Ben and I were lucky enough to go to a Shaw Vineyard wine tasting this January at 55 Degrees Wine Bar. Since we hadn’t tasted many wines from the Finger Lakes region, we were pretty excited to go – even if it meant driving in LA traffic on a school night. Since the Finger Lakes region is best known for their whites, especially their Riesling, we were intrigued. One can only have a love affair with California Zinfandel and Rhone style blends for so long, before it’s time to experiment with a little white.
Upon entering 55 Degree’s cellar-type tasting room, we were pleased to see the lineup – 8 bottles, not bad for a weeknight. The tasting was lead by Steve Shaw Jr., who runs the marketing for his dad’s vineyard. Steve educated us about the Finger Lakes region, the Shaws’ place in it and their hopes for this vintage while regaling us with some funny tales along the way.
Before we continue, we can guess what you’re thinking: sweet, sweeter, and sweetest wines, but that’s the opposite of the Shaws’ goal. They’re hoping to make their wines less sweet, more complex and capable of appealing to a larger audience. After enjoying our tasting, we believe Steve Shaw Sr. has accomplished just that, by using unique methods and handling his grapes with care. From the 2006 un-oaked Chardonnay that was left on lees for two years to the Cabernet Franc’s earthy, blackberry funk, there’s no doubt they’re doing something right. Not to mention their affordable price points ranging from $15 to $19 a bottle.
A few of our favorites were the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, 2008 Riesling and the 2007 Cabernet Franc as mentioned above. True to form, the 2008 Riesling shined brightly. This bottle was deliciously effervescent, while still being well balanced with nice sugar. To top it off, this baby has a screw cap, is vegan and uses a lighter glass bottle. The Sauvignon Blanc shone in its own right with notes of peach & apricot complemented by a sweetness that accentuated its stone fruits instead of overpowering. They contrasted nicely to the dry woodsiness of the Chardonnay and the light minerality of the Gewürztraminer. There’s no doubt you’ll find this Sauvignon Blanc in the Hipster picnic basket on a future hot summer’s day and the Riesling chilling for later.
From their cool Tree of Life labels to the breadth of wine flavor profiles, it’s clear that Shaw Vineyards is doing something special. The 2007 Cabernet Franc was recently awarded an 89 point rating by Wine Enthusiast(Print, February 2012), along with their 2008 Riesling and 2008 Reserve Pinot Noir receiving 90 and 88 points, respectively. If they keep this up, I don’t think Steve will have a hard time extending his brand and bringing more awareness to east coast wines.
Visit their Website: Shaw Vineyard Wines
Venue: 55 Degrees Wine Bar