First let me say how beautiful it is to see a vineyard some ten miles from my front door. Pheasant Ridge Vineyards is a small (400-500 cases annually) winery located in Jamesville, New York. I spent about an hour with Kent, the owner and winemaker, as he showed me his production facility and discussed and tasted wines and wine sorbets.
Pheasant Ridge produces a number of wines including a Chardonnay, Traminette, Cabernet Franc (which was sold out and not available for tasting) and various fruit wines including blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, and an incredible peach (never thought I'd ever be as wild about a fruit wine but this one rocks!)
Most of the grapes are grown right in Jamesville. It turns out, that lake effect that is the ire of Central New Yorkers for the snow it produces, is actually a good thing for growing grapes. Kent says that the lake effect (from the Great Lakes--in our case, Lake Ontario) acts as a heat pump and lovers the temperature over the vineyards. Then the snow acts as insulation, and so vines that packed under snow can actually stay some 20 degrees warmer that the atmospheric temperature. Other grapes are grown for Pheasant Ridge in Long Island and Geneva, NY.
The standout wines for me at the tasting were the Chardonnay, the Traminette, and the peach wine. But staying true to the Eat Local Challenge this month, I want to highlight the Traminette--the grape wine whose vines come from Jamesville making them closest wine grapes (I could find) to my house.
I don't exactly consider myself a wine expert but I do know what I like. So when I taste wines I know I like it when I can imagine what I'd want to eat with the wine. Pheasant Ridge concentrates more on "food wines" than "cocktail wines". The Traminette is an unoaked white table wine with a real fruit foward taste. Aromas of melon seemed to rise out of the glass before I even put it to my nose--but it was a subtle and not at all overpowering aroma.
The next thing I noticed was the concentration of color-- dense, sun-lit straw color filled the glass. I had the sensation that I was about to sip liquid sunshine. So when I tasted the wine, I was delighted by flavors that were about the fruit, but not sweet. I was wishing I had that rosemary and garlic roast chicken from last week--this wine would be perfect with that dish. Because I had run over to winery just after arriving home from Canada, I didn't have any money--oops. So I have to go back to the winery to pick up a bottle or two of Traminette and the Peach wine.
Now let me admit my bias. When I first lived in upstate NY, folks talked all the time about fruit wines--they are very big here. But the ones I tasted seemed too syrupy sweet so I tended to avoid them. I've since tasted some wonderful blueberry wines (at Glenhaven), pear wines (Four Chimneys) and now this peach wine has won my palate. Yes, this is a sweet wine. But I'll tell you, on an evening of one of these 95 degree days we've been having, this wine would be perfect.
But because of the heat, Pheasant Ridge has been experimenting with wine sorbets. With the low freeze point of alcohol, these read to me more like Italian Ices--a more sophisticated version of the kind I grew up with in Brooklyn. The Pheasant Ridge version was spot on--I could eat the Peach Sorbet all day! Luckily, Kent gives out the recipe so I will be trying this at a dinner party soon.
So Pheasant Ridge is a wonderful discovery. Thanks, Lenn, for this WBW challenge and for helping me find a gem so close to home.