2014 Vintage Report highlights sweet success

This Sheldrake Point Winery 2014 Vintage Report highlights the sweet success of a spectacular growing season last year. In the months since harvest, Dave Breeden, our winemaker, and Julia Hoyle, our assistant winemaker, have been hard at work guiding the juice through fermentation, with a couple of notable revelations:

2014 Gewürztraminer

Winemaker Dave Breeden relies on taste and chemistry results in making Sheldrake Point's fine wines.

Winemaker Dave Breeden relies on taste and chemistry results in making Sheldrake Point’s fine wines.

First, Dave says it is important to know the unusual back story of our 2014 Gewürztraminer harvest. Gewürztraminer grapes are normally harvested in the first couple of weeks of October, at 23-24 brix. Due to the wet, cool mid-summer followed by a dry, warm late summer/early fall, the 2014 Finger Lakes growing season just kept on going. So did our grapes.

Dave and Julia kept tasting our Gewürztraminer grapes, and kept waiting for them to “taste right.” The grapes may taste right at 19-20 brix, but that chemistry won’t make a proper Gewürztraminer. By the second week of November (yes – a month later than usual!), the fruit looked beautiful, and though the flavor was atypical, the chemistry showed a very high 26 brix. Dave, Julia, and the vineyard crew made the call – Pick now, before it snows! It was the highest brix for a Gewürztraminer at harvest than we ever had before.

Fast forward to fermentation. Dave and Julia collaborate on every wine to make that incredibly crucial decision of when to stop fermentation. Making that call for our 2014 Gewürztraminer was a unique challenge. Due to those 26 brix at harvest, the flavor was a significant departure in style from what we’ve done before.

“We had to find a balance where the alcohol was not too hot, and the sugar was not too sweet,” says Dave. They tasted every day, measuring the alcohol along the way, while the juice fermented into a semi-sweet style. When it measured around 14%, the taste was not just sweet, but also had great fruit flavor, like a wine inspired by an Alsatian-style Gewürztraminer. “This,” says Dave, “is the New York version of big – a big, mouth filling, life-changing Gewürztraminer.” You heard it here first.

Our 2014 Gewürztraminer will be bottled sometime this summer with an expected release in 10-12 months.

2014 Luckystone Riesling

The 2014 Sheldrake Point Luckystone Riesling will also be a sweeter experience, compared to our 2013 vintage. To better differentiate the Luckystone from our semi-dry Riesling, Dave and Julia stopped fermentation a little earlier than usual to retain a 5% residual sugar, twice the 2013 vintage, to go for a Spätlese style (German version of a late harvest wine).

“It was the beauty of the moment when we realized that we were tasting something special and we needed to save it,” Dave says of the daily tasting and fermentation checks with Julia. “We just fell in love with this wine, and said ‘We want to bottle this…right now!’”

Vintage…2019?

In the next few years we will add another distinct white aromatic to our portfolio. Julia made a Dry Muscat from a single row of vines, yielding just a half ton of fruit at harvest. We’ll bottle it in June, and those 22 cases will go out to our Tasting Room and our Wine Club members.

Assistant Winemaker Julia Hoyle collaborates with Dave Breeden on every wine. A new white aromatic, Dry Muscat, is one she's working to perfect for our future portfolio.

Assistant Winemaker Julia Hoyle collaborates with Dave Breeden on every wine. A new white aromatic, Dry Muscat, is one she’s working on with Dave to perfect for our future portfolio.

This summer we will plant up to an acre more of the Muscat, but in the meantime we have the single row for a small annual production for Dave and Julia to perfect how we’ll use these grapes as a single varietal. Once we have that new planting available for production, we’ll include the Dry Muscat in our vintage report…circa 2019.

“Our grapes are magic”

Winemaking at Sheldrake Point is flexible, as we try to make the wine that is best for each vintage. Anything can happen in a growing season, so from the vineyard crew caring for the vines right on through to Dave and Julia declaring that ‘We have a wine,’ we just roll with it. Physiological ripeness may not always be accompanied by high sugar chemistry, but last year it did.

We pick based on the flavor and the chemistry, and Dave and Julia do the same to choose just the right time to stop fermentation, guiding every harvest to the vintage’s very best interpretation. Dave also says Sheldrake Point grapes are magic. Stop by the tasting room this season for a glass of something magical.

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.