Edible Buffalo Spring 2011 : Page 12

the local pour Cultivating Cold-Climate Wines By Bryan Calandrelli While I always interpreted the phrase “cool climate” as being a descriptor of where a wine comes from, these days, many in the industry are using it to brand a wine’s style. Its use seems to be motivated by a trend toward more restrained wines with lower alcohol, higher acidity, and less extraction (richness and concentration). The style is usually described as being “food friendly,” meaning its higher acidity and lower alcohol levels enable it to complement a wide variety of foods. You’ll most likely see these words associated with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Cabernet Franc, as well as other grapes that originated from the coolest growing regions of Europe. But these days we are hearing about cool climate wines from California, Chile, and even Australia. “Cool climate” seems to be one of those industry terms like “natural” or “sustainable” that are almost indefinable and completely subjective. In Western New York and Ontario, the phrase is genuinely important to those of us making wine. It just may be the most accurate description of the conditions in which we grow grapes, which should be the primary basis for using the term. Some would even say we are a cold climate (no, seriously) with words like “extreme grape growing” describing the conditions our growers deal with. A conservative definition of cool climate viticulture can be figured out by the length of the growing season, which can be simply described as the average length of time after the last frost in the spring to the first severe frost in the fall. Generally speaking, the Niagara and Lake Erie regions are said to have a 200-day growing season. This allows us the potential to ripen a wide range of grape varieties, from hybrids such as Baco Noir to vinifera grapes such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Hudson Valley has the shortest of the major New York growing seasons, with 180 days, and Long Island boasts the longest, averaging 230 days. A looser definition of cool climate regions is based on cool daily temperatures caused by conditions like fog, elevation, and maritime influence resulting in less heat accumulation during the growing season. It’s used to describe some areas of California like the Russian River Valley and Santa Rita Hills AVAs that are affected by coastal ocean currents that consistently produce fog. It’s also associated with high-elevation wines in Argentina as well as the Bio Bio Valley in Chile, which is one of the most southern growing areas of that country. Today you can even hear about Australian cool climate wines from Tasmania and Yarra Valley regions. But that’s not to say that cool climate viticulture is new. For centuries, some of the best wines in the world have come from cold regions. Pinot Noir from Burgundy and Riesling from Germany are two textbook examples. It’s just that no one calls it cool climate; to locals it’s just viticulture the way it’s always been done. The term is becoming fashionable today because it is much more useful in distinguishing these wines from the ubiquitous New World style. And while those words should allude to North and South America and possibly Australia, in the world of wine it’s become a way to describe any wine whose hallmarks include ripe-to-overripe fruit Photo by Bryan Calandrelli 12 EDIBLE BUFFALO | SPRING 2011

The Local Pour

Bryan Calandrelli

The Rebirth of cool<br /> <br /> Cultivating Cold-Climate Wines<br /> <br /> While I always interpreted the phrase "cool climate" as being a descriptor of where a wine comes from, these days, many in the industry are using it to brand a wine's style. Its use seems to be motivated by a trend toward more restrained wines with lower alcohol, higher acidity, and less extraction (richness and concentration). The style is usually described as being "food friendly," meaning its higher acidity and lower alcohol levels enable it to complement a wide variety of foods.<br /> <br /> You'll most likely see these words associated with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Cabernet Franc, as well as other grapes that originated from the coolest growing regions of Europe. But these days we are hearing about cool climate wines from California, Chile, and even Australia. "Cool climate" seems to be one of those industry terms like "natural" or "sustainable" that are almost indefinable and completely subjective.<br /> <br /> In Western New York and Ontario, the phrase is genuinely important to those of us making wine. It just may be the most accurate description of the conditions in which we grow grapes, which should be the primary basis for using the term. Some would even say we are a cold climate (no, seriously) with words like "extreme grape growing" describing the conditions our growers deal with.<br /> <br /> A conservative definition of cool climate viticulture can be figured out by the length of the growing season, which can be simply described as the average length of time after the last frost in the spring to the first severe frost in the fall. Generally speaking, the Niagara and Lake Erie regions are said to have a 200-day growing season. This allows us the potential to ripen a wide range of grape varieties, from hybrids such as Baco Noir to vinifera grapes such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Hudson Valley has the shortest of the major New York growing seasons, with 180 days, and Long Island boasts the longest, averaging 230 days.<br /> <br /> A looser definition of cool climate regions is based on cool daily temperatures caused by conditions like fog, elevation, and maritime influence resulting in less heat accumulation during the growing season. It's used to describe some areas of California like the Russian River Valley and Santa Rita Hills AVAs that are affected by coastal ocean currents that consistently produce fog. It's also associated with high-elevation wines in Argentina as well as the Bio Bio Valley in Chile, which is one of the most southern growing areas of that country. Today you can even hear about Australian cool climate wines from Tasmania and Yarra Valley regions.<br /> <br /> But that's not to say that cool climate viticulture is new. For centuries, some of the best wines in the world have come from cold regions. Pinot Noir from Burgundy and Riesling from Germany are two textbook examples. It's just that no one calls it cool climate; to locals it's just viticulture the way it's always been done. The term is becoming fashionable today because it is much more useful in distinguishing these wines from the ubiquitous New World style.<br /> <br /> And while those words should allude to North and South America and possibly Australia, in the world of wine it's become a way to describe any wine whose hallmarks include ripe-to-overripe fruit reminiscent of jam or candy, alcohol levels pushing 14%, and big, mouth-filling tannins. In the past 20 years or so, Americans have developed a taste for these wines, fueled by critics and our appreciation of the sensation of sweetness that comes with extremely ripe fruit and high alcohol.<br /> <br /> By claiming a wine is cool climate you are distinguishing yourself from that New World style. This is obvious when we look across the river to our neighbors in Ontario, where they have formed the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Association. They will be hosting the Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration this July with the hopes of promoting this style over what their website describes as "mass produced…over-oaked and lifeless warm climate offerings."<br /> <br /> Now I may still raise an eyebrow when someone from Southern California or Australia describes their region or wine as cool climate, but no matter your kind of winter or length of season, the basic idea is that wines achieve greatness only where it's warm enough for the grapes to ripen, there's a steady, even ripening, and the entire growing season is utilized.<br /> <br /> From Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, Western New York is just warm enough to produce food-friendly wines that are age worthy and reflect a sense of place. With major wine producing areas utilizing the term cool climate, the time is now for local wineries to define what makes our wines so special, too, and it's pretty cool indeed.<br /> <br /> Bryan Callandrelli works with several local wineries and contributes as the Niagara Region Editor of the New York Cork Report (www.newyorkcorkreport.com). He blogs at www.waterintowine.com and www.niagaraescarpment.com.<br /> <br /> Spring Wine Selections<br /> <br /> Arrowhead Spring Vineyards Pinot Noir 2009.<br /> <br /> The winery's first Pinot Noir is sourced from the Niagara Escarpment vineyard of Don DeMaison. Aromas of raspberry and strawberry give way to a supple mouth feel with refreshing acidity and an elegant finish.<br /> <br /> Freedom Run Winery Vin Gris 2010.<br /> <br /> This bone dry rosé made from Merlot and Cabernet Franc benefits from this warm vintage with mouth filling fruit flavors of raspberry and cherry. It's bold yet elegant.<br /> <br /> Johnson Estate Riesling 2009.<br /> <br /> Lean and crisp with stone fruit aromas of peach and nectarine, this Lake Erie Riesling shows the cool climate characteristics of this grape grown in the Chautauqua region.<br /> <br /> Leonard Oakes Estate Chardonnay 2009.<br /> <br /> This unoaked Chardonnay is bursting with tropical fruit aromas. It's clean and crisp and shows how delicate cool climate chardonnay can be when alcohol and oak takes a backseat to fruit.<br /> <br /> Liberty Vineyards & Winery Traminette.<br /> <br /> This spicy white wine is quite floral with hints of pear and tropical fruits. Know for being similar to Gewurtztraminer in flavor this semi-dry white satisfies spicy foods like Asian or Mexican cuisine.<br /> <br /> Schulze Vineyards & Winery Siegfried Reserve 2010.<br /> <br /> One of the only examples of wine made from the Siegfried grape in America, this dry white is packed with apple, pineapple, and confectionary aromas. Dry yet supple, it's a great example of the diversity of our region.<br /> <br /> Victorianbourg Pinot Gris.<br /> <br /> Pinot Grigio lovers should try this slightly sweet local version, which boasts citrus and pear aromas with refreshing acidity and a supple mouth feel.<br />

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