Finger Lakes Highlights: Argetsinger Vineyard

As I mentioned in my first Finger Lakes post, grower Sam Argetsinger was one of the highlights of the TasteCamp experience. Argetsinger is a grower who oversees his eponymous family vineyard on the east side of Seneca Lake. I’m not sure if he would approve of me calling it “his” vineyard, however. Fluent in Iriquois, Argetsinger is deeply respectful of the land he works and the creatures he shares it with. (Although not naïvely so. When we visited, Argetsinger reminisced wryly about the time a posse of wild turkeys ate through $1,000 worth of grapes in a few hours.) You get the sense that he thinks of himself as a caretaker more than anything else.

Accompanied by his canine helpmates Shiloh and Buddy, Argetsinger walked us through the vineyard, which is a pretty fortuitous site for grape-growing. The lake helps moderate the cold temperatures, helping to ensure that grapes achieve ripeness–not a given in frigid upstate New York. (Did I mention that it snowed the morning we left? This is in mid-May, people.) Older vines often produce better wines, and some of the Argetsinger Riesling vines are 40+ years old. He also favors organic growing methods, such as planting cover crops between vine rows. Shiloh and Buddy seem to approve.

The proof, however, is in the drinking. The vast majority of Argetsinger’s fruit goes into wines made by Morten Hallgren at Ravines Wine Cellars.  Hallgren makes a single vineyard Argetsinger Riesling and after our tour, he was on hand to pour some of the 2007 for us TasteCampers. We sipped it out of tiny paper cups and devoured slices of sublime breakfast quiche courtesy of Morten’s wife, Lisa. The wine, made in a dry style, had a steeliness, minerality, and finesse that set it apart from the other local Rieslings I sampled over the weekend, and it was one of my favorites of the entire trip.

Sadly, the 2007 is sold out, but the 2008 is available on the Ravines Web site (and, at $25, is very well priced.) Fans of not too-serious, slightly sweet wines should also check out the Keuka Village White, a casual summer wine for $12. I’d also like to try the Chardonnay that Hallgren produces from Argetsinger fruit. They partially dry the Chardonnay grapes, which concentrates the sugar and compensates for the cool weather. (Again, did I mention the snow?) And I’m going to check back with these guys in a few years to see what happens with the Petit Manseng Argetsinger is about to put in, at Hallgren’s behest. An aromatic white from southwestern France, it make beautiful dessert wines. Hallgren’s cautiously optimistic, admitting he’s not sure how the grape will fare in the cold. Given the successful track record of these two, I’m excited to see how it will turn out.

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