Monday, January 31, 2011

What's In The Bottle: 2007 Pinot Noir

In several winemaking regions across the globe, the winter is a time for an annual ritual known as "the burning of the canes."  Given that the winter in a vineyard might otherwise be quite a bleak proposition, what with the standing outside in the cold for hours to carefully prune all the vines, having a festival of some sort only seems fair.  As such, the burning of the canes usually involves the collection of many of the trimmings from the pruning process for the creation of a bonfire for the pruners and assorted friends and family to gather around, cook over, drink wine, and be merry.  Or so goes the idyllic and romanticized view of the event which, it can not be forgot, occurs in the bitter cold.

In the Finger Lakes, the burning of the canes is not a tradition that we really partake in.  Perhaps this is because of the snow we have to deal with, the lack of people around in the off-season, or because it gets truly, arctic cold in these parts in January and February.  Instead, at Fox Run we have a small event we like to call "Sleds and Reds."

Sleds... (see the last photo)
To our safety manager's chagrin, the revelers quickly realized
that the packed snow in the driveway was much slicker than the
path he forged in the middle of the hill.

Some people might look at our winters and only see things to dread in them, thankfully we decided last year to embrace what our winters are.  If it is going to be snowy, we will make use of our wonderful slopes to undertake some epic sledding.  If it is going to be cold, we'll still have a fire, but we'll also stay warm with red wines, red hotdogs, chili, and any other treats that folks decide to bring along.  If it is a time of year when we don't see many people, we'll get as many of our winery and tasting room staff, friends, and family together to keep warm outside, have a great time, and laugh with (and at) one another as they navigate down the hill.

The Real Attraction
The fire was an exceedingly crowded location on the hill.

The kids who come out absolutely love the chance to sled down the hill (if not walking back up) as their parents listen to music, chat with one another, and watch for hours on end.  The dogs have a great time playing in the snow and just trying to figure out what all the crazy people are doing hurtling down a hill, over ramps, laughing, and then running back up the same hill again.  Being neither, my guess is that the parents and the dog owners are also appreciative of how much the afternoon takes out of their respective charges while being so much fun.

Is This Fun?
Maya watches over us quizzically as a child hurtles by on a sled.

In all of this, I did find time to pay attention to our 2007 Pinot Noir.  Unlike our first two "What's In The Bottle" posts, this wine is the current release you can find at our tasting room or in retail outlets and that is a reason why I wanted to write about it.  Yet another reason, however, is the interesting journey this wine has taken since it was produced and bottled.  In full disclosure, this is a wine that we found entirely distasteful only 16 months ago.  In a blind tasting, Peter described it as smelling medicinal or like a bandage.  Tricia and my descriptors were not any pleasanter.

If working in the wine industry has taught us nothing else, however, it is to trust what has been done in the vineyard and winery and let a wine resolve itself.  2007 was a peculiar year meteorologically in terms of heat, so peculiar that none of us had a blueprint for what a standard Finger Lakes "cool" climate Pinot Noir would look like from that year or certainly how it would evolve.  In retrospect a large number of the other Pinots we tasted from the 2007 Finger Lakes vintage at that time also were underwhelming, but hindsight is 20/20.

Regardless, we started tasting this wine seriously again about six months ago and discovered a lovely thing: the wine was aging beautifully.  Gone were the awkward candy aromas or worse from its acne-ridden bottled adolescence, it was coming into its own as a Pinot Noir.  Tasting it yesterday revealed a Pinot that continues to pick up beautiful cherry aromas on the nose that are balanced by a velvety texture and the flavors of mushrooms intermingling with red fruit we hope for in our Pinots.

...and Reds
I promise there were hotdogs and chili in the hot pots
as well, it was just too cold to get them out.

To me, the wine may have seemed a tad bit flat - I would have liked a touch more acid.  But as a winemaker working in the Finger Lakes, that is a regional bias that I doubt applies to the wine drinking public in general at all.  Regardless, it is a wine that is very pleasant and engaging in its mix of cherries and mushroomy earthiness at this moment.  Frankly, it is probably at its peak now and will keep if for another couple of years given that the flavor density is on the lighter side.

Most importantly, it should certainly be enjoyed as I enjoyed it yesterday: with great friends and in the best of surroundings (although I wouldn't suggest hot dogs as a pairing!).

By: Kelby Russell, Winemaking Team

Music of the Day:
  • Queens of the Stone Age - Songs for the Deaf; "No One Knows"
  • You might think that sledding would involve some beautiful and evocative soft music, Satie or perhaps Guiraldi.  If you are thinking about sledding from inside the comfort of your house, yes.  Out in the cold, however, some strong uptempo music fit the mood much better of moving to stay warm!

Support Artists, buy the music you like!


  1. So, has a date been set for the 2011 version of "Sleds & Reds?"

  2. I'm afraid we had our version of Sleds and Reds this past Sunday for 2011, though who knows if it won't pop up again given all the snow we're getting!