3 Favorites from Finger Lakes Wine Festival

We spent the weekend at the Watkins Glen raceway for Finger Lakes Wine Festival. The takeaways are that next year, we're going to camp down the road at the state park and hit the festival at the less crowded times: mid-afternoon Saturday and during the day Sunday. But from a guy who likes very dry reds and has recently grown a fondness for Spanish reds, here are a few favorites I wasn't expecting.

Catherine Valley Dry Riesling (2008). Catherine Valley is on the east side of Seneca Lake. They have a list of sweet and semi-sweet wines that includes their signature, The Lost Irishman, a blush. But their dry Riesling is fruity, full-bodied, and it finishes clean. It comes in at $16 a bottle – I typically don't go above a $12 price point (in fact, most of my favorites are in the $6-$8 range), but this was exceptional.

Pazdar Winery Chocolata AmorTM. We encountered Pazdar at the Launch of the Lakes party Friday night (basically a giant toga party with a few wineries). They had brought a limited selection to the launch party, but since that selection included wines with names like Dragon's Revenge and Naughty Virgin, we had to try them. They promised they would have three chocolate wines at the tasting on Saturday, so we sought them out. The Chocolata AmorTM is a rich, dark chocolate flavor. It's semi-sweet, not overwhelming. It's like making a rich hot chocolate and bringing it down to room temperature. I can't say enough about this wine, although we didn't buy any – it comes in at $22 for a 375 ml (that's a half-bottle). Might make a nice Mothers Day gift next year.

Earle Estate Meadery Pear Mead. We came across Earle Estates on a return to the tasting tents after lunch on Saturday. The crowd had thinned out and we had time to talk to the people pouring and really try their interesting selection. I tend to not like wines made from fruits other than grapes (I can handle the occasional peach or raspberry wine for dessert, but even then, it's just one glass and then I'm good for a while). I tried the contemporary and the traditional mead, and was ready to walk away with two bottles of contemporary and one of traditional (the latter for drinking around the fire that night). The lady pouring said they'd received lots of compliments on the apricot, so I tried it, and immediately dumped the glass &ndash it was overwhelming. Same with the blackberry I tried after. So she recommended the pear; it turns out it's a pear tease with that nice honey finish mead has. I traded one of the contemporary for a pear mead at $13.

What are some of your favorites?


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