The other New York.

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The big apple. If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere. The Bronx bombers. Pizza. Bagels. Sabrett dogs. Times Square. The Brooklyn Bridge. The Met (not the Mets— please…). BROADWAY! And so on. Welcome to New York, baby! Except I’m not actually in that NY.

People forget that New York state is a pretty big place. And a whole lot more rural than you might think. Dairy farms, corn fields, mountain ranges, and wilderness areas paint a not so familiar picture of NY for many of us. Of course growing up here in the Hudson valley, about an hour north of the city, I already know this. What I didn’t know was that NY has become a pretty big player in the national wine scene. Not imported wine. And not kosher wine. Local wine made from grapes grown here.

It’s funny. You grow up in a certain area, and no matter how nice it is, no matter how much there is to offer, you want out.

“Get me the hell out of this state!” is what I thought after graduating from SUNY Binghamton. And so I did. All the way to the northwest corner of the country, where I proceeded to become a spoiled foody/winey brat. But now that I’m back here in the finger lakes area of the state, writing this post from the downtown commons in Ithaca, I have to say– Damn. This is a special place.

Home to one of the country’s top schools, Cornell University, the town is alive with local and imported culture. The food and wine culture is waaay more happening than I remembered it to be. There are now over 250 wineries in the state, and the Finger Lakes region has become the darling region. I use to think that the extremes of winter and summer here wouldn’t allow for any serious wine production, but it’s the proximity of the vineyards to the lakes– via regulated temperatures, humidity, light reflection, and cooling breezes– that allow the grapes to thrive well here.

img_0625I stopped at Six Mile Creek Vineyard near Ithaca to taste through some of their wines and talk to the locals. As expected, I found a smattering of dry and sweet white wines- a common find in Finger Lake wineries. I opted for the seyval blanc, riesling (both very nicely balanced, clean, and dry), and the chardonnay (ooops). Onto the reds. Usually I find NY red wines from this region either to “green” or to silly-sweet.

If my old partner in crime, Alaya, were here right now, she’d say “You’re silly-sweet…”.

I chose the pinot noir and their Bordeaux-style blend, “Quintessence”. img_0611The pinot was just the way I like em’– lean and mean. That is, this was a delicate, cranberry and wild strawberry flavored wine with a bit of spice on the finish. Not the type of red for those who want a real mouthful of dark fruit. But a perfect summer red. Well done.

The Quintessence was definitely a smack of dark berry-cherry fruit on the palate. Really delicious. But it lacked “backbone” or tannic structure, and I think this wine would have benefited from more time in oak. That’s not to say I didn’t belly up to the wine bar and enjoy my time there. Even had a nice “conversation” with a fellow winer from Jersey. Yowza… The woman working the tasting counter (“D”?) was very helpful and excited to hear about my adventures in food and wine. I hope Six Mile Creek continues to do well and provide a great destination for locals and folks passing through.

Quick– what’s the best thing after a wine tasting (don’t say it, Swaff)? Beer! Time to “cleanse” the palate with some good, local micro-brews.  Off to the the Ithaca Beer Company. Now we’re talkin’…

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Started in the late 90’s, these guys are crafting and serving up some awesome micro-brews. I went for the flight tasting and the hop gods did not disappoint. From the “Partly Sunny” Belgium-style wheat ale to the super hoppy red ale,”Cascazilla”, these were fantastic examples of intensity without consequence– that is there was no bowling you over with excessive sweetness and/or alcohol.

Mike took very good care of us, and I learned from him that NY state was once the hop capital of the country. Apparently, hops were once used as sleep aids, and “hop-pillows” were sold. Personally, I can think of better ways to use those hops as sleep aids than stuffin’ them in a pillow…

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We’ll be leaving the country in less than a week now, and I can’t think of a better way to spend some of our final days here than to be with family and experience the unfamiliar in a familiar area. I would encourage you all to take a look past the city and visit the Finger Lakes region of NY if you come this way. Don’t get me wrong– NYC is still one of the very best cities in the country- hell, probably the world. But there’s a whole lot more to taste in this state than the goods offered on the streets of the city.

Cheers and NY beers,

Jared

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~ by Jared on April 18, 2009.

2 Responses to “The other New York.”

  1. Yes I would, and yes you are (with enough booze in ya, anyway…) The pinot sounds yum!

  2. Actually I tried four diff. pinots from NY, and they were all decent. Not as intense and aromatic as the WV pinots, but true to the varietal, and really pretty. WORD.

    ~Senor silly-sweet

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