Sunday, July 20, 2008

Shalestone Vineyards

When I was researching which wineries in the Finger Lakes I was going to visit, the name Shalestone came up quite a bit. It had the reputation as producing the best red wines in the region, so of course this was going to be my first stop. Quite wary of claims like this, but eager to taste and find out.

The winery is on a stretch of nice road parallel to Seneca Lake, on the east shore. The winemaker, Rob Thomas, was pouring, and he was a very personable guy. Really likes to get to know the people who come into the winery. And the flow of people coming in never stopped.

We tasted through all thes wines. The wine list is below. I can do without all the colourful descriptions, but it shows the personality of the winery.

The wines had a common character to them. They had had lovely, aromatic noses, with lots of character and varietal typicity. The were dense, very focussed wines, with a clean, long finish. Purity and silkiness, but with enough stiff structure to hold its hold up. Wonderfully made wines, really exceptional. I fell in love with the cabernet franc. Really, I don't think I've tasted a better cabernet franc outside of the Loire Valley. So rich, but not over-manipulated. The density and clarity of the texture is amazing. As yet, this is definitely the best cabernet franc in the New World.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to taste the pinot noir. We did taste the pinot noir rose, but I wanted to try the red wine. And also, they didn't have a 100% syrah. Would have been interesting to compare it with the Lailey syrah.

Overall, Rob makes excellent wines. Focussed, honest wines, just like the winemaker. Brave and unapologetic about the fact that this is riesling country, and people don't really expect great red wine to come out of the region. That's why you have to keep an open mind about wine - you never know what to expect. As far as Bordeaux-style blends and cabernet, Shalestone is definitely one of the best. I can't stress that enough, how happy I am to have visited this winery and to have tasted Rob's wines. Just incredible wines. Everyone in Niagara who says they make great cabernets - you need to taste Shalestone wines, because this is the benchmark that EVERYONE should be aiming for.

The winery and production facility entrance:

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