Exploring The Finger Lakes with Keuka Spring


Thanks to a blogging group I am part of, I was lucky enough to receive a group of samples from wineries that are part of the Fingerlake Wine Alliance.

I wrote about one of the wineries last week and today is my second installment. The Fingerlakes as an area is just gorgeous and I was able to visit them two years ago with the Society of Wine Educators conference. At the time, I wasn’t aware of the incredible wealth of wines that are grown in this region. Before I get into these particular wines, first let’s add a little context.. Reverend William Bostwick planted first vineyard in the Finger Lakes in his rectory garden in Hammondsport, NY in 1829 so this area has been producing wines for a long time.A number of wineries were planted but it was the arrival of Konstantin Frank and vitis vinifera that changed the game in the 1950s. The Keuka wine trail was founded in the 1980s. Today there are 19 wineries on Keuka Lake. Why are these areas such a mecca for wineries?

Hundreds of thousands of years in the making, the Finger Lakes were carved out by successive waves of glaciers. These large and deep fresh water lakes and the soil deposits surrounding them are the glaciers’ gifts to modern winemakers. The massive bodies of water, visible from our vineyards, have a profound effect on the grapes. During the winter, cold air drains naturally from the sloping vineyards to the lakes. In spring, cool air bathes the vines, delaying the start of the growing season so that the tender shoots are not injured by late frosts. In the fall, the sun-warmed lakes prevent early frosts and extend the growing season.

I just love that quote from their website because it tells you so much about how wonderful wines can be made in this cool climate area thanks to the effects of the Lakes.

Keuka Spring Winery owners are Len and Judy Wiltberger. The owners started the company in 1981 near Penn Yan, New York on the east branch of Keuka Lake. They are now open for business and have been very active with virtual events and other ideas since the start of the pandemic, including essential workers with free memberships to their wine club and other gifts.

They both grow their own grapes and source them from nearby vineyards all in New York State. Some 30% are their own grapes. They own three vineyards which are the Wiltberger, planted in 1981 where they grow Vignoles, Riesling, Seyval Blanc, Chardonnay, Lemberger, and Cabernet Franc vines. They also source riesling from Harry Hymphrey’s vineyard and Gewurztraminer from a vineyard called Dynamite on Seneca Lake.

I received two wines a Rosé and a Riesling. The Riesling was a semi-dry that went through partial malolactic conversion.  The wine was delightful and really made my chili brighter and more vibrant. The wine itself was golden yellow in color with peach and citrus notes while floral elements as well. There were no petrol notes but i did get some lovely minerality and of course the sweetness which offset the savory components in the food. I was pleased with the pairing and the wine disappeared quickly.

It was the 2018 Riesling. Apparently  the harvest was a cool one in this region which preserved the stone fruit notes in the wine.

I also received a 2019 Dry Rose which was made using the Saignée method where the juice from red grapes is used right after crushing. They use neutral oak for the fermentation in order to again preserve fruit aromas while allowing it to undergo malolactic fermentation to add richness to the mouthfeel. 3/4 of the wine is fermented and aged in tanks and 1/4 in neutral barrels.

The wine had lovely strawberry and raspberry aromas and flavors. I found it dry but not overly so with a hint of sweetness. Perfect for a summer day, this wine too was over way too quickly. I paired it with a hotdog in the backyard and was blissfully happy with the day.

My first wine region trip post pandemic will certainly be to the Finger Lakes and I look forward to trying these wines in situ,. Until then, the virtual activities will have to suffice.

Read my other post about the Finger Lakes here.



One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.