Murray doesn’t mention himself at all.  This unusual (but laudable) level of marketing focus on the vineyard team is partly because Boundary Breaks is a winery without a winemaker:  it was founded based on its vineyard, planted in 2008 to four different Riesling clones on an ideal sloped, breezy, sunny, west-facing site arcing gently downward to the lake.  It only makes Riesling and focuses its energies on only five different bottlings, which are presently vinified by Red Newt winemaker and FLX Riesling star Kelby James Russell. Read the rest of this entry »





FLX: Finger Lakes Extravaganza – Part IV

27 05 2016

To start from the start of this tale of adventure, click in order:

Finger Lakes Intro & Conclusions
Part I – Long Island, Hudson River, Dr. Frank
Part II – Keuka Spring, Chateau Lafayette Reneau
Part III – Red Newt, Knapp Winery

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The morning of Tasting Day 3 started at the home of another FLX pioneer.  If you had heard of two Finger Lakes wineries before this travelogue (travelblogue?), I would be willing to bet they were Dr. Konstantin Frank (which we visited in Part I) and Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, another winery started by a European immigrant to the FLX with a prescient belief in the potential of vinifera grapes in the region.  In this case, Hermann Wiemer came to New York State from Bernkastel, Germany, about as close to Riesling Mecca as you can get in the world, and he was convinced that both he and his national grape could be successful transplants in the region.  He planted his first Riesling vineyard, the eponymous HJW Vineyard, on the western shores of Seneca Lake in 1976 and established his winery right beside it in 1979.  Thirty-seven years later, there we were. Read the rest of this entry »





FLX: Finger Lakes Extravaganza – Part II

23 05 2016

In case you missed the previous chapters of this tale, check out the Intro & Conclusions from my Finger Lakes trip here and Part I of the tasting journey here.

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August Deimel, Keuka Spring Vineyards

After leaving the western shores of Keuka Lake and the bar-setting wines of Dr. Konstantin Frank, we did a loop around the lake and landed at our only other Keuka stop, the aptly named Keuka Spring Vineyards.  If Dr. Frank was a reverential nod to the Finger Lakes’ past, Keuka Spring was a thrilling glimpse at its future, primarily thanks to its young, supremely talented and boundary-pushing winemaker August Deimel.  We were fortunate enough to have him lead us through a tasting of both current releases in the front of the house and experimental tank samples in the back, throughout which the only sound other than August’s compelling narrative was that of paradigms shifting. Read the rest of this entry »





FLX: Finger Lakes Extravaganza – Intro & Conclusions

21 05 2016

I am freshly returned from a five-day trek out to the Finger Lakes wine region in central New York State, so named for the 11 long, thin, appendage-like bodies of water stretching north to south between Rochester on the left and Syracuse on the right.  I travelled with two importers, two retailers, three sommeliers, a restauranteur and a widely published local print journalist.  We ventured up and down both shores of three different lakes, visited 13 wineries, tasted over 150 different local wines (of which I hastily scribbled written notes for about 120) and dined or drank with half a dozen different winemakers.  And we all returned with newfound understanding, appreciation and excitement for a region that is set to explode into the world’s quality wine consciousness, if it hasn’t already.

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I didn’t first read about the Finger Lakes until about five years ago; I don’t remember seeing a bottle of FLX wine on a Calgary wine shelf until a couple years after that, and there was certainly no such thing as Finger Lakes selection in Alberta retail until last year.  Chances are that if you haven’t stumbled onto those few rare bottles in the market, the region is still largely a black box to you.  So even though my head is bursting with thoughts, impressions and memories aching to be shared, stories dying to be told, I’m going to pump the brakes a bit and start from the start.  Then, partly because I’m impatient and partly because it will set the stage for the more detail-oriented recaps to come, I’m going to jump ahead to the end and offer up a few conclusions about where the Finger Lakes are right now and where they might be headed. Read the rest of this entry »