Bottle Shock

When I spent the better part of a day last summer visiting Finger Lakes wineries I had done my research. Days prior to departing my New Hampshire home, I surfed on-line and made a “wish-list” of wineries I needed to see. Standing Stone Vineyards was one of about seven wineries visited that one day and, as it provided the backdrop to a pleasant afternoon, it quickly became the highlight of that summer weekend getaway. Meeting Marti Macinski, one of the winery’s owners, served only to make this stop all the more special. Being a convivial ambassador for the region’s wines, her spirit and enthusiasm were infectious (she shares the same hopeful vision I found at other vinifera producers in this region). Pearched high above the eastern shore of Lake Seneca, visitors here are immediately struck by expansive views of vines, fields and shimmering blue water below. At the far end of their friendly tasting room, set in a converted barn with vaulted ceilings, sits the deck that we found so inviting on that sunny August day. Where better to enjoy a good bottle of riesling, some Hudson Valley sheep milk cheese and leisurely admire the sweeping view?

Standing Stone’s 2003 Pinot Noir was a brickish, amber-red color in the glass. The wine looked like it could have seen nearly 10 years of bottle age! To the nose, this pinot showed dried fruits such as cranberry, cherry and orange peel that were candied in character. When tasted, I found its fruit to have a “sweet & sour” quality. Sour cherry and cranberry flavors were infused with balsamic vinegar sweetness. Sadly, this pinot noir was beset by volatile acidity. Although this pinot’s moderate alcohol level helped mitigate the effects of the VA (with higher alcohol content it would have been even more conspicuous), it was, unfortunately, very difficult to enjoy this wine. Obviously this wine was problematic in both appearance and flavor, and while this could have certainly been caused by an “off” bottle, I do remember this wine showing similar oxidized color and flavor when tasted at the winery last summer.

First impressions, be they correct or not, are nearly always lasting. I had a great time at Standing Stone Vineyards when I visited last summer, finding most of their wines consistently high in quality and among the better ones I enjoyed that August weekend. Their dry riesling was as excellent as their hospitality was generous. The next time I’m bound for Hector, New York I’ll stop back for sure. Regrettably, their 2003 pinot noir didn’t show very well. Perhaps I should just chalk-it-up to having the odd “off” bottle, and I do hope that’s the case, but I sense that something went awry in the production and/or packaging of this wine. Roll the dice if you like with this vintage, but I think you’d be better served by their crisp and quenching riesling. It goes great with Old Chatham Sheepherding cheeses!

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