Have you met Autumn Stoscheck? She's the powerhouse behind Eve's Cidery, farmer extraordinaire, orchardist turned vigneron, and generally just a badass lady. Autumn is on sabbatical with the cidery and working with us to develop our biointensive home farm. Her methodologies and holistic approach to the land echo the philosophies of Forge and Saint Cosme, while also bringing a unique perspective to the mix.
Throughout the season we will share some highlights from the vineyard, and bring you along to explore the terroir of our site.
April 23, 2018 -- MAKING BIOCHAR
Written by Autumn Stoscheck (Instagram: @myvineyardyear)
#1 Vine prunings from 3 acres of 3 year old vines, the pit, and my fire starter. I dug this pit in 2 hours with a front loader on a little Kubota and hand held hoe. It's cone shaped, 3' deep in the center with a 6' radius up top.
#2 Started a very hot fire with scrap wood from old pallets.
#3 When it was raging, I began adding the prunings. The trick is to continue to add as much fire as possible with out smothering it.
#4 Fire burns twice, first making charcoal, then ash. The cone prevents air from reaching the bottom of the fire, leaving behind the charcoal. The fire is so hot it makes no smoke, only steam. The pit was full when I threw the last of the vines on the fire.
#5 Luckily our sprayer only uses organic certified materials, so I had a convenient method to pump the 100 gallons of water that the fire required to quench.
#6 Apx 200 gallons of high quality, uniform biochar ready to inoculate and add to our compost pile to be returned to the vineyard.
(Sourced from our e-newsletter on April 20, 2018)
Here we are, in between the calmness of slow, steady fermentations and the thrill of preparing these barrels for the journey ahead. Using natural yeasts as we do, our wines take their sweet time to ferment to bone dryness and the 2017s are still finishing this evolution. It’s a busy time of constant tasting and note-taking, discovering the vintage in our cellar. There is hardly anything more exciting than tasting through the wines from our collection of vineyard sites, and experiencing the “colors” of the eastern shore of Seneca Lake. People often ask about our interest in working with so many sites; the simple and honest answer is that, at this young stage of Forge and the Finger Lakes, we want to explore our terroir more completely and partner with the best growers, while still focusing within a tight eight-mile strip that we love along southeast Seneca Lake. Keep in mind the narrow terroir that is in our Riesling Classique: even with 15 plots, we are essentially working with vineyards between Lodi and Hector, except for one late-harvest site.
There are certain terroirs that offer intensity and precision, while other sites offer savory, stony minerality, or flavors that make you feel like you just bit into the juiciest peach of your life. Blending these profiles together allows us to give you a bottle that is layered with the complexity we find in the lower-east microclimate of Seneca. To define this connection, beginning with our 2017 vintage, our wines will be labeled with the "Seneca Lake" AVA rather than the wider-ranging "Finger Lakes."
What about the single vineyard wines? There are always a few vineyards that so clearly portray their terroir that they compel us to study them alone. They are masked within a blend and brilliantly complete on their own. Similarly, we note a few barrels among both the Riesling and Pinot Noir that are truly exceptional, and can be nothing other than our Les Alliés.
In these coming days, we will sit together as a team and uncover the 2017 vintage. More than one hundred barrels will be individually tasted, assessed, blended, and the final wines realized.
(Sourced from our e-newsletter on Jan. 18, 2018)
Just about every week we have someone visit the winery for a tasting, and often one of their first questions is, "Why do you make Pinot Noir?”
True, with with our variable weather patterns and cool, northerly climate, nothing is easy here; certainly not the fickle, seductive beauty known as Pinot. But we have always had the confidence that if we chose the right sites, balanced the yields, worked with dedicated growers, and paid attention throughout the season, we could absolutely achieve excellence. Notice I have mentioned nothing about the winemaking, which must be watchful, disciplined and intensive. This past fall, Justin and I used our brain power and brute strength to figure out how to break through the foot-thick cap of grape skins to punch down our Pinots. Louis haranged us day and night about fermentation temperatures, and we bit our nails in suspense over whether our French barrels would arrive from Santa Rosa, California while it was burning from wildfires.
Seneca Lake Pinot Noir truly excites us and gets us up in the mornings. We believe it is possible to translate our terroir into a sublime glass of Pinot. Some of the very factors that deter and stymy are those that have the potential to make our version so compelling. We continue our quest for finesse, delicacy, seduction and charm, and we invite you to come along on this journey. Such is our confidence in the variety here, that in 2016 and 2017, we planted ten acres of Pinot on our home farm. With the help of our Vineyard Consultant, Phil Davis (Damiani Wine Cellars) and our vineyard team, which now includes Autumn Stoscheck from Eve’s Cidery, we look forward to raising our young vines in the most eco-friendly and balanced manner possible that they might tell you a brilliant Finger Lakes story one day.
If you like Burgundy, we think you will especially find our Pinots attractive. These are wines that reflect their delicate and gradual Finger Lakes ripening and their foundation in shale soils. They are alive, expressive and mysterious, unfolding at will. I'll be heading to Burgundy for inspiration and wisdom from the holy grail of Pinot Noir in just a week, so stay tuned for updates, and in the meantime, check out our newly released and rated Les Alliés 2015.
"How many times have we walked away from meals talking more about what was in the glass than what was on the plate? Many times." We couldn't agree more with Michael Austin of the Chicago Tribune. Of course, the feast is centerpiece of Thanksgiving, but without wine, the feast is incomplete. In his article of must-have wines for Thanksgiving, Austin recommends our 2015 Dry Riesling Classique, calling it "full of minerality, almond, orange zest, citrus and a whisper of smoke — soft and luscious with bright acidity and a dry finish."
One of the best things about the holiday season and the foods that accompany them is that our Riesling and Pinot Noir offerings were practically made for them. The Rieslings have weight and concentration with the perfect amount of freshness and acidity to complement rich dishes (poultry, pork, creamy squashes and soups) while also not overpowering the lighter fare at the table (salads and fresh vegetables or cheeses). Vegetarians or those with carnivorous cravings will take pleasure in pairing a variety of foods with our Pinot Noir. Our Pinots have unbelievable intensity with the perfect amount of restraint. Earth, mineral, and fruit are woven together with precision and intention, while the tannins and acid breathe structure and freshness into the palate. Poultry or red meat, root vegetables and mushrooms, lentils or salmon, and of course the traditional Thanksgiving cranberry sauce and stuffing -- these are just a few ways you can introduce Forge Pinot to the food and guests at your table.
Visits with Louis always move too quickly. Having the entire team together is always something we look forward to, and while we work hard and efficiently when we're together, we always leave time for play. (And play, we did!)
Jean-Baptiste, one of Louis' long-time friends and fellow French winemaker, came along for the ride, and experienced the Finger Lakes for the first time. What is truly remarkable about this region is that you don't have to go out of your way to introduce someone to this place and the people, it just happens organically. When an unknown person arrives in the Finger Lakes, there may as well be a line out the door of people waiting to introduce themselves and pass on one of their favorite local pastimes or watering holes. The community is woven so tightly here, which is one of the many reasons we love doing what we do, where we do it.
Back to work... Although our rosé production is small—about 100 cases this vintage—it's a fun project for us, and was the first item on the agenda. We were all pleased to see it retain the intensity and expression of the 2015 vintage that we all loved so much. The next big task during Louis' visit was finalizing all of the cuvées: Classique, Les Alliés, and Single Vineyard wines. This means that each and every barrel and tank were tasted, ample notes were taken, blending trials were conducted, and after countless samples and discussion, the wines were realized. Every year it's fascinating to see the sometimes drastic differences between vineyards and terroir when tasting the wines. In our tasting of 2016 Rieslings, we noticed one powerful vineyard (you'll have to wait to find out which one...) that was so expressive, even adding 3% of it into our Classique bottling changed the entire dynamics of the wine. All-in-all, the wines from the 2016 vintage were full of character and finesse, wines that we are proud to be the first to have seen the entire winemaking process from start to finish in our new facility.
It is important for us to constantly taste, to let our palates and our minds experience and understand the world of wine around us. Everyone on the team is encouraged to document the various wines that they try (especially Riesling and Pinot Noir), and share their impressions. The opportunity to taste together is always the most beneficial, and allows us to engage in lively discussion, analysis, and sometimes debate. It was a treat to taste some of the older vintages from Saint Cosme (2004 Les Deux Albion, anyone?) and sample Riesling and Pinot from around the world, each with their own story and personality.
What did we do for play? Aside from taking pleasure in beautiful wines and the Michelin 3-star meals that Rick cooked up, we also wrangled in our bravery and jumped into one of many creeks feeding into Seneca Lake. Nothing is quite as invigorating at 9am as a chilly dip into a pool of fresh water (right, Louis?). We warmed up with a bonfire at the winery, had coffee and pastries, and shared some good laughs about the lunacy that just happened.
These are the moments that remind us of how much we love what we do. Having the team together, seeing our wines come to life before our eyes, and taking in all that the Finger Lakes has to offer (cold streams and all) is the life force of Forge.
Things are busy here in "the lakes" (as Louis would say), so while we're busy tending to things in the winery and vineyard, our wines have taken up the hobby of globetrotting.
Just last week, our Riesling and Pinot Noir were seated among some BIG names in the wine biz for a professional tasting of American wines in Romania. It is an honor and a privilege to wield the flag of the Finger Lakes abroad, and introduce the region and wines to connoisseurs overseas.
Shanghai was the next stop for our Riesling. Liz Thach, MW (Master of Wine) presented our Riesling Classique to 34 Chinese wine professionals during a tasting of "8 Top American Wines." Forge Cellars wines poured alongside Kistler, Domaine Serene, Turley, and Opus One!?
Did you catch our Facebook post last week about Hungary? Our Riesling Classique is the only American wine on the list at Eleven - bor&tapas, a wine bar/restaurant in Pécs.
Wow. What a strange yet amazing feeling to see our project making a splash and navigating the vast world of wine.
A quick piece of advice -- if you are going to have partners in business make sure they are way cooler and more interesting then yourself!
Last week Louis emailed me and said that his Norwegian importer tasted the 2015 Forge wines at St. Cosme and absolutely loved them. They placed a large order of Riesling AND Pinot, so we're very excited about that.
Plus, the week before, Taiwan placed an order!
Yesterday Louis sent me this:
"I am in Tokyo. I sold some Riesling and Pinots yesterday in Kyoto. Tomorrow tasting all day at Imperial Hotel WITH the Riesling. Tuesday with Enoteca buyer to re-present Pinot and Riesling. Wednesday tasting all day at Imperial Hotel Osaka with the Riesling." - Louis
While the rest of the team is hunkered down here in "the lakes" taking care of 2016 vintage, it is good to know that your partner is out in the rest of the world spreading Finger Lakes love.