New York Wine (16) Swedish Hill, Finger Lakes

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New York Wine (16) Swedish Hill, Finger Lakes

The story at Swedish Hill is a common one in the Finger Lakes. Grapes were planted here for Taylor Wines, and then in the 1970s with their demise these grapes had no home. So Swedish Hill was one of those properties who put in a winery in order to use the grapes.

The industry at the time was growing native and the lesser hybrid varieties. ‘Decisions were made in a peculiar way as to how hybrids were selected,’ says winemaker Dave Peterson. ‘Aurora was the biggest hybrid here, chosen for Taylor Wines by picking date: it came in before the other grapes.’ So companies such as Swedish Hill ended up making wines out of what they had in the vineyard. ‘Seasoned as growers we didn’t know how to make and market wine. You were dealt a short deck of cards, working in some cases with inferior grapes and most growers were financially stressed, putting wineries in.’ So unlike regions such as Napa, it wasn’t lawyers and doctors who were building wineries, but farmers. At Swedish Hill, they bought surplus dairy tanks.

This was a 1200 case winery initially, but now makes 40 000 cases. There are also two sister properties: Penguin Bay and Goose Watch. Most of these wines are made at Swedish Hill. In addition, this is a custom crush facility making wine for 30 clients. Of their vineyards, 50 out of the 90 acres are vinifera, and they buy grapes from 14 other growers. Their most important variety is Riesling, and their second most is Cayuga. They recognize the importance of hybrids for the region. ‘It’s not a Budwesier world in terms of beer, and its not a Chardonnay world for wine,’ says Peterson. ‘This will create an opportunity for some of the hybrids.’

Goose Watch Cabernet Franc Rosé 2017 Finger Lakes, New York
Pale coloured. Light and fresh with bright lemon and cherry fruit, with a delicate personality and good acidity. Pleasant stuff with clean bright fruit. 87/100 ($15)

Penguin Bay Dry Riesling 2016 Finger Lakes, New York
7 g/l sugar. This is bright and juicy with good acidity. This has nice pure citrus fruit with a bit of sweetness on the finish. Quite linear and bright. 86/100 ($15)

Penguin Bay Dry Vidal 2017 (final blend) Finger Lakes, New York
8 g/l sugar. Clean, bright, fresh and citrussy. Nice purity here with bright lemon and pear fruit, and some stoniness, too. Crisp and focused. 87/100 ($15)

Swedish Hill Riesling 2016 Finger Lakes, New York
Off-dry style with 20 g/l sugar. Fruity and clean. Sweet and quite simple with citrus and melon fruit. Juicy with nice acidity. Fruit-driven style. 88/100

Swedish Hill Blue Waters Gewurztraminer 2017 Finger Lakes, New York
Off-dry. Lively and very fruity with fresh citrus and pear fruit with some table grape character. Very fruity style with lively acidity. 86/100

Goose Watch Lemberger 2016 Finger Lakes, New York
The first to grow it here. Juicy, bright and fruity with a savoury cedar and vanilla edge to the juicy berry fruits. Supple and drinkable with nice sweet fruit. 86/100 ($19)

Swedish Hill Cabernet Franc Lemberger 2016 Finger Lakes, New York
Supple, fresh and fine-grained with a nice leafy chalky edge to the sweet cherry and berry fruit. Juicy but smooth at the same time with nice elegance. Very drinkable. 90/100

Goose Watch Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2012 Finger Lakes, New York
Nice gravelly depth to the fresh, supple, lighter blackcurrant and cherry fruit. Has nice brightness and drinkability with some tannin and a hint of nice green. 89/100

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