winemaking

JUST RELEASED - 2017 Vintage Scores

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Pictured above:  Louis in the cellar gathering Rieslings from barrels for blending trials of the 2017 vintage.

It has been a quiet winter in the cellar and on the eastern slopes of Seneca Lake.  There is a calmness that you can feel in the winery as you pass through racks of barrels playing soothing songs of fermentation.  Allowing our wines to ferment slowly and spontaneously makes for a long winter of watching and waiting, but the reward at the end makes the anticipation worth it.  As a result of this natural fermentation, we find that wines are more aromatic and expressive.

In 2018, we expanded to working with 16 different sites along a small eight mile stretch of southeast Seneca Lake.  The variations in soils, slope, elevation, and growing practices make this landscape a true treasure of terroir.  It is our hope that we can very clearly show you this in the wines from 2018, which will begin to come available in the summer of 2019.

A true pleasure has been watching the evolution of the first wines produced from fruit on our Home Farm.  We harvested a small amount of Riesling and Pinot Noir in 2018--both stunning in terms of quality and flavor.  As we continue to check in and taste them throughout fermentation, they are by consensus, spectacular examples of transparent, honest grape-growing, and speak ofterroir impeccably.  They have been a wonderful case study for us, as we put an inordinate amount of effort into caring for the vines with the help of Autumn Stoscheck in 2018, and are sure they will be an incredible addition to our blends. 

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In the January 2019 issue of Wine Spectator, our complete lineup of 2016 Dry Rieslings was featured among the high ratings from New York, dominating the Riesling category.  At this time, we still have a small amount of 2016 Dry Riesling Les Alliés available, however the rest of the vintage has sold out. 

This great press on the 2016 vintage was quickly followed-up by outstanding scores from Wine Spectator for the 2017 vintage Rieslings, making it another consecutive year of outstanding scores.  (Please see the 2017 reviews below.)

If you are among the lucky ones who have a few bottles of Peach Orchard or Breakneck Creek Rieslings resting in your cellar, you will be happy to read the reviews and thankful that you had the opportunity to add a few to your collection before they were sold out.  One of our most iconic wines, our late-release single vineyard Riesling from Leidenfrost, is still available in limited quantities.  Single vineyard wines are typically released in the summer and produced in limited quantities.  While we do bottle small lots of certain vineyards separately each vintage, the reason we make so few of these wines is because the fruit from these sites are also components in the Classique and Les Alliés bottlings each year.  Every time you enjoy a glass of Classique or Les Alliés, know that you are also tasting a piece of these special vineyard sites, too.  These single vineyard wines tend to sell very quickly and are adored by the press, so we always suggest stocking up when they are first released.  As a subscriber to this newsletter, you are among the first to know of their release, and we will be sure to reach out this summer when the 2018 vintage becomes available.


Dry Riesling Classique 2017
91 POINTS
Wine Spectator, 2019

"Jasmine and mustard seed notes lead the way here, backed by a mix of yellow apple, mirabelle plum and citrus oil flavors. Shows good intensity through the finish." - James Molesworth


Dry Riesling Breakneck Creek Vineyard 2017
91 POINTS
Wine Spectator, 2019

“Juicy and vibrant, with jasmine-gilded yellow apple, melon and mirabelle plum flavors backed by flashes of verbena and green almond on the finish. Shows lots of range and energy.”
- James Molesworth


- SOLD OUT - 


Dry Riesling Peach Orchard Vineyard 2017
91 POINTS
Wine Spectator, 2019

“Mustard flower, white peach, verbena and green almond notes give this a distinct profile, while a creamy frame and a lingering quinine streak add range and length.” - James Molesworth

- SOLD OUT - 


Dry Riesling Leidenfrost Vineyard 2017
90 POINTS
Wine Spectator, 2019

“A jasmine note leads off in this white, followed by grapefruit gelée, verbena and white peach flavors. A nice quinine streak gives the finish some needed tension.” - James Molesworth

The Evolution in the Cellar

(Sourced from our e-newsletter on April 20, 2018)

Winemaking at Forge Cellars - Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes, New York

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.

Naked on Earth Day

(Sourced from our e-newsletter on April 20, 2018)

Naked Bottles Forge Cellars Riesling and Pinot Noir

As fermentations come to an end and the wines comes to life, the movement from barrel to bottle brings a new set of logistics.  Labels are finalized, glass bottles are shipped from France, boxes are ordered, and the list goes on.  One constant element in the chaos of production, is our steadfast aversion to putting capsules on our wines.  It’s a decision that may seem curious in the world of fine wine, but we believe the minimalism is necessary to reduce waste and harm to our planet. After all, capsules are purely decorative; they were historically used to protect wine from vermin in the cellar.  To comply with European import regulations, a limited number of bottles sent overseas are the only Forge wines that ever use capsules. 
 
According to the Ocean Conservatory, we produce more than 2.5 billion tons of solid waste globally each year.  Plastic waste accounts for over 275 million tons, and every year, 8 million tons of plastic finds its way into our oceans.  The Environmental Protection Agency states that in the United States alone, there are over 10,000 old municipal landfills and the number of active landfills in the U.S. is greater than 3,000.
 
These numbers are heartbreaking.  At Forge, we are very conscious of the environment that gives us the ability to pursue our passion. We want to be calculated and conscientious with our approach in the vineyard and in the winery, including our packaging.  Our goal is to nurture a symbiotic relationship with the Earth, to feed, listen, and translate the terroir with clarity.  For these reasons, we do our part not to contribute to the ever-growing plastic waste in the world.
 
Wine capsules are often made of tin, PVC, or Polylam, of which only tin is recyclable.  Tin is also the most expensive option of capsule, and only a small fraction of wineries who use capsules actually choose tin over other options, thus the waste grows.
 
In honor of Earth Day, we raise our naked bottles and give thanks to Mother Nature!


If you'd like to learn more about plastic pollution in our oceans, please watch the video below published by the United Nations.

Why do we make Pinot Noir?

(Sourced from our e-newsletter on Jan. 18, 2018)

2011, our first vintage of Pinot Noir. (Photo: Wendy Houseworth)

2011, our first vintage of Pinot Noir. (Photo: Wendy Houseworth)

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.

-RR

Wonder how we make our Rosé? This is a great, simple explanation.

Why Saignée is Like No Other Rosé | Wine Folly

Saignée ("sohn-yay") means "to bleed," and it also describes a method of rosé winemaking that involves "bleeding" off a portion of red wine juice after it's been in contact with the skins and seeds. Saignée is considered a byproduct of red winemaking because its primary function is to increase the concentration of red wines.

Here Come the 2015 Wines...

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RELEASE OF THE 2015 WINES
 
Here we are once again.  It's that time of year when our newest vintage of wines
make their debut, and you, a faithful member of the Forge Foundry, are the first
to experience the unveiling.  

 

There is no wine club at Forge, no hierarchy among fans of great wine, no complicated sales gimmicks, just a simple formula for sharing what we do with those who enjoy it.  Our annual offering keeps us engaged with you a few times a year without filling up your inbox.  We would prefer that you read less emails and have more time to visit us in the Finger Lakes. 

The 2015 vintage is very small in terms of quantities.  The volumes, meaning the juice we received from the grapes, was to put it...mildly frightening.  However, wines from 2015 are so much fun to drink that you'll quickly forget how little there is--until you finish the bottle and go to look for another.  Fortunately, you have some 2014 Forge wines that are aging gracefully (you do, don’t you?), and can always turn to this very complex vintage as a very suitable backup.  Trust me, I am speaking from experience.  I believe that for Justin, the patient one of the group, that the 2015 vintage was memorable because of the length of the fermentations.  They were not complete (fermented to dryness) until well into the summer, hence the late release of the wines.  Often I would ask him how fermentations were moving along, and the usual response was…”well, they are GOING…like a turtle." 
Every year, I look forward to Louis' impression of the vintage.  Here are a few of his thoughts:

"One of the nicest aspects of our work is having a different vintage every year.  A computer company has to invent all sorts of new products and develop many kinds of marketing strategies to keep the customers on board  You know what?  Mother Nature does that for us, and it is so creative that every vintage is different.  Obviously, sometimes a vintage can “look like” another, but my experience is that all of them have their own identity.  2015 gives a great picture of this; we had never seen a vintage like 2015 and we won’t see it again.  On a tasting point of view, it is so pleasurable when the mark of a vintage is obvious, it gives a great dimension of “time” to the wine.  The terroir gives the dimension of “place”, of “origin.”  What is important is to get an idea of truth.  It is important that the wine is a translation of a reality, a story, a moment.  So, as a grower it is important to make the best possible wine, but it is a bad way indeed to go “against” a vintage.  This is why I like the 2015, because it has a lot of self identity and when we drink it in 15 years time, the way it will taste will have a “time machine effect” on us and it will make us happy."

It will make us “happy”…this is indeed the 2015 vintage.  They are hedonistic, exotic, and unlike any of the wines we have had the pleasure of crafting before.  Enjoy, be happy.

-RR
RIESLING CLASSIQUE 2015
$19


A classique not that classique. As Rick says it is more a great Burgundy than anything else. Ripe, wide, profound, long. But the freshness is still very present. An enormous impact of the vintage on this wine. A style on its own. -LB

Our most important wine aims to reveal the true nature of the vintage and to explore the terroir of east Seneca Lake. Working with 8 different growers on 10 parcels, we see the depth of expression possible in a ripe vintage. With this level of ripeness, fermentations continued into late spring in order to finish bone dry. Quince, lemon, fennel and slate mingle with marzipan and white chocolate, supported by precise acidity.

Production: 1800 cases
LEIDENFROST VINEYARD
RIESLING 2015

$24

A ripe, smooth, round riesling from great vegetal material.  So different from Sawmill and geographically so close. -LB

We consider this a “grand cru” site because of its close proximity to the lake and rocky terroir of shale near the surface. This vineyard always expresses its terroir clearly; grapes ripen early and well, yielding distinct character and power. The 2015 is savory and intense with flavors of stone and saline interplaying with apricot skin, apple and anise.

Hector (east side, Seneca Lake)
Soils: shale
Production: 50 cases
LOWER CAYWOOD VINEYARD
RIESLING 2015

$24

A very expressive wine with a stunning complexity and identity.  A really great terroir/location/vine.  No doubt.  An aromatic spectrum that I deeply like.  We do have something very special there, for sure. -LB

These 40-year old vines are part of the original Charles Fournier plantings, planted on shale with minimal topsoil. Due to some extra-loving care throughout the growing season, this site produced dynamic flavors that deserved its own bottling. Lifted aromas of menthol, wild herbs and wasabi contrast sharply with a rich, lush palate of glazed apples, preserved lemon, raw honey and dried orchard fruits.

Lodi (east side, Seneca Lake)
Soils: shale
Production: 25 cases
SAWMILL CREEK VINEYARD
RIESLING 2015

$24

That is classicism more than the classic.  So elegant and talking about this particular microclimate on a very precise way.  I think Sawmill is a wine to taste old.  This is a proper super great pedigree wine, no doubt.  The balance is great and works naturally well every year. -LB

We have come to expect great complexity and expression from well-farmed grapes on this site which lies in a slope contiguous to Leidenfrost. This vineyard is a jewel of the Finger Lakes where Riesling expresses itself with both minerality and ripeness year after year. A riper, heftier style that mixes dried apricot, dried apple and wild peach with honey, anise, ginger, white pepper and loam.

Hector (east side, Seneca Lake)
Soils: shale
Production: 100 cases
PINOT NOIR CLASSIQUE 2015
$26

Very Burgundian in style but very « east side Seneca » in expression. It makes sense: the style is given by your work. The expression is given by…nature. And obviously our aromatics and texture are highly related to shale in this wine. -LB

Attractive mulled plums, violets, raspberry tea, truffle and charcoal aromas can be found on the nose. The ripe results of low yields in a warm growing season are evident in the density of this year’s Classique. Sweet plums, raspberries and pure cherry juice are spiced with cinnamon, cocoa powder and violets. Savory elements of underbrush and stone join the profile, staying focused and juicy on a long finish.

Production: 625 cases
ROSÉ 2016
$17

This rosé of Pinot Noir is full-flavored and structured with notes of vibrant crunchy red cherry, cherry pit, thyme, and mineral. Produced using the saignée method, grapes were hand-harvested from Standing Stone Vineyard (located in Lodi on the east side of Seneca Lake) and experienced 16 hours of skin contact to retain its rich color.

Production: 84 cases
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Putting the Ducks to Work

We are big advocates of biodiversity on our growing farm, and value the symbiotic relationship we have with our land. This weekend, our ducklings were moved from their temporary home in the winery to their new coop in the vineyard. Over the next few weeks they will learn the landscape and begin helping us with pest management. (Bonus: not only are these guys hard workers, but they are pretty darn cute, too!)


If you're interested in learning more, check out this video from a winery in South Africa that employs more than 800 ducks in their vineyard -- it's truly a sight to see.

Louis' Visit to "The Lakes" - May 2017

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.

-KR

Adding Drain Tile to Our Home Farm

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In the coming weeks, our home farm will welcome another addition of Riesling and Pinot Noir vines. This past weekend, Rick and James spent their time installing drain tiles throughout the vineyard where the next phase of planting will occur.  By "tiling" or adding drain tiles, any excess subsurface water from the rising of the water table will be redirected through the pipe/drain system and moved away from the vineyard.  It's a necessary undertaking in a region such as the Finger Lakes, which experiences somewhat significant rainfall in various years. 

During the dig, we unearthed quite a bit of shale and blue clay - a combination that will make Pinot Noir especially happy.  

-KR

A Homage to Henri Louis Barruol

On Sunday we received news that Louis’ father, Henri, had passed away at the family's estate in Gigondas.

I have had the most difficult time thinking of what I could say about this man that meant so much to Louis.  Anytime I have had a conversation about winemaking or life Louis would undoubtedly reference his father.  Louis has told me time and time again that his success and the success of Saint Cosme were because of his father's teachings and guidance.  

Henri’s importance to Louis cannot be overstated.

This poem was written by Odile Coche-Dury for her husband, Jean-François but I thought it was a fitting homage to Henri Louis Barruol.

-RR

                                                                                        

VIGNERON

In the cellar, in the sun, at the vat, at the wine press,
in the cold, in the wind, under a veil of fog,
near the crackling brazier where the smoke envelopes him,
our ancestors and nature herself have imparted their wisdom.
 
Often he wears himself out pampering his soil,
and working far too late as the reddening sunset sky lights up,
he finishes his tasks without resentment,
then he descends the dusk-dark slope, weary but proud.
 
If he possesses the secrets of the vine and the art of wine,
it is because in his youth an old vine stalk gave him a sign.
Henceforth he was and always will be a vigneron.
 
Life in this garden of vines will serve him well
to better understand the path to the great beyond,
he who from birth was molded by his piece of earth.

by Odile Coche-Dury
March 20, 2006
at Puligny-Montrachet
while attending branches
in the des Enseignères vineyard

Snapshots from our first day at our new facility...