2010: A ‘wine’derful year for wineries

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
Scott Osborn in a Chardonnay vineyard last September.

As the first wines from the superb 2010 vintage are released in the next few months, there is plenty of reason to celebrate.  

According to Jim Trezise of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, not only was the harvest early and the quality excellent, but quantity and prices were up as well, making it a good year for growers as well as vintners and consumers.  

The Finger Lakes had ideal weather all year (with a couple of scares) resulting in a very early harvest, reducing the risk of a killing frost, and exceptional grape quality. Since “great wine is made in the vineyard,” this is likely to yield superb wines which will start to be released in the next couple of months with the early varieties.

Hunt Country Vineyard’s owner Arthur Hunt said, “The quality is just wonderful right across the board. It’s so much easier to make gold medal wines when we have a harvest like this.”

Scott Osborn of Fox Run Vineyards loves the 2010 vintage. “The Riesling is beautiful and so are the reds. This is some of the best Chardonnay we’ve ever had. The fruit quality is stunning.”

Trezise reports that in addition to the exceptional quality of the harvest, statewide grape production increased 32 percent to 176,000 tons, with table grapes accounting for 4,000 tons (2 percent), wine 34 percent of the total and grape juice about 64 percent. New York wineries crushed 59,305 tons, up 17 percent, and representing 35 percent of the total processed. The value of the 2010 grape crop is estimated at $68.4 million, a 44 percent increase, reflecting both the larger crop and higher per-ton prices for most grape varieties.

In a recent newsletter, Trezise writes: “Despite the continuing economic doldrums of 2010, wine consumption in the United States continued to grow and, given the circumstances, quite strongly, reflecting its status as ‘an affordable luxury’ for many consumers. While off-premise sales (liquor stores, grocery stores, etc.) have clearly remained the strongest through the recession (as people have been eating more at home), the on-premise (restaurant) sector is slowly recovering as the economy improves.  In states where wine may be sold in grocery stores, it nearly doubles the dollar value of the average large shopping cart from $41 to $71. The Direct-to-Consumer segment is still small in terms of total sales, but is also growing strongly, with 2010 volume up 14 percent and value 16 percent.”

New York wines are well regarded by consumers in terms of perceived value. John McGregor of McGregor Vineyards reports the busiest winter the Keuka Lake winery has ever had. “It’s a pleasant surprise. We’re seeing a lot of new people and increased sales.” As to the quality of the harvest, he says, “Out of 40 years, this is in the top five.”

Finger Lakes Rieslings just achieved a new level of recognition from The Wine Spectator, with the most ever non-dessert Rieslings receiving 90+ scores from James Molesworth on the Jan. 28 WineSpectator.com article, titled “27 Enticing White Wines.”

The top wines were Hermann J. Wiemer 2009 Finger Lakes Dry Riesling HJW Vineyard (92); Hermann J. Wiemer 2009 Finger Lakes Dry Riesling Magdalena Vineyard (91); and with scores of 90 each, Bloomer Creek 2009 Finger Lakes Riesling Tanzen Dame Auten Vineyard First Harvest; Heart & Hands 2009 Finger Lakes Riesling Reserve; Keuka Lake Vineyards 2009 Finger Lakes Riesling Falling Man Vineyard; Ravines 2009 Finger Lakes Dry Riesling; and Hermann J. Wiemer 2009 Finger Lakes Dry Riesling Reserve. Other wineries reviewed in the ratings included Fox Run Vineyards, Hunt Country Vineyards, Prejean Winery, Sheldrake Point Vineyards, and White Springs Farm Winery.  

The increasingly widespread recognition of Finger Lakes Riesling in the world of wine, internationally as well as nationally, emanates from the dedication and talent of grape growers, winemakers, Cornell Universtiy researchers, and organizations like the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance and Finger Lakes Wine Country which aggressively promote Riesling as the region’s signature grape and wine.

Includes reporting by John Christensen