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Ice Wine Science, Part 1: Volatile issues

By Tom Mansell, Science Editor I recently had the opportunity to participate in part of the ice wine grape harvest at Sheldrake Point Vineyards, located on the west side of Cayuga Lake. Ice wine grapes can and should be harvested under specific conditions. Sheldrake Point winemaker David Breeden likes to harvest between 12 and 18 degrees Fahrenheit, but it's a delicate balance. In frozen grapes, some of the water crystallizes into ice, segregating sugars and acids into a more concentrated solution. The degree of "frozen-ness" of the grapes will determine the concentration of the syrupy solution which will be extracted…

Finding the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wines of the Year — and Finding a Region’s Emerging Personality

By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Editor Photos by Morgan Dawson Photography In a chic western New York wine bar called Sapore, on a quiet Sunday afternoon, a group of colleagues and competitors did something they had never done before. They poured one another's wines in an introduction to the New York Cork Report and an effort to promote the Chautauqua-Lake Erie wine trail.   Producers chose to feature only white and dessert wines for this tasting, and while these wines represented the best of this wine region, they're not showing the same quality that consumers can find in the Finger Lakes and Long Island. But for now, they don't…

DEC Defends Hydrofracking, but Opponents Worry About Impacts on Finger Lakes Wine Industry

By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Editor with Tom Mansell, Science Editor There is energy under our feet, and companies want to access it. The Marcellus Shale formation is about a mile deep, consisting of a rock-bound reservoir that runs through New York and Pennsylvania, among other states. According to experts, it's a natural gas basin that could provide 400 trillion gallons of natural gas. For sake of comparison, that's nearly 20 times the current national output. Crews can access the gas by drilling down — and then horizontally, hundreds of feet below the surface. The shale contains tiny pores where…

A Rare and Interesting Wine Fault: Ladybug Taint

One stinky bug: The Asian ladybeetle (Photo courtesy of USDA Agricultural Research Service) By Tom Mansell, Science Editor Have you ever picked up an ant and squished it between your fingers? In some cases, the ant has the last laugh, leaving your fingers with a sickly sweet, pungent odor sometimes described as "rotten coconuts." Ants secrete all kinds of different chemicals for communication, stress, antibacterial, antifungal and many other reasons. Unfortunately, this is also true of insects in the vineyard.  One particular insect can secrete a chemical so potent, as little as one bug per liter of juice can ruin…

Fermentation Winespeak

By Tom Mansell, Science Editor Have you ever smelled grape juice? Not Concord or Niagara juice but grape must that's about to become wine? It doesn't smell like much. It's kind of like fresh mown grass. How does this relatively un-aromatic juice evolve into complex, aromatic wine?  Most everybody's grapes are in (except for the ice wine grapes) and it's now time for winemakers to figure out how best to turn their grapes into quality wine. Surprisingly, magic is not involved.  Now in the spirit of Harvest Winespeak last month, In this edition of Winespeak, we'll explore some terms and…

Giving Hybrids Some TLC Could Lead to Better Breeding

Artists' rendering of the methyl anthranilate molecule, responsible for "foxy" aroma in grapes and wine By Tom Mansell, Science Editor Interspecific grape hybrids (hereafter: hybrids) were initially bred in the late 19th century in response to phylloxera, an American grape pest that migrated across the ocean to Europe and began to decimate the less-resistant vinifera vines, almost wiping out wine production. Since an American pest was the problem, breeding vinifera with American vines was a potential solution (rather the American way, eh? Screw something up halfway around the world, then try to fix it?), and the result was original French…

Harvest Winespeak Defined

 A destemmer awaiting clusters (Photo courtesy of Ramón Mira de Orduña Heidinger) By Tom Mansell, Science Editor Anyone with any involvement in wine knows that the world of wine has a unique vocabulary.  In a wine context, words like flabby, austere and even "mineral," take on meanings far from their dictionary definitions. Additionally, like in any trade, specific techniques for producing wine lead to specific names for such techniques.  While many people in the trade read this blog, I'm willing to bet that the majority are interested wine drinkers. In this edition of what I hope will become a recurring…

Leaf Pulling and Canopy Management: Let the Sun Shine In

Buried grapes in the research vineyards at Cornell Orchards, Ithaca, NY (left) and grapes more fully exposed to the sun at Peconic Bay Winery, Peconic, NY (right) By Tom Mansell, Science Editor As I checked my Twitter feed over the past few days, I noticed lots of tweets about the upcoming harvest from winemakers and growers.  See the following from Lucas Vineyards winemaker Jeff Houck and Fox Run Vineyards owner Scott Osborn: Apparently many places are doing some post-verasion leaf removal, as recently discussed on this site. It got me thinking about what's actually happening inside the grape when all…

Do You Hate Chardonnay?

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“I don’t like Chardonnay.” I hear this all the time when I talk to friends, family and even strangers on the street about wine. I’ve even said it to myself as I choked down a heavy, buttery, oak-filled chard…usually hailing from California. These wines are difficult to pair well with food and, unless you enjoy the flavor of American, French or some other region’s oak trees, it’s no wonder you don’t like them. Fact is, you’ve probably never really tasted this most noble of all white wine grapes. Through barrel fermentation and excessive aging in new oak, many wine makers…

Top New York Wine From Hudson Valley Winery Made Right Here In Mattituck

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By defeating 635 other wines from across New York State, Rivendell Winery’s 2003 Dry Riesling captured the Governor’s Cup at the 19th annual New York Wine and Food Classic this summer at the Inn at East Wind in Wading River. In doing so, it earned the title “New York’s Best Wine.” When I heard that, I knew I needed some time in New Paltz for a little R&R – Rivendell and Riesling. And, a couple weeks later, I got my chance. As my future wife and I drove down the New York State Thruway, heading back to the Island after…