Obscure Grapes on the Finger Lakes at Red Tail Ridge Winery

Posted on: June 21st, 2012 by

red tail ridge finger lakes wine

Big thanks to Red Tail Ridge Winery in the Finger Lakes region of New York for sending some intriguing samples my way. Also thanks to Lenn Thompson at the New York Cork Report for putting my name in the hat for this opportunity. I’m pretty excited about experiencing more of what this region has to offer based on these initial, uh, offerings. I previously enjoyed the light and easygoing Pinot Noir, but was most looking forward to some wines from their “Obscure Red Varietals Series.”

How obscure is obscure? Well feast your eyes on this:

Red Tail Ridge Finger Lakes WinesI’d say for the average wine drinker, Blaufrankisch and Dornfelder qualify as obscure. Hell, they’re pretty damn obscure to me as well. Though I am familiar with Blaufrankisch here in Washington, where it is known as Lemberger. And I have thoroughly enjoyed a German Dornfelder. Ok, maybe I’m not that clueless.

red tail ridge winery finger lakes

Style-wise, these wines both struck me as very similar: light-bodied, low alcohol (12%) and no detectable oak influence. (Though the wine does spend time in old oak barrels, the oak is unobtrusive. No sweet vanilla extract flavors here. Not that I have anything against vanilla, nor the extraction of it, but I just don’t like it in my wine.) The Blaufrankisch gave me some ginger-y baking spice notes while the Dornfelder was a little more licorice-y. (Sorry to get technical on you with my wine-tasting mumbo jumbo.)

Like the Pinot Noir, these wines would be at their best nice and cool. Stick them in the fridge for a while.

Red Tail Ridge looks like a pretty sweet place to visit. And they certainly are aware of the impact a winery can have on the surrounding environment; in fact, they are the first winery to be LEED Gold Certified in New York State. (You can read all about that and what it means.) They also put together a pretty mean press kit, which may not mean anything to you, but all of these lovely photos of the vineyard are courtesy of them. I can take credit (blame?) for the ubiquitous label shot.

red tail ridge winery finger lakes wine

I’d like to leave you with this lovely image of dawn at Red Tail Ridge, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what a nice pairing the wines were with a sausage and mushroom pizza. Here’s a photo¬† provided by me of a pizza I didn’t make, but ate. I will also confess to slathering it with an ungodly amount of Sriracha after tasting the pizza as is with the wines. But un-oaky, low alcohol, slightly chilled reds wines can hang with a bit of hot sauce.

Red Tail Ridge Finger Lakes Wines

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2 Responses

  1. Dana Estep says:

    Glad to see you enjoyed the wines from Red Tail Ridge. It’s become a favorite stop for my wife and I when we’re in the Finger Lakes. Co-owner and winemaker Nancy Irlan is usually working the tasting room and she’s a very gracious hostess. As you might expect from a Finger Lakes winery, their rieslings are very good. We’ve liked their pinot noir. I haven’t had their 2009 blaufrankish, but I’ve enjoyed several bottles of their 2008 lemberger with a couple more to go. I’m curious to ask Nancy when we stop in this summer why she decided to switch what she calls the wine. Although not yet common, more and more Finger Lakes wineries are making wine from lemberger (the more often used name in the area). I’d guess about half use it in blends and half on its own. Dornfelder is much less used. Off the top of my head, I know of only one other winery making it, but there are probably a few others.

    I’ve been enjoying your blog since I discovered it a few months ago.

    • Jameson says:


      Thank you for your great comment and helping me know even more about Red Tail Ridge and the Finger Lakes. I have two of their Rieslings in the fridge as we speak, by the way!

      I really appreciate your kind words about the blog.



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