Savage Oakes Vineyard ~ The Whites & Blushes

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Savage Oakes has been growing their own grapes since 2002; this is their fifth year producing wines grown from these locally grown grapes.  75% of the fruit they use in their wines is grown on their farm in Union, Maine, making Savage Oakes the largest winery that produces locally grown Maine wines.

This year Savage Oakes co-sponsored, with the Maine Wine Guild, a wine pavilion at the Union Fair, the first ever wine pavilion at a Maine agricultural fair.  Thirteen different wineries participated.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it back up to Maine for the fair, but if any Vino Verve readers attended, I’d love to hear details.   We can even feature you as a guest contributor.

But on to more important things – such as my tasting.  We kicked off with the two whites; first up:

Seyval Blanc Made from 20% locally grown grapes and 80% grapes from the Finger Lakes region in New York, this is a crisp, dry white wine.  Aged in French Oak, the color is a very pale yellow, and the nose is very soft and subtle with just a hint of citrus.  In the mouth the wine is smooth with nice fruity notes of citrus, a hint of lemon, and just a hint of light cream on the finish which balances out the acid on the finish, producing a smoother Seyval than I’ve often experienced.   I liked the wine, but I think I would have liked it with a bit more acid on the finish – somehow it was just a bit too smooth for my taste.

Georges River My favorite among the whites and blushes, no question, this is also one of the two most popular wines Savage Oakes produces.  So popular, it’s already sold out for the 2010 season.   100% locally grown Cayuga, the color is an extremely pale straw, almost clear.  The nose has lovely notes of canteloupe.  In the mouth the wine, which is labeled as off-dry, is just this side of sweet and lightly tangly with soft notes of the melon I picked up in the nose.  There’s a nice bite of acid on the finish which balances the sweetness and keeps the wine from straying into the semi-sweet category.

White Rose The second of Savage Oakes’s two most popular wines, the White Rose is a rosé style wine made from the blue Steuben grape, a grape more often used in juice and jellies than in winemaking.  The first thing you notice about the wine is the color, an extremely pale blush; in fact there’s almost no color.   Not at all what I expected; rosés generally are “pretty in pink,” and the blue steuben grapes certainly leads one to anticipate a darker color.  The nose is rich and fruity, reminiscent of a Vidal nose, with definite notes of apricot.  In the mouth the wine is surprisingly crisp; I say surprisingly because the rich fruitiness of the nose beguiles you into anticipating a lusher, sweeter wine.  It is a sweet wine, but not overly so, with notes of apricot balanced by a light citrus.  It’s a more complex and interesting wine than I anticipated from both the description as well as the nose.  Because I had made some assumptions about the wine based on the grape and the nose, that first sip was a bit like a “gotcha” – and totally fun.  Like the Georges River, the White Rose is also sold out for the season, but I’ll definitely be heading back next Spring for samples of the next vintage.

Daybreak Blush Next up was the Daybreak Blush.  100% locally grown, this is a white Cayuga blended with a touch of Marechal Foch.  Color-wise, this is a much more traditional rosé than the White Rose, with a lovely rose, almost dark pink color.  The nose was soft and subtle with light notes of citrus; not surprising given that this is a Cayuga.  I often find Cayuga to have subtle noses.  In the mouth the wine is sweet with notes of pink grapefruit and just a hint of tartness on the finish.  The tartness, I believe, comes from the Marechal Foch as the wine has just a hint of that “bite” I’ve often found in Marechal Foch.

Vineyard Blues The last of the blushes, the Vineyard Blues is also the first wine on the menu to feature the Savages’ primary crop, Maine Blueberries.  Interestingly, it’s not listed on the website.  Not sure if that means it’s been sold out for a while, or they no longer produce it, but I hope not the latter as I found it the most interesting of the three blush wines.  A lovely rose color, the nose is drier and duskier than any of the previous wines; to my mind it had more in common with a red nose than a white or a blush.  In the mouth the wine is drier than I expected given it’s a white wine blushed with blueberries.  There are light notes of of blueberry, but they are very subtle.  The finish has a slight, very slight, bitterness which is not unpleasant, and a nice balance of acid.  Overall the wine took me by surprise – I was really expecting something much sweeter, and definitely more “blueberry.”  As before, I liked that feeling of “gotcha!”  I didn’t fall in love with this wine immediately, but I found myself intrigued by it – and regret not having brought a bottle home for a further exploration.  I do hope the Vineyard Blues makes it back onto the wine list next year, as I will definitely be back.

That concluded the first half of the tasting – on to the Reds and Dessert wines.  But for those you’ll have to wait until Tuesday…

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