Friday, August 7, 2009

Swedish Hill Winery: Come for the Riesling, Stay for the Jackass

There is a huge difference between taking what you do seriously, and taking yourself so seriously that you come off as pompous and arrogant. The former can be a blessing while the latter can be the kiss of death. Luckily, Swedish Hill Winery in Romulus, NY takes the process of making wine seriously, though it is still able to maintain a fun-loving sense of humor that comes out in the tasting room. Need evidence that they are fun? How many wineries do you know that have a donkey named Doobie as their mascot? As of this writing, I can think of only one, Swedish Hill. Still, with Doobie and the great and knowledgeable people who work in the tasting rooms - they have three separate ones - you can learn a lot about the wines that they make and not feel like you are in a lecture hall. 

Swedish Hill is part of the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail which is one of the two primary one trails in the Finger Lakes - the other one being around Seneca Lake. Cayuga Lake has some great wineries, though, like most wines from the region, you should be prepared to taste a lot of sweet and semi-sweet wines. They are the regions bread and butter and riesling is defiantly the king grape of the Finger Lakes. 

The first wine that we tried at Swedish Hill was the 2007 Dry Riesling, which was a light, citrusy riesling that had a nice body and decent finish. Being a riesling, even though this was their “dry” variety, there was still a tinge of sweet syrupiness to it, which, given the characteristics of the riesling grape should be expected.

The next wine on their tasting list was their 2006 Reserve Chardonnay. Unlike many chardonnays I have had from the Finger Lakes, this one was not too oaky. It actually tasted like wine instead of scotch. It did have some light oak undertones, as well as the buttery finish that one expects with a chardonnay. This particular wine also had some hints of pear and apple in it. As this part of New York is also known for its apples, this was not surprising. Now if only the Finger Lakes cold make their apples taste like wine, that would be awesome.

The 2006 Reserve Chardonnay was followed with Swedish Hills’ Blue Waters Riesling. This was perhaps the most reflective of Finger Lakes wines that we tried at Swedish Hill. Not only does the label hint at the region’s lake culture with its halcyon image of kids jumping off of a wooden pier, but it is a riesling that has a sweet, but not too sweet, taste throughout with a fruity, lingering aftertaste of peaches. The Blue Waters Riesling is a good candidate to be an ambassador wine for the region, even though the Blue Waters line is Swedish Hills’ budget line. Riesling is king here, and this is a good riesling.

As for the reds that we tasted, the 2006 Cabernet Franc-Lemberger smelled like a cabernet sauvignon, and had a bit of a peppery aftertaste, but was a light and thin wine that could have been greatly improved if it had any more of a body and a deeper complexion. The Meritage was dry, without almost any nose and was too thin for my taste. Considering that Meritage seems to be pushed hard in every wine-producing region I have visited, even though it is a totally made-up term without any standards or regulation, except that a winery has to pay for the use of the name, a future post will likely be dedicated to Meritage as a whole. 

Finally, I talk about my fiancee, Caitlin, quite frequently in this blog. She is the very beautiful lady in red in one of the pictures on this post. Everyone say hi to her and be as lucky as I am to know her!

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