Both Maree and I prefer reds, so we carefully coordinated our selections to ensure we got to try as many of them as possible.
Under the Alba Vineyards label, the winery produces three reds: Old Mill Red, Chambourcin, and a Pinot Noir. Unfortunately the Chambourcin was temporarily out of stock, so we each selected one of the other two.
Old Mill Red Described as a “chianti-style” wine, this is a very drinkable, pleasant red table wine. Made from a blend of Marechal Foch and Chambourcin, with a bit of Merlot and Cabernet Franc thrown in, the wine is aged in american oak for 8-10 months. The nose is rich with strong notes of dark berries and plum. In the mouth there are also discernible notes of plum, and the oak provides a smoky finish. I felt the wine would definitely benefit if allowed to breathe, as it was there was a sharpness in the mouth that is often found in wines with a strong percentage of Marechal Foch, and that usually mellows when allowed to breathe for 30 minutes or so.
2004 Pinot Noir The vineyard has only recently planted Pinot Noir grapes, and this is one of Alba’s first pressings. For the 2004 vintage, the grapes came primarily from the New York Finger Lakes area and the Williamette Valley in Oregon. The wine is a medium-bodied wine, although on the lighter side of medium. There are lovely notes of cherry both in the nose and in the mouth, and there’s an interesting tanginess at the end. This struck me as a young wine, and I wasn’t surprised to find that Alba has only just begun working in Pinot Noir. For a newer wine, it is interesting, though, and I believe future vintages will grow richer and more complex.
Next we proceeded to the Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah of Chelsea Cellars.
2003 Cabernet Sauvignon This was a lovely, very drinkable wine. Medium-bodied with a soft dark-plum nose, the wine is rich and soft in the mouth. On the palate the notes of plum are nicely balanced by touches of pepper and spice. This would pair well with a wide variety of foods and should age well. Definitely one of my favorites of the afternoon.
2005 Syrah I’ve been gravitating towards Cabernet Franc and Syrah lately, and the Chelsea Cellars Syrah didn’t disappoint. The color is a dark red/purple – almost plum color. The nose is smooth and light with notes of both cherry and plum. Medium-bodied, in the mouth the wine has definite notes of plum and light notes of cherry which give it a brightness and freshness. The finish is smooth with a nice balance of acid. While I did like this wine, I definitely preferred the Cabernet, finding it a more interesting and complex wine.
We finished up the tasting with selections from among the Dessert wines. Maree, who loves blueberries and had never tried blueberry wine, gave that one a whirl. I, who have been tasting a fair amount of fruit wines lately, went with the Dolcina, an ice-wine style dessert wine.
Blueberry Wine When they say blueberry, they aren’t kidding. The smell and taste of blueberry is predominant in both the nose and mouth. Interestingly, though, it’s not overwhelming. Like their Apple and Raspberry wines, Alba’s Blueberry wine is sweetened solely from the fruit and the result is a flavor that comes very close to blueberries straight from the vine. It’s a rich, deep flavor that evokes … summer. This will pair exceptionally well with chocolate or cheesecake as well as with fruit and cheese. It would also be good sipped on it’s own as an aperitif. Winner of the 2009 Governor’s Cup for Best Dessert wine.
Dolcina Described as an “ice-wine” style, the grapes are harvested late in the season (but not technically late-harvest) and cyrogenically frozen to produce that rich, velvety sweetness that one finds in ice wines. The nose has notes of honey and apricot, and the mouth feel is soft and smooth. In the mouth, the notes apricot and honey blend harmoniously, with neither one being predominant. Definitely a nice dessert wine, but I found it didn’t have the depth and character of the true Ice Wines of the Niagara region or Germany.