What we’re drinking

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It's coming on autumn, the time of year I start to make the switch from post-softball game beer to nice glasses of warming red wine. Even the Mayo Clinic says it has good antioxidant properties, and both Mark Sisson, in his book The Primal Blueprint, and Timothy Ferriss, in his The 4-Hour Body, write that dry red wines (those with little or no residual sugar), consumed in moderation, won't have much effect on a weight-loss diet – plus they'll help you enjoy it.

One of my occasional summer stops is the Finger Lakes Wine Festival, which draws a bunch of Central New York wineries to the southern tip of Seneca Lake. Last year, I really got into rieslings (German varietals grow really well in our climate), and a few other more off-the-wall things. I kicked 2011 off with a weight loss program and changed up my diet – a lot. At the wine fest this summer, I couldn't take a second sip of anything with over about 0.5% residual sugar, which is extremely dry.

Here are some of my favorites from this year, along with some notes about some other wines the people I went with enjoyed.

Fulkerson Dornfelder. I tried more wines at Fulkerson's booth than any other vineyard over the weekend. I had never heard of this grape before, but it's another German varietal that can handle the sometimes harsh weather of the Finger Lakes. The winery bills this as a "red wine for white foods," which is probably an appeal to people who might be a little scared of red wines. The nose has a lot of berry in it, and it finishes exactly the right amount of dry. Their lemberger is pretty good, and if you like really dry, their vincent doesn't even make it to the back of your mouth (it was a little over the top for me).

Montezuma Cabernet Franc. Cab franc is a fantastic dry grape that you could reasonably compare to a beaujolais. The problem with that is that you can get a really good beaujolais for between $8 and $12, while most Finger Lakes cab francs run in the $20-plus range. We did find a decent $10 bottle from King's Garden, but Montezuma's runs $15 and is probably the only bottle I would have paid $20 for.

Niagara Landing Baco Noir. I can't get enough of baco noirs with moldy cheeses. Strong berry noses with tobacco-y finishes go great with gorgonzola, and I even get alliteration out of it. While Bully Hill is typically my go-to for a large variety of wines (because everything is really good and is typically in the $6-$8 range), Niagara Landing's baco surprised me so much at the launch party that I went back a second time to taste it and bought a couple of bottles.

Some other winners, according to my notes here:

  • Anthony Road makes something called a "Devonian Red," which is a cab franc, lemberger and pinot noir blend in the $10 range.
  • Glenora brought a pomegranate wine; much too sweet for me, but I have three stars in my notebook, so at least half our group thought it was exceptional.
  • Rock Stream Vineyards has some interesting wines, including dry niagaras and dry cayugas – two wines that are typically sweet enough to make sherbet cringe. Definitely recommend checking them out.
  • Coyote Moon makes a riesling so good even the sangria lovers made note of it.

And there you have it. If you were wondering what's in my glass while I sit in front of the fireplace, there's a good chance it's one of these.