When it comes to writing about the wineries around the Finger Lakes, it is always a tough decision as to where to go next. Over the years, a few stick out for me that always are worth returning to on a yearly basis. Bloomer Creek Vineyard, on the southeast side of Seneca Lake, is one of our favorites for the high caliber of wines that are being produced there. While camping nearby, this seemed like the perfect choice for the next Finger Lakes winery to explore for Liquid Alchemy.
Bloomer Creek Vineyard’s tasting room is located on the second floor of a charmingly recreated Victorian Era, French-style carriage house overlooking a portion of Seneca Lake. Upon walking in, we were greeted to the strains of old-time French music playing lightly in the background and the exuberant welcome of Tora Bonnier, the tasting room master of ceremonies. Tora had only just recently started working at Bloomer Creek and was extremely excited and knowledgeable about all things winery related. As we tasted the below flight of wines, with a few additional surprises thrown in, she regaled us with the wineries philosophy, history, and what makes Bloomer Creek’s wines unique.
- Unfined and Unfiltered
- Apple and yeast in the aroma; soft and slightly yeasty flavor that really takes over the senses in a good way.
- Quite effervescent due to completion of primary fermentation within the bottle.
- Gewürztraminer Blend
- Honey aroma with a hint of citrus. Very well balanced with crisp, steely acidity.
- Unfined and Unfiltered
- Could easily be compared to a nice hoppy IPA beer. A bit of that perfumed floral aroma, but a fine reserved flavor with spices and well balanced astringency.
- Unfined and Unfiltered
- An unusual Pinot in which I detected notes of tomato! Bold, but not jammy; even a bit spicy. Very unique and delicious. A favorite among restaurants according to Tora.
- Unfined and Unfiltered
- Blend of Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and other select varietals
- Medium body, slightly acidic. A wine to drink young. They serve it chilled which lends it hints of coffee and dark cherry.
- A classic Riesling; honeysuckle aroma, great minerality, and a fantastic finish.
- Picked three weeks after the 1st
- Full and robust, drier, with less honeysuckle.
- Most of their 2nd pickings go directly to a distributor in New York City.
- 70% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot
- The 2008 version was listed in the top 20 wines under $20 by the New York Times.
- Served cold, plenty of full bodied tannins, lovely hints of tobacco.
Kim Engle started working with grapes and winemaking over thirty years ago. With many years of experience under his belt, Kim and his wife, artist Debra Bermingham, opened Bloomer Creek Vineyards to the public in 2006. In the years since, they have produced some of the most highly acclaimed wines in the Finger Lakes. Bloomer Creek is a small operation, with only six employees at the time of our visit. Kim has hired an assistant wine-maker, Katy Koken, who helps to create the many unique wines they produce.
Kim sources all the grapes from his two vineyards located on Seneca and Cayuga Lake, Auten and Morehouse Road Vineyards. Totaling 22 acres with room to spare, space has even been given to a sommelier out of NYC exclusively for Chenin Blanc. I believe, based on my research, that the Chenin Blanc vineyard will be called Barrow Vineyard. Bloomer Creek Vineyards could be considered certified organic because of all the sound ecological practices they use, however Kim decided it wasn’t worth the extra money to be officially certified. He knows the care he puts into his grapes and doesn’t need to pay someone else just to prove it. Time, according to Tora, is the biggest ingredient that Bloomer Creek adds to its wine; even sulfites are rarely used.
Interestingly enough, the largest carbon footprint for the vineyards is the old truck they use to get around. Tora said that, on occasion, Kim has been known to sing to his grapes. Maybe that’s why they do so well? These are also the only all natural vineyards in the Finger Lakes as far as they know. Bloomer Creek goes as far as to use only local wild yeast in their wine production. Tora gave us a sheet which highlighted and described the distinct production and cultivation methods used at Bloomer Creek. The amount of information available was astonishing and really shows how well Kim is utilizing the local terroir.
The wine itself falls mostly into two styles, classic French and German. Kim tries to avoid new oak influences and as such, the wines have a much more subtle flavor. Tanzen Dame, German for Dancing Woman, is the label Kim uses for his German influenced wines. The ones we tasted were beautifully made, and both of the Rieslings had that bracing acidity and minerality mixed with honeysuckle notes that the best winemakers in the Finger Lakes are able to extract from the vineyards.
Visiting Bloomer Creek is quite an experience. The tasting room is filled with various knickknacks, all artfully arranged by Kim’s wife Debra. Small sitting areas abound where you are welcome to relax and enjoy a glass of your favorite wine. Much of the artwork is local; the pottery is made by a friend in Ithaca and all the art on the wall has been created by local artists. There is a blend of styles here; a mix of East Asian and French Chateau style influences. This amalgamation creates some interesting abstract experiences for those visiting the tasting room and is quite charming and unique. The atmosphere lends itself well to relaxing with a book, either inside or outside on the patio, weather permitting. For the dog lovers among us, Kim’s dog Oatie is frequently seen hanging out at the winery and interacting with the customers.
Bloomer Creek is an ideal place to visit when you need to slow down on the wine trail. The winery refuses to take buses and will only serve a few people at a time. This helps avoid dealing with those who are there to drink just for the sake of drinking. They believe in talking about the wine and taking the time to interact with customers; not just serving quick wine samples before people jump to the next winery. Tastings are served in really nice glasses that many folks would be quite happy to have in their homes. The tasting bar is small, so another group that came in had to wait while Tora went through the wine flight with us and the other couple that was there at the same time. Luckily, the building has plenty of seating for those willing to wait to enjoy the experience. A sampling of all their wines costs just five dollars and this fee is reimbursed if you buy a bottle.
Bloomer Creek Vineyard is named, not surprisingly, after the creek that runs through the vineyard on Cayuga Lake. Interesting side note, Amelia Bloomer, for whom the creek was named, was a part of the women’s suffragist movement in Seneca Falls, NY. The artistic logo on most bottles, KE, stands for Kim Engel and reflects the Asian art influence.
The majority of the wine produced at Bloomer Creek is shipped directly to restaurants and wine distributors in New York City, though select stores throughout the Finger Lakes also carry their products. The winery is also planning on reintroducing its Riesling blend, Blue Cap, hopefully by the time you have read this. Based on customer interest at the winery, the most popular offerings are the Pétillant Naturel and Edelzwicker Halbtrocken. While restaurants also favor the Pétillant Naturel, other strong contenders include the Dry Gewürztraminer and Rosé. It certainly seems like no matter what wine you choose at Bloomer Creek, you are making an excellent choice.
I’ll leave you with one final story we heard while visiting the winery. During a recent car and motorcycle show in Watkins Glen, a couple traveled up to the winery to sample the wine. The husband, a Hulk Hogan look-alike, announced to the people at the tasting bar that “Wine is for women.” However, he hears that the Gewürztraminer has a similar flavor profile to an IPA and proceeds to taste it. He loudly shouts “Goddamn, that’s the best thing I ever had!” and proceeds to buy a case of it. I would have loved to have seen him getting it all strapped down to the back of his bike!
Seneca Lake is the largest and deepest of all the Finger Lakes. It is promoted as the lake trout capital of the world and as such, hosts an annual National Lake Trout Derby. There are over 50 wineries, distilleries, and breweries surrounding the lake with more added every year. Each one offers its own unique view of what the local terroir can produce and I look forward to writing more about many of them in future articles.
Bloomer Creek Vineyard
5301 Rt. 414, Hector, NY 14841
Visited August 22nd, 2015
Blog post written by Thomas Andersen.