Thoughts on "Summer In A Glass" And Finger Lakes Wine Finding Its (Red And White) Mojo

Vinted on April 12, 2011 binned in book reviews, wine books

Before I offer my thoughts on Evan Dawson’s recently-released Summer in a Glass: The Coming of Age of Winemaking in the Finger Lakes, I need to make sure that you thoroughly understand that this is NOT a book review.

It’s not really a book review because as a personal friend of Evan, and a fan of his writing in general, and a member of the Palate Press ad network (which is currently running ads for Summer in a Glass, some of which appear right here on this site), I am very likely incapable of producing an unbiased review of his first book.

In fact, I’m quoted in the book as well, and, now that I think about it, about the only way I could be more firmly lodged like a NYC prostitute onto the tip of this book would be if I were somehow receiving a percentage of the advance (I’m not).  So let’s just say that when I tell you that Summer in a Glass is not really a wine book, but is a humanist take on a local industry finally finding its mature footing, and just happens to be set in a wine region – and that it’s a total joy to read – I’m at least being subconsciously influenced into seeing the more positive gleams from the sheen coming off of its glossy cover.

What I can tell you without appearing like a total shill is that Summer in a Glass seems to be hitting the shelves at exactly the right time.  I’ve written in the not-so-distant past that the NY Finger Lakes wine region seems to have hit its best stride ever in recent years, with the levels of experience, industry camaraderie and wine quality all headed up a steep curve simultaneously.  If you want to settle into your fave reading chair with a book like Evan’s, there’s never been a better time than now to pour yourself a glass of Finger Lakes wine to accompany it – and that is NOT just Riesling, mind you; I include Finger Lakes reds in that group, as they are producing increasing amounts of high-quality reds like Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir (let’s not forget that the 2008 Red Tail Ridge Pinot Noir made my list of 2010 Top 10 Most Interesting Wines, people)…

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Weekly Twitter Wine Mini Reviews Round-Up For April 9, 2011

Vinted on April 9, 2011 binned in wine mini-reviews
  • 09 Agustinos Terra Syrah (Aconcagua): A serious overachiever. But you’d better like ’em earthy & meaty (& dark & velvety & damn good). $12 B #
  • 09 Veranda Grande Cuvee Millerandage Pinot Noir (Bio-Bio): Sexy & muscular w/out looking juiced (& w/out giving up the PN suppleness) $55 B+ #
  • 10 Porta Reserva Carmenere (Maipo): Big, bright dark fruits & oregano shine above the booze & make this shine above the competition. $9 B- #
  • 09 Lai Lai Chardonnay (Bio-Bio): Starts strong & creamy, delivers complex peaches & apricot, but kinda leaves in a bit of a hurry. $12 C+ #
  • 10 Veranda Quinel Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (Bio-Bio): Elegant but acquired-taste match of chili pepper, asparagus, & minerals. $18 B- #
  • 10 Porta Reserva Sauvignon Blanc (Bio-Bio): A lean, green, lemony, grassy & bit overly-sweetly-tropical machine. $9 C #
  • 09 Achaval-Ferrer “Finca Altamira” (Mendoza): Depth, spice, blacks, blues… probably the most complete (& best) Malbec in Argentina. $100 A #
  • 09 Achaval-Ferrer “Finca Bella Vista” (Mendoza): As svelte & round as Malbec gets; only red-fruit & spice lovers need apply, though. $100 A- #
  • 09 Achaval-Ferrer “Finca Mirador” (Mendoza): Focused & savory, w/ a hurts-so-good finish almost as long as John Mellancamp concert. $100 A- #
  • 09 Achaval-Ferrer “Quimera” (Mendoza): More demanding than a schoolmarm. Everything in this is huge, from the fruit down to the acids $40 B+ #
  • 10 Achaval-Ferrer Malbec (Mendoza): Packs tons of vibrant, savory red fruit & florals into an overachieving, inexpensive package. $20 B+ #
  • 05 Rolland Collection Val de Flores (Mendoza): This Malbec’s meat is nicely spiced, but they served a flabby, boozy & ultra-ripe cut. $50 B- #
  • 07 Cuvelier Los Andes Grand Vin (Mendoza): A black & red fruits gift wrapped nicely in a leathery, spicy, svelte and elegant package. $42 B+ #
  • 07 DiamAndes Gran Reserva Malbec-Cabernet (Mendoza): Tasty cured meat served with a side of red currants & awesome Malbec structure. $40 B+ #
  • 08 Clos de los 7 (Mendoza): Gorgeously inky dark & savory; less-gorgeously big & extracted. Better pack the big steaks for this one. $19 B- #
  • 07 Clos de los 7 (Mendoza): A chewy, expressive, savory red fruit ride; but its destination appears to be (Bretty) funky town. $19 C+ #
  • 06 Monteviejo Lindaflor Malbec (Mendoza): That’s no moon… it’s a Space Station.. er, I mean, a meaty, dark, black-fruited Malbec! $50 B+ #
  • 09 Monteviejo Lindaflor Chardonnay (Mednoza): Big, unabashedly buttery, but a steal of a complex, apricot-fruity steakhouse Chard. $25 B+ #
  • 08 XumeK Reserva Malbec-Syrah (San Juan): Deeply concentrated, ripe & big big BIG. Will it age? Might as well try it for this price. $28 B+ #
  • 09 XumeK Syrah (San Juan): Crayola doesn’t make anything this purple; it also puts on a mouthfeel clinic without charging much for it. $16 B #



Risk Is The Business: Earthquakes, Amphorae and the Quest For Terroir at De Martino

“It’s not really very safe.”

Hearing those words, from winemaker Marcelo Retamal in a barrel area that is little more than a small warehouse on the Isla De Maipo estate of De Martino, surrounded by support beams that have been twisted and broken like so many toothpicks, and overshadowed by a ceiling that looks as though parts of it could drop on top of our heads at any moment without warning… well, let’s just say I was hoping that whatever gods dole out the karma points were forgiving me for my initial reaction of “Well… f*cking DUH!

In California, I’d have had to sign a 37-page waiver just to look at this building, and here we were traipsing about inside of it without even wearing hardhats. But this dark-haired, olive-skinned, brown-eyed winemaking guy had me totally at ease despite the less-than-secure surroundings.  Marcelo carries an almost ego-less assurance in his laid-back manner, no doubt a side effect of his fifteen-year tenure at De Martino (one of the longest stretches in the modern history of a country where most winemaking staff turnover is closer to 15 months than it is to 15 years).

De Martino’s current barrel aging area is, of course, a victim of the February 27, 2010 8.8-magnitude earthquake that in other regions of this long, thin country, had squashed enormous stainless steel tanks of wine as if they were empty beer cans at a college fraternity party. Our visit trails the devastating March 11, 2011 earthquake in Japan by only a few days, and the resilient Chileans feel a kinship to the Japanese quake victims that is mostly unspoken but still palpable whenever the topic of The Quake comes up (though it doesn’t take a shared disaster for one to feel the emotional impacts of the devastation near Tokyo: one report, which told of parents finding the bodies of a class of Ishinomaki kindergarteners huddled together after their school bus was engulfed in flames triggered by the recent earthquake’s resultant tsunami, had me privately shaken and withdrawn). Chileans are a forward-looking bunch, and are quick to talk about The Quake, a situation in almost polar opposition to the way that they seem to avoid direct talk about their political past, referencing it only in the abstract (Augusto Pinochet is never mentioned by name, sort of like how Hitler never ever comes up in conversations in Germany).

We’re not here to look at barrels or taste aging samples, though.  We are here to look at Marcelo’s clay amphorae.  The ones in which he (almost crazily) plans to ferment and age País (the grape of low-end boxed wines) from the cooler Itata region in the south, using carbonic maceration and adding as little sulfur as possible, burying them in the ground à la how they used to do things in the Jura in Spain…

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