Two weeks ago, when Nena and I were in the Finger Lakes region to take part in the PALATE 2009 festivities, I wanted to keep our visits to tasting rooms casual and mostly as 'civilians' so we could taste at our leisure like we did years ago before LENNDEVOURS became what it is today.

There was one exception, however — our visit to Anthony Road Wine Company the morning of our arrival. 

I don't remember when I first learned about Anthony Road, but assistant winemaker, Peter Becraft, used to live in Brooklyn and work at Greene Grape (the shop I partner with on the New York Cork Club) so there was a connection there. I also know that I've tasted winemaker Johannes Reinhardt's rieslings before and enjoyed them without exception. Anyway, I got in touch with Peter and set an appointment for us to meet in person and taste.

Peter_johannesI'm glad that I did. The wines we tasted were terrific, but the real pleasure was meeting and talking with Peter (left) and Johannes (right). There is a certain realness, a down-to-earthness about people in the Finger Lakes that is palpable and infectious. Everyone is so passionate about what they are doing and they want nothing more than to share that passion with you. The folks at Anthony Road epitomize that attitude. These are real people with real passion doing real work.

We also met John and Ann Martini, who welcomed us with open arms and told us a bit about the history of the property, how the sub-zero temperatures affected their vineyard and about John's weekly trek to New York City to sell wine at the green market. The Martinis planted the first vines on the site in 1973. The vignoles vines planted way back then are still viable and have attained "honorary vinifera" status as Peter put it.

For more than 20 years, the grapes they grew were sold to wineries throughout the Finger Lakes and New York, but with the 1989 vintage, they decided to produce their own wines. In 2000, Johannes, a native of Franconia, Germany, joined Anthony Road as its new winemaker.

His winemaking philosophy comes through clearly in his wines. He makes his wines based on what Mother Nature gives him in the vineyard (a cliche, but true in this case) and there is a consistent minerally-citrusy freshness to his whites that we really enjoyed. He also only uses Finger Lakes fruit in his winemaking, something that seems obvious but can not be assumed in the region.

Johannes is also refreshingly honest and straight forward. That is no more apparent then when we talked about cabernet franc, one of my favorite grapes. He has clear lukewarm (or colder) feelings towards it, disliking the "dusty" aromas and flavors it can have in the Finger Lakes. Instead, he prefers to use it for rose or blend it with Lemberger — a unique blend Anthony Road pioneered on Seneca Lake that has been since been adopted by a handful of local wineries. Johannes dislikes cab franc so much that he wants to reduce the percentage of it in this blend down to around 50% going forward.

He's also upfront about vineyard management in the region, saying that they unfortunately many growers "grow all grapes the same way."

We didn't taste the entire portfolio during our visit, skipping the "Tony's" line of entry-level blends with 3+% residual sugar. But we did taste much of the rest of the Anthony Road line.

Some quick notes straight from my notebook:

Devonian White ($10):  Non-vintage blend of Cayuga, chardonnay and pinot gris. Crisp and citrusy with light minerality. Great, bright acidity and a long, dry finish. Great value.

2007 Chardonnay No-Oak ($13): Lemony with an almost-nutty not. Clean and balanced. A little austere.

2007 Dry Riesling ($16): .6% RS. Faint pencil eraser on the nose with ripe, juicy lime and peach. Vibrant and alive on the palate. Peach, citrus and pineapple? Very very good. 

2007 Semi-Dry Riesling ($15): 1.9% RS. Overtly fruity and peachy. Plump, fruity, sweet mid-palate. Citrusy acidity slices through it. Well balanced. Nena's favorite.

2007 Martini-Riendhardt Selection Riesling ($22): 2.1% RS. Beautiful floral, lime and pear aromas and flavors. Amazing balance. Tastes less sweet than RS would indicate. Super-long finish. My favorite.

2007 Rose of Cabernet Franc ($13): .6% RS. 94% cabernet franc. 6% Lemberger. Simple strawberry. Hints of something smoky.

2006 Cabernet Franc-Lemberger ($18): Blackberry and smoke. A little green/underripe. Decent mid-palate. Green, thin finish.

We also tasted some spectacular 2008 late harvest wines from the tank, but I think they are deserving of their own post. Stay tuned.

For now, get your hands on the rieslings and the Devonian White, a wine that would be a terrific house white for the summer.