Honk if You Drink Franc!
Michael and I have been fixated on New York State wines for quite some time, but never so acutely as we have been since 2008, when, as synchronicity would have it, while we toured the wines regions on Long Island’s east end and the Finger Lakes for the first time together, we caught many growers at a pivotal moment. They had begun taking measures to kick the quality level up a few notches, while also experimenting with more appropriate grape varieties for their climates. Exactly five years later, we revisited Seneca Lake, and tasted the metamorphosis nearing its completion, declaring right then, in respect to exceptional, fully-realized American wine with sense-of-place distinction, that New York had finally arrived!
You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!
The Seneca Lake Wine Trail, which would take a good long weekend to fully tour, is perhaps THE single most important AVA to keep an eye on. A climactic warming trend, combined with the knowhow of progressive and experienced winemakers is transforming the region into something that more resembles a slice of the Mosel Saar Ruwer than its former underachieving self. Meeting several of these winemakers to discuss their approach gave us further insight, and confirmed for us that the vibe we were sensing was not only real, but represented just the beginning of a new era in this special viticultural zone.
Seneca in a Bottle
One way to experience this vibe for yourself would be, of course, to spend a weekend upstate and bounce from winery to winery for a taste (with a designated driver, of course). But as a NYC inhabitant, you’re in a unique position to avoid travel for your initial experience; Access to much of Seneca Lake’s bounty is as close as a mouse click. Consider warming up to the Seneca style by sipping on a few of our favorite examples of Cabernet Franc right at your own table. As you begin to wrap your mind around the sophisticated style of these “local” red wines, you will be drawn to visit the vineyards, and share in the pride of New York wine region that’s about to break out!
The two Francs we chose are from neighboring villages on the east side of Seneca Lake (Hector, NY and Lodi, NY), yet exhibit remarkably contrasting palate profiles— the sure sign of terroir diversity seen in the greatest European wine regions. Order them online, polish up your aromatic wine glasses, whip up this exciting recipe, and begin your journey.
Lamoreaux Landing Cabernet Franc T23 ’12 $20 Purchase Here
Since 1990, this Lodi estate has been ahead of the curve, and produces very fresh, pronounced wines, offering 20+ bottlings per vintage at this point. T23 means tank# 23, in which this oak-less Franc is raised. The aromas are of strawberry jam preserves with a note of leather. The palate starts out fruit-driven, but grows pleasantly gamier alongside savory foods. Ultimately, this is a chewy, herbaceous and sweet-edged effort, and is New York’s best answer to the Loire style.
Bloomer Creek Vineyard Cabernet Franc ’11 $17 Purchase Here
Owned and operated by a couple who are 30-year wine growing veterans in the region, Bloomer Creek Vineyard’s wines are a lesson in local terroir, and are not afraid to be funky and downright geeky in style. The ’11 Franc smells of beautiful pure violets and expensive cigar wrapper. Once in the mouth, impressions of Ceylon tea, leather and bitter cacao can be conjured to such a savory effect that you might overlook the underlying spicy red fruit. Lean in body, and exceptionally complex, this is clearly the new face of Seneca.