Wine Talk at the Ward O’Hara Center by CJS Winery Owner

Here I learned much of the Finger Lakes wine region in a talk given by a man who began his wine making journey in the Bronx where his family produced small quantities of wine for their personal pleasure.

Tastings and Delicacies Following The Talk

A Little History..

The Finger Lakes region was birthed by glaciers some 2 million years ago in the Ice Age. Ice filled pockets later created what is now known as the Finger Lakes. Due to the rich mineral deposits from the glaciers the soil of this region now promotes the growth of a variety of grapes. 144 wineries are located in the Finger Lakes making New York State # 3 in wine production following the states of California and Washington, with New York fast approaching #2.

CJS began their operation in 1995, with a Seneca Lake vineyard, and began selling in 2001, (need 3 years of production prior to selling). They built a tasting center in 2003, at their Owasco Lake site.

There are 4 types of grapes in the Finger Lakes..

Grapes are often cross bred to increase flavor and increase toleration to cold weather, however, hybridization in France in the 1860’s almost destroyed their entire grape population. This was caused when the French “borrowed” US vines causing disease to their plants. Since then France has remained with pure vines.

Much research is done with grapes and other fruits. In New York State Cornell spearheads this work. However, other states are also involved in research. CJS produces a wine with a grape from Minnesota which can support -30 degree temperatures.

This is CJS Proprietor’s Red, what a delicious blend from the Minnesota grapes.

Grapes favor the following conditions:

  • sunshine – especially late day sun – West facing planting improves grape ripening
  • planting vine rows in North – South direction – again for ripening
  • dry leaves to prevent mildew
  • dry feet – grapes don’t like wet feet
  • vines are trained to grown upward promoting air circulation assisting grape growth
  • classical music – CJS plays this in their vineyard as does many Italian growers.

Some history of the region..

In 1860, Finger Lakes wineries began in Hammondsport, New York. Later in 1883, Taylor Winery began first to make barrels for the wineries then later began their own wine production. Throughout the 1880’s a Geneva group which was part of Cornell University began to help wineries elevate to world class production, however, 1918 brought Prohibition and production ceased, but by 1933, 19 wineries were back in production. And in 1976, under the Governor Carey administration small wineries were allowed to sell to the public without distributors. This literally changed the game for small wineries. Another prominent year was 1982, when Finger Lakes wineries began the Cayuga Wine Trail, the first in the the nation.

So, all that said – how is wine made?

  • For white wines – the grapes are crushed, pressed, and the product tanked in a cold process.
  • Samples then go to the lab for sugar testing.
  • Yeast is added and fermentation begins..

For red wine it is a bit different.. ferments are not pressed and the process is “hot.” The grapes then sit for 7-14 days.

And what do barrels have to do with the process?

Barrels provide flavor to the grapes. An oak barrel is favored with its effect lasting 8 years, but stainless steel can also be used. While tannins provide some health benefits their bitterness can affect wine taste. Barrels soften tannins through the aging process.

Then there is the bottles and closures for wine bottles? Some Fun Facts..

Bottles come is all sizes and thickness.

The largest bottling company in the states is in Waterloo, N.Y.

Air is the enemy of wine as it changes the flavor. This is why an opened bottle of wine should be consumed in a week.

Cork remains the main “friend,” of wine bottle closure, and most corks are a blending of fibers.

CSJ processes 7-800 cases of wine annually.

What a fascinating talk.. Hope you learned much, I did.

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