Our Wine Library

Our Wine Library at Sheldrake Point Winery contains over 4,000 bottles that we have set aside since 1998, saving small quantities of every single vintage. What’s a wine library, you ask?

Wineries typically hold on to a stock of older vintages, for both aesthetic reasons and for future winemaking reference, and this collection is called a Wine Library. Sometimes Library wines are on display, and sometimes they’re just stored somewhere safe, but any wines kept by a winery is still referred to as “library wines.”

Down in the Sheldrake Point Wine Library.

Down in the Sheldrake Point Wine Library.

The Art of Library Wine

There are many uses for library wines. For many people, it’s rare they will get an opportunity to try aged wines, so it can be a real treat (or a real eye-opener!) when older vintages are poured at winemaker dinners and charity events. Occasionally we make library wines available for sale to Sheldrake Point Wine Club members, or we pour Library wines at special events like at our recent Wine Club Summer Pick up Party. At our Pick up Party on June 7, our wine club members enjoyed a tasting of our:

The Science of Library Wine

Older Dry Rosés gained color but lost some of their fruity freshness.

Older Dry Rosés gained color but lost some of their fruity freshness.

Our wine library offers a growing history of each and every wine in order to better learn and understand how our wines evolve in the bottle over time. As a young winery, the primary purpose of establishing our Library was to provide references for the winemaking team. Dave Breeden, our winemaker, regularly tastes our Library wines to see how they’re aging and to get a sense of how our vineyard is developing.

Weather patterns and harvest conditions vary annually, and as each new vintage unfolds, we can identify similar conditions from past years and reference wines from those years for analysis. Common components that vary in each varietal include acid levels, pH, sweetness, and alcohol—all driven in large part by growing and harvest conditions.

Other aging elements include phenolic compounds and polymers that can allow the wine to remain stable and improve over time…or go the other way and contribute to spoilage. Our Wine Library is an important part of our winemaking process, giving us a good sense of what could happen in the bottle over time.

Saving it for a special occasion

What we learn from our Wine Library also helps you to plan when to uncork, and when to store wine for that proverbial special occasion.

Some wines like to be aged and some really don’t. Fuller-bodied red wines that have strong tannic components are best aged in order to soften the tannins and allow the flavors to evolve. Many fruitier whites are best served young before aging elements take a toll on their freshness and zing.

However, it’s often a surprise that some whites, including Riesling, have excellent aging potential! Riesling’s aging success comes from the naturally low pH (and high acidity) as well as from its mineral aspect—or at least, that’s the theory. The aging potential is accentuated as the sugar level increases, with some dessert-style Rieslings having some of the longest aging potential of any wines, reaching up to 100 years.

Wine Library, no shushing necessary!

All but the 1997 Dry Rosé remained interesting and enjoyable on the palate.

All but the 1997 Dry Rosé remained interesting and enjoyable on the palate.

Right now our Wine Library is simply located in a dark and cool basement space here on the property. But another building near the Tasting Room, with light softened by stained glass windows, is starting to look like a great space to showcase, taste, and sell selected Library wines. It can be a place where winemakers and wine enthusiasts alike can glimpse vintages past and future toasts.

I won’t be around in the year 2114 to sample our 94 point 2014 Riesling Ice Wine, but more than a few cases are already in our Wine Library. The challenge, of course, will be resisting the constant temptation to find a reason to open and savor that wine over the next 10 or 20 years…preventing our 2014 Riesling Ice Wine from ever reaching its 100th birthday, and taking away a bridge to the past.

Chuck was attracted to the Finger Lakes wine industry during his graduate work at the Cornell Hotel School and was instrumental in the transformation of the old abandoned dairy farm to today’s winery and vineyard. As principle owners, he and his wife Fran assume the risk of the venture and personally see to its priorities and requirements.  Chuck’s focus is on the management and company systems and processes.  When not in the office, he and Fran may also be working with the staff, doing repairs, tending the gardens, or chatting with visitors.