Ravines Wine Cellars, Hammondsport, NY

I was excited to visit Ravines Wine Cellars, one of my favorite regional wineries, during our weekend adventure travelling around Keuka Lake. Morten Hallgren, the winemaker, and his wife Lisa, a chef, have built a world class winery right here in the Finger Lakes region of New York that blends Old World traditions and New World innovations. This was not my first time here, but I was delighted to revisit the tasting room so I could share a bit of their story and the many wonderful wines that are available.

We arrived at the winery shortly after they opened for the day, allowing us to take time to talk to the tasting room staff uninterrupted before the crowds started to show up. Once inside, we were greeted by Carolyn, who has been with Ravines for the past nine seasons. Carolyn had a friendly attitude and an extensive knowledge of the winery, both of which helped to enhance our experience sampling the many diverse wines.

Dry Riesling, 2014
  • Considered to be the signature wine at Ravines.
  • Beautiful stone fruit, delicious racy acidity that lingers on the palate. Wonderfully dry finish.
Dry Riesling, Jeff’s Field, 2014
  • .3% Residual Sugar
  • Grapes grown at Serenity Vineyards
  • Plentiful peach and nectarine. Bright acidity and a dry finish.
Dry Riesling, White Springs Vineyard, 2014
  • .8% Residual Sugar
  • A lot of wet stone and citrus flavors that work beautifully with the lively acidity. Fruit is a bit more pronounced but balances well with the minerality.
  • White Springs Vineyard is known for its limestone soil.
Keuka Village White, 2015
  • .8% Residual Sugar
  • 70% Cayuga and 30% Vignoles grapes
  • The Cayuga are picked earlier in the season to achieve the desired level of flavor in the final product.
  • Notes of Bosc pear and green apple make for an approachable table wine that should please many people.
Chardonnay, 2014
  • The winery partially dehydrates a fraction of the grapes using their own adaptation of the passito method.
  • Barrel aged in French oak.
  • Crisp, with well-balanced toasted bread notes. This is the only white wine they produce that undergoes malolactic fermentation.
Chardonnay, White Springs Vineyard, 2013
  • All stainless steel Chardonnay and expertly crafted.
  • This is a fantastic showcase for the fruit, and the bright acidity makes it sparkle.
Gewürztraminer, 2014
  • .8% Residual Sugar
  • This has well balanced floral notes that are not overbearing like a heavy perfume.
  • Plentiful rose petal and lychee fruit aromas entice the senses.
Sparkling Brut Rosé, 2009
  • 100% Pinot Noir grapes grown at Argetsinger Vineyard
  • Very clean and delicate. A great palate cleanser between courses.
Pinot Rosé, 2015
  • .2% Residual Sugar
  • 100% Pinot Noir grapes grown at Argetsinger Vineyard
  • Stone and earth notes showcase very well here. Certainly not fruit forward at all. Reminds me of some of my favorite French Rosés.
Pinot Noir, 2013
  • Gorgeous smoke and cedar nose.
  • Light and delicate with so many subtleties. A great example of what Ravines does best.
Keuka Village Red, 2015
  • Unoaked, casual wine made from Noiret and Cabernet Franc grapes.
  • Designed for summer and sitting on the patio. There is a distinct white pepper finish. Age this wine to subtle out the pepper notes.
Cabernet Franc, 2014
  • .2% Residual Sugar
  • Peppery, with plentiful ripe black and red fruits. Spicy, yet savory at the same time. Another classic beauty.
Meritage, 2012
  • Grapes grown mostly at Glen Eldridge Vineyard, one of the steepest and most protected vineyards in the Finger Lakes.
  • Gorgeous ruby red color. Aromas of plums, cherry, cedar, and cloves.
  • Soft tannins enhance this wine which will only improve with age.
MMX, 2010
  • 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot grown at Glen Eldridge Vineyard
  • These reds just keep getting better! Dark fruit on the nose, inky and full bodied. Tobacco notes tickle the senses.
Ayre, 2015
  • 4.1% Residual Sugar
  • 100% Valvin Muscat grapes grown at White Springs Vineyard
  • Beautiful fruit bouquet, mostly of white peach. The acidity keeps this from becoming too cloyingly sweet in the mouth. There is even a hint of effervescence.

As you can see, we were able to try quite a diverse selection of wines during our tasting. Each one was lovingly crafted and really showcased the grape varietals contained within. Having the opportunity to try the same varietal grown at different vineyards throughout the Finger Lakes was truly an eye opening experience. Each portrayed a rather unique character that could only come from the local terroir. While it is hard to pick my favorites, I will say that the Rosé truly rivaled some of the best that I have tasted from France. The depth of character and flavor was unparalleled by many other Rosés I have tried from the region, and even throughout the world. The Rieslings are also worthy of your time, as are the numerous Red varietals that Morten is creating. Even the slightly sweeter wines are well crafted and the balance will please the palates of most tasters.

Morten Hallgren’s family, originally from Denmark, moved to the Provence region in the South of France when he was quite young. His family owned and operated Domaine de Castel Roubine, an estate with 170 acres of vineyards. While growing up, he experienced the traditional methods of European winemaking. After completing his Enology and Viticulture education in Europe, Morten came to America, where he eventually started working at Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Wine Cellars, located on the opposite side of Keuka Lake.  In 2000, Morten and his wife purchased their own property on the lake and opened the tasting room in 2002. I however, cannot do full justice to Morten’s journey to where he is today and for that I ask you to turn to Evan Dawson’s enjoyable book: Summer in a Glass. This book, containing interesting stories about the various wineries around the Finger Lakes, helped inspire me to start writing about the many different artisanal establishments that we visit on our journeys.

Morten selects his grapes from at least four different vineyards throughout the region. He is highly involved with the grape growing process at each site and even goes out to taste the grapes before harvest to ensure that they are exhibiting the exact characteristics that he is hoping to work with. If you are interested in digging into the fine details, the folks in the tasting room have sheets that describe the unique geological composition, weather patterns, and vineyard systems at each site. I am really excited about the 2013 Sparkling Dry Riesling from Argetsinger Vineyards which was released soon after our visit. Other unique releases include the 2007 and 2008 Merlot’s from the Glen Eldridge Vineyard.

The first wine that Morten produced back in 2002 was a 2001 Meritage blend. Much of what he creates can easily be aged and Ravines keeps a chart for all the wines detailing the recommended aging times. In fact, some of the Rieslings can be held onto for at least seven to ten years, a fact that I can attest to as I discovered some older Ravines’ Rieslings in my cellar that had aged beautifully long after others would have been past their prime!

From the tasting room, one has a gorgeous view of Keuka Lake. The building, designed to look like a French Bistro, sits up on a hill and offers outdoor seating for when the weather is decent. The tasting room also sells local cheeses and chocolates, such as those made by Hedonist Chocolates in Rochester, NY. Pairing the quiet jazz music being played throughout the building with a glass of wine would make a perfect respite after a busy day touring wineries. If you are just looking for a sampling, the flights are $3.00 for a selection of five wines. They will also add on a chocolate or cheese pairing for an additional fee.

On weekends, the Ravinous Kitchen is open for business. This small café was inspired by Morten’s wife, Lisa, a chef and foodie who loves to cook with the local ingredients available in the region. Today it is run by Scott Riesenberger, the creative director and chef. Options like pressed pork belly and English pea hummus are designed to pair remarkably well with the different wines being sold. It is a complete Farm to Table restaurant and even offers unique four course meals that include a tour of the wine cellar.

Many fans of Ravines decide to join the Ravinous Club. This membership delivers you special bottles of Ravines’ wines four times a year. More importantly however, it also includes additional discounts and special events such as the Friday evening parties, where members relax on the patio enjoying live music, appetizers, and of course, wine.

Ravines has also opened a newer tasting room on Seneca Lake. This location in Geneva, New York, is now their main production facility and has a quite a different vibe to it versus the Keuka Lake site. The building is an old historic slate barn with quite a rustic feel to it.

If you are a fan of well-made classic wine, then I recommend visiting Ravines Wine Cellars. Carolyn was an exceptional advocate for the winery and gave us a lot of inside information which was very helpful. I am proud to have such a world class winery located right in my backyard and even happier knowing that many of their wines are available at all the major wine shops around Rochester, NY.

I briefly mentioned Evan Dawson’s book Summer in a Glass within the article. Besides the exciting history of Ravines Wine Cellars, there are many other inspirational tales about quite a few of the wineries around Keuka Lake including Heron Hill Winery, Dr. Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars, and McGregor Vineyard. I look forward to visiting these wineries soon to write about them for this blog.

Ravines Wine Cellars

www.ravineswine.com

Ravines’ Facebook Page

14630 State Route 54, Hammondsport, NY 14840

Visited July 4th, 2016

Blog post written by Thomas Andersen.

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