While New York’s Finger Lakes region is famous for its Rieslings, the red wines are now getting more of the attention they deserve, offering, among other things, cool-climate Bordeaux-inspired blends that show a marked contrast to their counterparts in California.
I’m not saying that one is better than the other. It’s a matter of taste and preference. I certainly enjoy the opulent, big-fruit style of Napa and Sonoma from time to time, but the leaner, higher-acid reds of regions like the Finger Lakes offer a compelling alternative for food-friendly, everyday drinking.
One that illustrates the point well is the 2014 “Maximilien” from Ravines Wine Cellars on Seneca Lake. At about $23 or so, it offers unusual complexity and rivals any number of bottles of Bordeaux at that price.
The blend is 71 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 11 percent Cabernet Franc, and 18 percent Merlot. Ravines observes on its website: “While most wine regions are now producing a higher-alcohol, jammy fruit, low acid and oaky wine from these grape varieties, the Finger Lakes presents a refreshing alternative.”
Although maturing these varieties can be challenging in the region’s fall weather, the rewards, Ravines notes, are “intense fruit, nice acidity, moderate alcohol, soft texture and a broad palate of aromas.”
That description fits the 2014 Maximilien, with its aromas of dark and red fruits, cedar, and pencil shavings. There’s also a stemmy, or bell pepper, note, which is not uncommon in young Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc and which didn’t bother me in the broader context of this wine.
The wine’s firm tannic structure supports blackberry, cherry, and cranberry flavors with well-integrated oak and a long finish. It reminded me of reds from both Bordeaux and the Loire Valley that accompany a variety of foods so well, without dominating them.
(By the way, don’t confuse Ravines Wine Cellars in the Finger Lakes with Ravine Estate Winery in Ontario, which is easy to do in a Google search.)