It should come as no surprise that there are many excellent wine producers in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The terroir is perfect for creating some beautiful wines. Travel a bit further north of the lakes to Fairport and you will discover Casa Larga, a winery and vineyard that has been producing its own unique wines since the 1970s.
On a cold, snowy Sunday, Tim and I headed to Casa Larga prepared to learn more about the winery. Having been there before on numerous occasions, it was refreshing to step back and approach the visit as if it was our first time there. From the parking lot you can peer down the hill to see some of the snow-covered vineyards before heading into the beautiful Italian-style building that functions as tasting room, gift shop, event venue, and winery. At the tasting counter, Emily served our flights while enthusiastically telling us the history of the winery.
- 1.35% Residual Sugar
- Very floral aromatics with lots of citrus mixed in.
- 1.2% RS
- Aged entirely in stainless steel, really nice tropical flavors. I enjoy getting the full flavor of the Chardonnay grape without any oak getting in the way.
- 0% RS
- Full bodied, with fine nuanced flavors where the oak is not overbearing.
- 3% RS
- A blend of stainless steel aged Chardonnay and three types of oak-aged Chardonnay
- Compared to the Old Vine Chardonnay, this one seems to have a bit more oak and butter to the flavor and aroma.
- 2.1% RS
- Lush and soft bodied with good minerality and citrus notes. A touch sweeter then I prefer though.
- 0% RS
- Blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc
- Lots of tart berry flavors with some coffee notes as well; an excellent blend.
- 0.3% RS
- Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend
- Elegant, with lots of coffee notes and a clean finish.
- 0.3% RS
- Medium bodied with hints of cherry. A more assertive Pinot then many I have tasted.
- 0.9% RS
- A blend of Cabernet Franc, De Chaunac, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon
- The name means “Fiery Sunset.”
- A bit more rustic flavor with tart berries and a dry finish.
- 0.6% RS
- Clean tart cherry notes, with a soft finish. Similar to some French style Rosés.
- 19.7% RS
- Winner of the 2008 Trophy for “World’s Best Dessert Wine” at the International Ice Wine Competition in London.
- Sweet, syrupy, tropical fruit flavors. Would be excellent served over vanilla ice-cream!
Casa Larga put down roots back in 1974 when Andrew Colaruotolo, a stone mason and home builder from Italy, planted some grapes as a hobby on two acres of land in Fairport, NY. The first mature grapes were ready for harvest in 1978 and the wine he produced that year resulted in three awards at the New York wine competition at the State Fair. Realizing that his hobby could be so much more, Mr. C, as he is affectionately called by the people that work at the winery, expanded his business resulting in the 33 acres of grapes they produce today. Mr. C passed away in 2004, however his legacy lives on and current winemaker Matt Cassavaugh is keeping the tradition alive.
Casa Larga is fortuitous in that it is located in a region where the soil is perfect for growing grapes. In fact, 85-95 percent of the grapes used in their wine come from the estate’s vineyard, the rest are purchased from nearby Finger Lakes producers. The winery is named after Mr. C’s grandparent’s vineyard back in Italy, as he wanted to pay tribute to his heritage. It should come as no surprise that he also designed the main building which is highly influenced by Italian architectural features.
The most popular wines at Casa Larga are currently the medium dry Riesling and the Cab-Merlot. I was impressed by the Cab-Merlot as it is tricky to produce a great red in this region but the winemaker has pulled it off. The medium dry Riesling was also nice but perhaps a touch too sweet for my palate. Casa Larga also produces Lilac Hill, a sweeter, more aromatic white wine designed for the Lilac Festival. The winery is not only a sponsor of the Lilac Festival but is toted as the official winery of Rochester, NY.
Matt Cassavaugh is looking to continually innovate at the winery which includes experimenting with the Syrah grape and barrel aging some of his Riesling. A fun collaboration between himself and nearby brewery Fairport Brewing Company will be released in mid-March of 2015. They are working together to produce a Saison-style beer made with Muscat grapes. I am intrigued by this and look forward to trying out the results!
When visiting the tasting room, you can try a flight of five wines for $3.00. This is a pretty good value and they have quite a diverse selection from which to choose from. There is also a special Fiori Flight which allows you to try the different Ice Wines they produce. Casa Larga’s Vidal Ice Wine won first place at the International Ice Wine Competition in London, and I was told it is also the most award winning Ice Wine in all of North America.
The tasting room is currently undergoing some major renovations and will soon be moved to allow the addition of a café. Shirts, glasses, gift baskets, gourmet foods, and even Barbecue sauce made from the Ice Wine are available for purchase. I was quite surprised to see the diversity of items available. A fairly new addition to the wine shop is a selection of local New York beer. They fill growlers and also offer pints to enjoy while hanging out at the winery. This is a great option for people who might not care for wine but do enjoy beer. The tasting room even sells wine slushies, though I can imagine they are not as popular during the cold winter months!
When summer finally arrives, on Thursday evenings the winery holds a “Party on the Patio” event. Food trucks and live music enhance the tasting experience while you sit out on the deck. Casa Larga also holds two yearly festivals, an Ice Wine festival in February and the Purple Foot festival in the fall. I hope to make it out to these events at some point as I always hear good things about them.
I enjoyed visiting Casa Larga and learning about its unique history. I was surprised by the steady flow of customers considering how cold and dreary it was outside. If you are in the area, I can definitely recommend a visit to Casa Larga as they offer both dry and sweet wines to cater towards all taste palates.
2015 marks the 117th Lilac Festival in Rochester, NY. The event takes place over the course of ten days in Highland Park and features 1200 lilac bushes and over 500 different varieties. This multitude of lilacs ensures that there will always be some incredible blooms to see during the festival. I highly recommend visiting the gardens and partaking in the unofficial start of the festival season in Rochester!
Casa Larga Vineyards & Winery
2287 Turk Hill Road, Fairport, NY 14450
Visited February 22nd, 2015
Blog post written by Thomas Andersen.