The Twelve Wines of Christmas
He (or she) would if he knew about the awesome bottles waiting in New York’s Finger Lakes region.
So we asked Seneca Lake vineyard folks to name a fave wine for the holidays, and then recommend a bottle from a neighboring winery. The answers, presented in no particular order, will serve you well in this season of cozy gatherings, unexpected visits, and quiet moments of warmth.
Members of of Lakewood Winery’s Stamp family did not hesitate a moment. “Our favorite for the holidays is the newly released 2015 Chardonnay,” says Liz Stamp. “It is rich and buttery with a nuanced oak and lovely fruit expression. Great with holiday foods or as a satisfying wine to sip by the fire.” As for the best from another winery, Liz likes the Fox Run Lemberger. “They do a great job with that grape.”
Chris Missick of Villa Bellangelo agrees the holidays call for good wine. “When I want to share a special bottle from our cellar to elevate gatherings, I generally pull out our 2012 reserve riesling,” Chris says. “A special limited production wine, we are still selling this gem in the tasting room.” As for a non-Villa bottle? “A bottle from Kemmeter. Johannes crafts spectacular wines, and his entry level riesling, Sonero, is a bright, beautiful treat!”
Jeff Dill, owner and winemaker at JR Dill, thinks the holidays call for a little glitz. “I would have to say our Cayuga Sparkling, known as Cayuga White Rise. The holidays are about celebrating and what better to celebrate with than sparkling wine? It also pairs well with a diverse array of dishes on the table.” When it comes to another’s best, “I would choose the rosé from Atwater. I love sipping chilled rosé on Seneca Lake!”
Glenora’s winemaker, Steve DiFrancesco, says, “I love the Glenora riesling for the holidays because the semi-dry finish is appealing to both dry and sweet wine drinkers, and it goes with many types of food, from turkey to ham to vegetarian.” Getting a bit sweeter, he also enjoys the Valvin muscat from Lakewood. “It’s very flavorful with a medium sweet finish and will go with all kinds of meals.”
The idea of sparkle appeals to Evan Miles as well. A third generation winemaker and vintner at Miles Wine Cellars, he recommends their Cache, made from early harvest riesling and described as “very fruit forward.” It is, he says, “festive and fun and brings out the flavor of holiday meals.” As for another winery, Evan goes to the opposite end of the flavor scale. “Lakewood does a wonderful port. It’s a ruby style and goes great with heavier meals with lots of gravy.”
Bubbles make another appearance on the list of favorites from Atwater Winery. Manager Denise Clappier says the 2013 Blanc de Blanc looks great in a fluted glass. “Tiny, bright bubbles. And it pairs well with so many foods,” she says. Owner Ted Marks completely loves the Governor’s Cup winner, the Billsboro syrah. “The flavor genuinely picks up the flavors of the vineyard. It shows the winemakers' art by giving the blend of cab, sav, and syrah a creaminess unmatched in the Finger Lakes.”
The staff at Hector Wine Company had no trouble choosing a favorite. “Our 2015 syrah is the perfect holidays wine,” says Jennie Scarbrough. “It’s naturally fermented and unfiltered, a bare bones example of Finger Lakes terroir. The hints of spice on the palate will pair perfectly with the flavors of a holiday table.” Damiani’s Bollicini is also a favorite among the Hector folks for holiday celebrations.
That 2015 syrah from Hector must be a good choice, as it is also the favorite bottle of the staff from Anthony Road when they aren’t drinking their own. “It was the consensus,” says tasting room manager Liz Castner. “As for our selections, we went with the 2015 rosé of Cabernet Franc. It’s colorful and dry, a perfect bright wine for celebrating.”
Make the 2015 syrah from Hector an excellent choice, as vintner Vinny Aliperti at Billsboro Winery also gave it his nod for best of other winery offerings. From Billsboro itself, he suggests the 2014 pinot noir. “Not only a great quaffing wine, but it is quite versatile on the holiday table...perfect with duck, lamb, and even pasta,” says Vinny.
The first merlot on the list comes from the collection at Wagner. Spokesperson Katie Roller says their 2013 offering has a great nose. “And since merlot is a cool climate grape, they only grow on the east side of Seneca Lake where the water is the deepest and the widest.” Standing Stone’s saperavi is a Wagner staff favorite. “It is the darkest, inkiest red around,” Katie says. “Perfect for those cold nights and hearty stews.”
“The best wine is always the one in my glass,” says Marti Macinski, co-owner and winemaker at Standing Stone. Especially if that glass takes us back to the saperavi, Marti’s recommendation. “It has a crispness that goes great with everything, not just beefy dishes.” And Wagner’s Caywood East Riesling gets a vote from Standing Stone. “People think riesling is just for warm weather and light foods. But it fits the holiday season so well. It’s a knockout bottle.”
Even though Fulkerson Winery is known for its juicy sweet series, winemaker Sayre Fulkerson admits to a drier palate, and thinks nothing goes better with holiday food than pinot noir. But, right now, “We have three different batches of Grüner Veltliner,” he says with excitement of the Austrian grape, “and we haven’t really decided how we are blending them.” As for a favorite neighbor: “Ravines Dry Riesling. That’s a nice one!”
So, forget the jingle bells this year. If you’ve been very good, you should hope for the clinking of Finger Lakes wine bottles in Santa’s sack. Happy Holidays!