In mid-March following the successful conclusion of the fourth annual Eastern Winery Exposition in Syracuse, I began my return to Virginia by driving down the east side of Cayuga Lake on Friday 3/19. Heart and Hands winery was closed, but I enjoyed seeing Kit again who co-owns Bet the Farm Winery and Gourmet Market, conveniently located right on Main Street in Aurora. There are times you don’t want to have to drive around looking for vineyards to find a winery, and the brightly painted cozy market is a small but deliciously stocked adult candy store.
Bet The Farm is a husband-wife team of winemaker Nancy Tish and husband Kit Kalfs. Production is tiny (under 1,000 cases currently) but Nancy makes artful and elegant wines. Interestingly, they buck the trend of riesling and cabernet franc, with the Geneva hybrid traminette as their leading white wine, and gamay as their leading red in three labels; varietal, “twice noir” (blended with pinot noir) and, debuting from the 2014 vintage, a dry sparkling gamay, Méthode Champenoise.
The traminette is ripe and juicy but has better balancing acidity than many I’ve had. The pinot gris has weight but isn’t clumsy and is fruity but dry. I liked the two gamay red wines but as it was a wet day in March with snow on the ground, couldn’t appreciate them as well as I would now as summer closes in. I was also impressed with the late harvest vignoles, which is often a clumsy and coarse wine but not in this case; elegant is the house style.
My favorite, with high marks for quality, style and originality, was the sparkling gamay (which isn’t on the website, since only 50 (!) cases were made). A pale pink color, the Méthode Champenoise processing gives it a wonderful full creamy mousse. The wine is fresh and vibrant but delicate; strawberries with red cherry hints and crisp red fruit acidity. Although fruity, the wine is delightfully dry. A great way to celebrate summer foods and the season.
They released the wine in time for Thanksgiving last year and it retails for $28, being pouring it almost exclusively on Saturday in addition to some other special days/holidays/group requests when requested.
“We have been very pleased with the response!” exclaims Kit. “This is a very personal wine for Nancy and myself. We spent one day together in 2013 selectively picking the grapes for the cuvee. We left them on the skins for about 24 hours and pressed them into a stainless steel tank. The wine spent around 2.5 months on the lees, from mid-October to late January, 2014. It was bottled for the second, in-bottle fermentation on July 3, 2013, producing 50 cases. It was hand-riddled 10 cases at a time, finishing at the end of October, 2014. The wine was dosaged and corked at Glenora Wine Cellars in early November.”
The next stop was Long Point Winery. Although many of the wines are made from West Coast fruit (and so labeled), they are still work seeking out. On the other hand, their estate cabernet franc 2012 was one of my favorites of the vintage; full-bodied with black pepper and cherry, and hefty oak with solid fruit to match; a cab franc to match with steak. The other red I took with me was a zinfandel from California fruit, zesty, spicy and full-bodied and much better than the average California zin.
I arrived at Treleavan/King Ferry Winery the day before their first “Bacon on the Lake-on” festival and the walls were covered with giant juicy photos of bacon slices which made it kind of weird writing wine tasting notes. I was given a very informative, personal tasting, given that I arrived at 4pm and nobody else was there which was nice. Highlights:
– Tacie’s chardonnay 2012: King Ferry has been a leader in Finger Lakes chardonnay for over a decade, and now makes four labels, from the non-oaked Silver Lining to the rich oaked butterscotch “Vintner’s Cuvee”. I liked the Tacie’s (named for owner Peter Staltenstall’s wife) which was lightly oaked; elegant with only partial malolactic fermentation and American, Hungarian and French oak.
– Gewurztraminer 2012: classic lychee spice on the nose. Palate: great spice and rich texture but dry; Alsatian and elegant.
– Reserve Riesling 2012: 0.5% residual sugar, this was made from select fruit from the “golden ridge” section of their own vineyard. On the palate, it was rich in texture with tropical fruit flavors; is balanced and will age well.
– Dry rose 2013: made from cabernet franc, this wine has a pretty red cherry nose with pretty, juicy, full and lovely fruit. Stylish.
– Pinot Noir 2012: The nose has fascinating aromas of strawberry, forest floor and truffles. On the palate, the wine is racy with (typical for the variety) high acid, and moderate oak. A wine for Burgundy fans, it needs a little time but will reward patience.
– Reserve Cabernet Franc 2011 (estate fruit, 18 mo. in oak): The nose is fragrant cherry, sage and smoke. On the palate, black pepper and black cherry flavors dominate with no “veggies” ; trim but elegant.
I’d like to point out that with $1 from each tasting fee charged in 2014 King Ferry raised $4,545 for the King Ferry and Central New York Food Bank. That’s “tasting for a cause.”