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Heart & Hands Wine Company 2013 Patrician Verona Vineyard Riesling

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When Tom and Susan Higgins set out to create Heart & Hands Wine Company, pinot noir was to be the focus — and it is. Tom is making some of the best pinot on the East Coast. At the same time, the riesling program has grown beyond what the couple expected (I tasted more than a half dozen bottlings on a recent visit) and offers outstanding quality as well. The fruit used to make Heart & Hands Wine Company 2013 Patrician Verona Vineyard Riesling ($28) was grown on the west side of Cayuga Lake on a site that consistently produces ripe, fruit-forward rieslings. That’s…

Hermann J. Wiemer 2013 Cabernet Franc

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Even though I’ve been writing wine reviews for many years now, I never stop asking myself about their real value, whether or not I’m approaching them in the right way or how I can improve my process. Looking out at the rest of the industry — I’m talking more about printed publications, who tend to be a bit more transparent with how they taste and review wines — there don’t seem to be any set rules. Some critics taste wine “blind” but not really — because they know the region the wines are made, so any bias they may have for…

Billsboro Winery 2012 Pinot Noir

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Billsboro Winery 2010 Pinot Noir ($25) offers aromas of black cherry sprinkled with potpurri, root beer and smoke and toasted oak that is just a little distracting. The fresh, nicely concentrated palate brings more cherries — black and maraschino — a bit of chocolate and subtle. It’s less oaky than the nose and has soft, supple tannins and a nice bit of juicy acidity. Producer: Billsboro Winery AVA: Finger Lakes ABV: 12.5% Price: $25 (sample) (3 out of 5, Very good/Recommended)

Bouquet 2014 Sauvignon Blanc

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Long Island sauvignon blanc has arrived and is just starting to get the attention outside of the region that it deserves. Quality is high nearly across the board while bright, steel-fermented versions will always rule the category, blending, skin contact, time in barrels of various ages add some diversity as well. But, it’s gotten hard to find good Long Island sauvignon blanc for less than $22. Bouquet 2014 Sauvignon Blanc ($18) is a rare find in that regard. The lightly saline nose is driven by lemon and grapefruit aromas and a subtle green melon note. Though a bit austere and light-bodied, the palate…

Mattebella Vineyards 2013 Steel Chardonnay

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Lower- and no-oak chardonnay is getting a lot of attention in California these days — especially among the “New California” set — but this style of chardonnay has been popular for many years in Long Island wine country — and this is Mattebella Vineyards‘ first foray into the barrel-less chardonnay game. Mattebella Vineyards 2013 Steel Chardonnay ($20) smells like fresh pears and yellow apples with just a hint of sweet corn. Sometimes steel chardonnay can be a bit lean and tinny, but this one is fleshier than that with a gently creamy mid-palate. Fruit-forward and fairly direct, the palate is…

Raphael 2014 “First Label” Sauvignon Blanc

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Since his arrival on Long Island in 2007, Anthony Nappa — who serves as winemaker for Raphael as well as his own label after working for Shinn Estate Vineyards for four years — has shown a deft hand with North Fork sauvignon blanc. Perhaps Nappa’s time spent studying winemaking in New Zealand helped a little. Regardless, he makes some of my favorite local sauvignon, more or less regardless of who he’s making it for or where the fruit comes from. Sometimes they are crispy and lighter-styled. Other times they are concentrated and textural. Raphael 2014 “First Label” Sauvignon Blanc ($28) continues that tradition and…

Atwater Estate Vineyards 2014 Dry Rose of Merlot

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There isn’t a lot of merlot grown in the Finger Lakes — and even fewer wineries doing worth while things with it. Atwater Estate Vineyards 2014 Dry Rose of Merlot ($25) isn’t unique for New York (Long Island is flooded by merlot-based rose every spring) but it does stand out from the Finger Lakes crowd. The aromas are lighter than you might expect, but light, pretty red cherry and floral notes are accented by subtle herbaceous edge. There is a bit more intensity on the palate, with similar straightforward red berry flavors, lively acidity and a lingering cherry-skin finish. Before you balk…

Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars 2013 Reserve Riesling

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Dr. Konstantin Frank 2013 Reserve Riesling ($25) offers intense, concentrated aromas and flavors of peach, pineapple and Golden Delicious apple that are accented up by notes of honey, spice and hay. Richly flavored and textured, there is a bit of sweetness up front, but a beam of juicy, nervy acidity scrubs the palate clean on a medium-long finish. Producer: Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars AVA: Finger Lakes ABV: 12% TA: 8.4 g/L pH: 3.11 Production: 301 cases Price: $25* (3.5 out of 5 | Very Good, Recommended to Outstanding and Delicious, Highly Recommended)

Damiani Wine Cellars 2012 Barrel Select Cabernet Sauvignon

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You won’t find a lot of varietal cabernet sauvignon wines in the Finger Lakes — with good reason. Generally speaking, later-ripening reds aren’t as well-suited to the region as other types of grapes. That said, Damiani Wine Cellars typically bucks that trend and makes some of the better cab in the region. Damiani Wine Cellars 2012 Barrel Select Cabernet Sauvignon ($45) isn’t as good as the outstanding 2010, but it still balances ripe fruit with oak and savory notes well. The nose shows a melange of aromas — sweet blueberry compote, blackberry, savory dried herbs, soy sauce, and dusty, earthy cocoa powder. Mouth-filling and slightly chewy,…

Barry Family Cellars 2014 “Pastiche” White Blend

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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…