September 26, 2015


             The Pope and New York wine, happy harvest, Hudson Valley winners, a new book, and lots more from New York wine country.



             Jim Trezise


The Pope Gets a Taste of New York


                 Pope Francis received a Taste of New York--not just the Big Apple, but some New York wine--during his two-day visit to New York City this week.  The wine: O-Neh-Da Authentic Sacramental Wine, from O-Neh-Da Vineyard on the hills above Hemlock Lake.  In addition, Finger Lakes Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc were served at a dinner with the Pope and other dignitaries.


                  O-Neh-Da was created in 1872 by Bishop Bernard McQuaid of Rochester, and is America's oldest dedicated sacramental winery.  The 143-year-old winery produces only 100% pure grape wine for the Altar and dinner table, serving Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopal and Lutheran churches.


                   Will Ouweleen, winemaker at O-Neh-Da, is a product of Catholic and Jesuit education, and contacted the office of Timothy Cardinal Dolan to offer all wine needed for the Celebration of Mass by Pope Francis.  He personally delivered the wine for the occasion.  O-Neh-Da's sister winery, Eagle Crest Vineyards, produces a line of Finger Lakes table wines.

Happy Harvest                           
                   Veraison to Harvest, the timely e-newsletter published every Friday by Cornell Cooperative Extension, is a great way to keep up on what's happening with this year's harvest.  So far, so good--and in some cases even great.
                    Regional CCE representatives submit their weekly updates in both narrative and statistical form.  From Long Island, Alice Wise reports that it's about as good as it gets, with a long stretch of hot, dry, sunny weather ideal for ripening.
                    Hans Walter-Peterson covers the Finger Lakes, where the same fabulous weather has graced the region for well over a month, transforming what looked to be a late harvest to an early one with good prospects for high quality.  (The weather has been so warm that I'm still swimming in Keuka Lake--at the end of September!),  Not surprisingly, after a cold winter and late spring frost, some varieties (especially Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir) in certain locations will have a reduced crop.
                      The Lake Erie region--predominantly Concord and Niagara grapes for juice--has had weather patterns similar to the Finger Lakes, so the per-ton yields vary by location, but also by the production practices of individual growers.   Overall, Concord looks pretty good in terms of quantity, but Niagara is down considerably, and vinifera wine grapes are virtually nonexistent.  Luke Haggerty is the regional CCE correspondent.
                       Jim O'Connell and Anna Wallis cover the Hudson and Champlain Valleys, which overall are looking good to great in terms of potential quality and about normal with quantity, having not been touched by the extreme weather patterns of the far western regions of the State.
                      Ultimately, we won't know the outcome of the harvest--quality or quantity--until well after it's completed, as in both cases a true assessment takes time.  But we can keep our fingers cross that favorable weather patterns continue.  And in the meantime, this is a great time to visit wine country in any region of the state.
Hudson Valley Winners...and a New Book on Hudson Valley Grapes                                                             
                    The 2015 Hudson Valley Wine & Spirits Competition recently announced the top wines, cider, and spirits of the region, starting with a tie for Winery of the Year by Millbrook Vineyard & Winery and Robibero Winery, with Bashakill Vineyards Osprey named Best in Show (as well as Best White Wine).
                     The Best Overall Hudson Valley Wine (made with Hudson Valley fruit) was Millbrook 2014 Proprietor's Special Reserve Riesling.  Best Sparkling was Clinton Vineyards Seyval Naturel; Best Red went to Victory View Vineyard 2013 Independence; Best Rose to Benmarl Winery 2014 Rose; Best Fruit Wine to Baldwin Vineyards Strawberry; Best Dessert Wine to Clinton Vineyards Embrace; Best Cider to Warwick Valley Doc's Draft Hard Cherry Cider; and Best Spirit to Hudson Valley Distillers Apple Brandy.
                      Grapes of the Hudson Valley by J. Stephen Casscles is about as comprehensive a guide to cool climate grape varieties as you will find anywhere, and a practical reference for anyone thinking about starting or expanding a vineyard.
                      I've known Steve for decades, initially in his role as a top legislative aide to several different State Senators but also as an enthusiastic grape grower and wine maker.  The same thoroughness and accuracy that characterizes his Senate work is reflected in this detailed and interesting reference, which describes more than 150 cool climate grape varieties that may be successfully grown in the Hudson Valley as well as other cool climate regions in the United States and Canada.
                       Most of the varieties are hybrids, and the book traces their history including the full parentage of each grape; the person or institution responsible for developing them; symbols indicating cold hardiness, disease resistance, productivity, vigor, and wine quality.  High-quality photos, maps, labels and illustrations are also included, along with a handy index to the grape varieties.
                        This is an indispensable guide for anyone interested in cold climate viticulture, and is available directly from the publisher's website (
 Free Run...                             

                    "Game on, Finger Lakes wines" is the title of a great article by Washington Post columnist Dave McIntyre, who attended the recent Wine Symposium of the Finger Lakes as a featured speaker.  "Everywhere I turned or sipped, I found experimentation and innovation.  This is not just a good American wine region--it's an exciting one."  That description  was early on in the piece, which then backed it up with significant detail and examples.

                       Meanwhile, in, Megan Zhang wrote another lengthy article, "Finger Lakes Wine: An Industry 200 Years in the Making" tracing the history and current state of the region's wine culture.  Time Warner Cable will be running a major TV show on the New York wine industry in late October, and this is one of several articles that will lead up to it, with others covering different regions. 


                       Thousand Islands region is getting great exposure through the I Love NY fall advertising program, with a spot that highlights the wineries as a key part of that beautiful and popular region.


                        Niagara Wine Trail, USA (Uncork a Natural Wonder!) is hosting its Harvest Festival this weekend, featuring 3 samples of wine from each of the 20 participating wineries, a keepsake glass, and harvest-theme cuisine all along the trail.         

Words on Wine...
       "Wine is sunlight, held together by water."
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