The first major winery you reach when driving north on Rt. 14 on the west side of Seneca Lake is Lakewood Vineyards, a family operation of three generations of the Stamps. The original Stamp family moved to Lakewood Farm in 1951, and planted grapes for the large grape and juice processors. In the 1980s, as those buyers dried up, they diversified into planting higher-end winegrapes, and harvested their first crop in 1988.

Lakewood Vineyards, west Seneca Lake, looking east

Monty Stamp, father of current owner and winemaker Chris Stamp, was a model of community and New York industry participation and improvement He was a founding member of the New York State Wine Grape Growers and served as an officer for that organization as well as the Wine Grape Growers of America for many years. Monty passed away a few years ago but is remembered in “The Full Monty” commemorative riesling.

Today, Monty’s wife Bev is still involved in Lakewood’s operations, as are their son Chris Stamp, his wife Liz, and now their son Ben. Chris’s brother Dave Stamp is the vineyard manager. They have a dry, taut and elegant Austrian-style reserve riesling called “Three Generations” which is an apt tribute to the family and their fine wines.

The New York International wine competition awarded Lakewood Vineyards “2018 Riesling Winery of the Year” for their “Three Generations” label riesling. Also, this writer finds the price/value ratio at Lakewood one of the best in the Finger Lakes.

Tasting Highlights: 

First, this writer tasted tank samples from the enthusiastic Ben Stamp, son of Chris, and it was great to see how the 2017 vintage is shaping up. Even in the tank, some wines are earning stars.

*Semi-dry Riesling 2017 (tank sample). Nose: brilliant, clean lime peel and green apple. Palate: juicy, full and ripe (1.7% residual sweetness). Great fruit/acid balance, long long finish, white peach with a hint of apricot. Will be tops when bottled! (pretty good for a tank sample). $14 (when bottled)

*Three Generations Riesling (tank sample). Nose: classic Rheingau notes of white peach, ripe red apple. Also Austrian notes of taut racy mineral and citrus notes. Palate: dry, full-bodied, huge white peach with dancing minerality, like top-notch Austrian rieslings. Pretty good for a tank sample! $20 (when bottled)

*Bubbly Candeo: a cayuga-based Prosecco-style wine packaged in a normal wine bottle with a screw cap finish. Ben says they will sell it in the City and will likely double production next year. Nose: gentle green apple, based on free-run juice. Palate: fresh, smooth creamy texture, much gentler and friendlier than most Proseccos. Ben says they sell a lot in keg to restaurants. I love the Finger Lakes style of elegant, creamy texture with lively fruit and acid. Sells at the Prosecco level for $13/750 ml. Warning! Once you start sipping, you may find it hard to stop…

*Three Generations Riesling 2016: Nose is a classic Austrian style of limestone, lemon/lime rind, not overtly fruity. Palate: solid pink grapefruit and lemon rind, lots of acidity but well-balanced. A classic but needs time; could start enjoying late this summer. $20

Cabernet Franc 2016: Nose: nice ripe red/black cherry, lots of baking spices. and garden herbs. Palate: great red cherry and black pepper, vanilla, spices and hints of bell pepper. Balanced, poised. $18

Lemberger 2016: Color: bright violet hue. Nose: Wow! Fresh boysenberry/blueberry, lovely fruit. Palate: ripe, juicy; fruit and acid-driven. Will need another year or so. $18

*Vignoles 2016: For the record, I’m not a big vignoles fan since I know it’s a P.I.T.A. in the vineyard since it rots easily and is difficult for winemakers to balance the high acid with the big tropical fruit. However, hats off to Chris for making the most elegantly balanced vignoles table wine I’ve tasted (he credits the warm vintage). Nose: fresh, delicate pineapple. Palate: Fun, fresh, ripe and very juicy!  A party in a glass, and that’s a compliment. (residual sweetness, 6%; titratable acidity 9.8 g/l). $11

Port 2016 (blend of frontenac and baco noir). Nose: lovely floral nose of roses and Earl Grey tea. Palate: juicy, round, red/black fruits, very smooth tannins, deep black fruits, nice bright fresh finish. A great value. $16

Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyards in Dundee on west Seneca Lake was founded by the same Mr. Wiemer, a native of the Mosel Valley of Germany, in 1979, making it the second winery on west Seneca Lake (after Glenora Vineyards). From the first, Wiemer focused on riesling in classic German styles, and has since diversified into unoaked chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet franc, dry rose, and gewurztraminer.

In 2007, Fred Merwath, an avid student of wine who had worked as an apprentice under Wiemer since 2001, bought the brand from Wiemer who retired. The vineyard still sells grapevines to other wineries and vineyards. Since Merwath has taken over, quality remains as high as ever, especially with a new emphasis on single vineyard rieslings.

Tasting Highlights:

**HJW Vineyard Riesling 2016: Nose of brilliant green apple, white flowers, white peach, and mineral notes. Palate: Wow-concentrated ripe red apple, white peach, great depth and not too acidic. Dry-0.8% residual sweetness. $39

*Signature Dry Riesling 2016: A fragrant nose of peach and flowers, a middle Mosel style. Palate: juicy, broad, ripe red apple; dancing acidity on the finish. $19.50

Magdelena Vineyard Riesling 2016: Nose of evergreen boughs, some white pepper and lime peel. Palate: tart, bright red apple, crackling acidity, lively and bright. $35

Gewurztraminer 2017: Nose: HUGE spicy lychee, classic. Palate: zesty, almost riesling-like acidity, great balance for food, with a fresh, clean finish. $25

**Riesling Late Harvest 2015: Nose of peaches, pears, and ripe apple, with a touch of apricot botrytis. Palate: seductive peach, apricot and lemon zest flavors. Juicy but very elegant racy acidity on the finish. Brilliant! $24.50

Fox Run Vineyards is one of the largest and most well-known wineries on west Seneca Lake. It’s also a fine example of a successful owner-winemaker relationship between Scott Osborn (owner) and Peter Bell (winemaker); Bell has worked at Fox Run for over 20 years, rare in this business.

Fox Run Vineyards on West Seneca Lake

Bell is highly respected in the wine industry for his science-based, rationalist approach to winemaking, “but does not deny that this ethos must necessarily collide with purely hedonistic and emotional aspirations in order to achieve a wine that we all lust after.”

Bell started the Tierce project in the early 2000s, along with colleagues Johannes Reinhardt and Dave Whiting. Each contributed 33% of specially selected dry riesling to make a single bottle that was designed to showcase dry Finger Lakes riesling at its best, that would also age well. To assist the preservation of the wine, it was bottled with a Stelvin screw cap. Tierce is a top-level riesling selling for $30, but it will last for over a decade.

Like Lakewood and other large local wineries, Fox Run caters to a diverse clientele, with wines made from native and hybrid grapes up to classic vinifera. Bell was an early fan of lemberger/blaufrankisch, and like many other Finger Lakes wineries, Fox Run offers a blend of these two grapes in one wine.

Bell worked in the Australian wine industry, where fortified wine is a small but important category. He is highly skilled in the special craft of making fine fortified port-style wine in both white and red catgories, and these were some of my favorites in the Fox Run line.

Tasting Highlights: 

Chardonnay, Doyle Family Vineyard 2017: this wine is a fine example of how NOT to mess up  good Finger Lakes fruit with too much buttery oakey stuff, and just let it be. The nose has bright but subtle lemon hints, like a pinot blanc. On the palate, it’s light and fresh, then broad and smooth in the mid-palate. As the winery says, “the mouthfeel is creamy, but not leaden, due to bright acidity and moderate alcohol.  It’s fresh and flavor-packed, with no distracting oak flavors.” I also think this is a HUGE value at $13, and is versatile enough to quaff by itself or enjoy as a starter wine.

*Tierce Riesling 2006: The current vintage at the winery is 2015 ($30), but I decided to review a 12-year old bottle I’ve been keeping to demonstrate the value of bottle aging. This was a lean tight vintage, so you’d either want to drink it in the first three years of lay it down for at least a decade.

Nose: whiff of petrol, green apple and lemon/lime. Should be decanted (screwcaps can retain sulfur compounds that block the fruit). After some air, there’s still a bit of petrol but not too much. Delicate jasmine aromas, with green and yellow apple flavors  finishing with bright, long citrus acidity. After 12 years, still taut and acid-driven but with classic elegant riesling fruit aromas and flavors. Can still continue to hold well but needs decanting.

*Hedonia NV This is a fine example of a white port designed to be a refreshing aperitif. Made with the spicy traminette grape (gewurztraminer is one parent), this delivers exotic orange citrus fruits on the nose (tangerine and kumquat), like flavors on the palate with juiciness and spiciness balanced with alcohol and acidity. Classy and stylish, an idea more Finger Lakes wineries should be working with. $15/375 ml, 11% residual sugar, 15.7% alc.

**Ruby Port NV This is a brightly fruity, juicy but well-balanced ruby-style port (fresh fruit-forward, compared to the tawny style of oxidative-influenced aromas and flavors). Made from 50% Merlot, 44% Lemberger, 6% Cabernet Franc, there’s plenty of red and black fruits, vibrant Finger Lakes acidity, and a smooth juicy palate avoiding the burn of the alcohol (19.7%) and putting you in mind of dark chocolate on a cool night which, in the Finger Lakes, could be in June. Stylish and a fine representation of Finger Lakes fruit. $20/375 ml

***Fine Old Tawny Port NV This exquisite example of solera aging and blending in the classic Portuguese tradition rewards the port connoisseur with a sensual symphony that tastes like late autumn in a glass. Color is a deep garnet with a bright orange rim. “After a minimum of three years, and often much longer, select barrels are blended together, producing small quantities of a unique and captivating sweet fortified wine.” Nose: walnuts, roasted pecans, marmalade, Christmas spices and dried fruits. Palate: rich, intense but yet elegant and balanced, bringing all of the aromatic elements together in flavors, with an almost unctuous texture that is still balanced with acidity (including an appropriate level of volatile acidity). Ripe figs and date flavors with citrus rind and spices, a long sweet yet crisp finish with a nutty aftertaste. I understand this wine has a cult following even at $50/375 ml; in fact, it’s not advertised at the winery and they won’t let you buy more than six bottles. Outstanding; a great idea for a gift for a fan of classic port wine.