When veteran Finger Lakes winemaker Ian Barry started Barry Family Cellars with his family back in 2011, he planned to focus on a core portfolio of riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir and cabernet franc, while also affording himself the ability tinker and experiment here and there with other grapes and techniques along the way.
If any of the wines that resulted from those trials stood out, maybe he’d add to that core group of wines.
If my last name were Barry, I’d be pushing for Barry Family Cellars 2014 Pastiche ($22) to join the permanent lineup. It’s one of the best non-riesling Finger Lakes white wines I’ve tasted in years.
I guess you’d call it an Alsatian-style blend because it is 50% pinot gris, 30% gewurztraminer and 20% riesling, but Barry didn’t necessarily set out to make such a blend.
He had been talking with Eric Shatt, co-owner of Redbyrd Cider who also manages Cornell University’s orchard and vineyard on Cayuga Lake about what Shatt thought was a ton of pinot gris that he didn’t have a buyer for.
“I looked at it and agreed to buy it,” Barry said “But between that visit and harvest, deer and birds had a feast and we ended up with enough grapes to whole cluster press and get about 30 gallons of settled juice.”
That 30 gallons went into a 10-year old French oak barrel and began to ferment on its own, but Barry notes “I hesitate to call this a ‘wild’ fermentation, as I’m guessing it was a cultured yeast living in the barrel that sparked the fermentation.”
Gewurztraminer wasn’t a part of Barry’s 2014 plans either, but a visit with Tom Chelan at Cayuga Ridge Winery changed that. “I was amazed by the quality of their gewurz grapes and ended up purchasing a little over a ton,” he said. When that fruit was picked — a few weeks after the pinot gris had started fermenting in that older barrel — Barry added about 20 gallons of gewurztraminer juice to the already fermenting pinot gris and fermentation took off again.
The last component — the riesling — came from the Tuller Vineyard on the west side of Seneca Lake, and was used to top up the barrel.
The idea of field blends and co-fermentation intrigues Barry. “Although you don’t have the control of tweaking the final blend exactly how you’d like, I do think that the wines integrate in a way that they don’t when fermented separately.”
After tasting this wine, I have to agree.
Gewurztraminer is anything but shy — and at 30% you might expect it to overwhelm the other grapes — but it doesn’t here. The nose shows fresh pear and apple notes with hints of zesty citrus and distinct rose petal and spice aromas from that gewurz that are prominent but not dominant.
What sets this wine apart is it’s texture and mouthfeel, which is at once rich and vibrant thanks to citrusy, perfectly integrated acidity. Gritty pear, peach and citrus flavors are made more interesting by notes of ginger, rose petal, and earthy, chalky minerality.
Only that one barrel was made — 25 cases, but Barry hopes to make 100 cases in 2015.
Producer: Barry Family Cellars
AVA: Finger Lakes
Grape Blend: 50% pinot gris, 30% gewurztraminer, 20% riesling
Production: 25 cases
Price: $22 (sample)
(4 out of 5, Outstanding and Delicious, Highly Recommended)