A rolling hill of lush vines, a sparkling lakeside vista, a cool refreshing breeze to punctuate the warm sunshine, and amongst it all a long table with a white table cloth, laid out with crystal clear wine glasses and fresh cut flowers from the fields.
Each year, these two Seneca Lake institutions get together and host a paired dinner out in the vineyard for only twenty two guests. It’s only an hour and a half drive to get there, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to rural Italy or French wine country.
This year, the theme of the meal was “Rainbow Dinner”, so each course was based on a different color. The dinner was hosted by Atwater’s Amanda Gumtow, their tasting room manager, Atwater’s Vinny Aliperti, their winemaker, and Red Dove Tavern’s Rune Hilt. For each course, Rune would introduce the food and talk about the choices in flavors, and Vinny would give the background to the wine, sharing information on that year’s growing season, their choices in making it, and the possible tasting profile.
As we entered the winery, we were greeted with a glass of 2013 Blanc de Blanc, a champagne method sparkling wine made from Chardonnay grapes. It is the first time that they’ve produced a true Blanc de Blanc, and it is delicious. The wine had a classic nose of apple and bread crust, with lingering yeast and a balancing acidity.
This course was paired with three small plates: tomato and basil confit on a toast point, roasted red pepper and goat cheese tart, and a watermelon, feta and mint salad. All of these foods had some characteristic that went well with the wine, the acidity of the tomatoes, the tartness of the goat cheese, and the juiciness of the watermelon were all accentuated.
After we finished this course, we were given an introduction to the winery from their porch, overlooking the vines, and then headed down into the vineyard for the meal. We sat ourselves down at the table, reveled over the view of Seneca Lake with the setting sun, and started the next course.
2014 Pinot Gris was poured for the second course, and it had a refreshing, juicy nose of stonefruit and slate, with a silky mouthfeel and bright acidity on the palate.
This was paired with a chilled cantaloupe soup with yogurt and ginger. We all expected the ginger to overpower the delicate cantaloupe, but it made the dish even more refreshing and vibrant. When sipped with the wine, the wine became more acidic and bright, and the cantaloupe flavors became even juicier (in my tasting notes I wrote that it tasted more canteloup-y, but that’s not really a word so I won’t use it here).
Our next wine was the 2014 Dry Riesling from the East West block, which was right next to where we were eating. The wine has a nose of lime, tangerine, and slate that continues on the palate with a nice clean acidity.
We were served a seared scallop, yellow curry jus, with sweet corn and summer squash succotash. Paired with this course, the wine tasted older and richer, emphasizing the stonefruit and silky mouthfeel, but lingering with slate and acidity. This was definitely one of our favorite pairings of the night.
2014 Pinot Noir was poured next, and has a smoky nose with notes of cherry, raspberry and leather, with a clean acidity, not too overpowering tannin and light mouthfeel. It is the perfect red wine for a warm summer night.
This was paired with smoked duck, braised green beans, and a slaw of fennel and celery. Duck and Pinot Noir is a classic pairing, but the addition of smoke in the duck and the smokiness of the wine added a twist. When enjoyed together the wine became smoother, and the cherry notes were highlighted, adding a fruitiness to the whole dish.
We completed our meal with Atwater’s 2014 Fahrenheit, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc that was frozen prior to being pressed into juice, creating a rosé colored dessert wine with notes of raspberry and strawberry, an oily lush mouthfeel, and a bright acidity to balance out the intense sweetness.
Our final dish was a summer fruit bread pudding with plums, blueberries and blackberries in whipped cream that was about the size of a human head. When sipped together, the heavy dessert became light and bright, and the acids in the berries was accentuated, creating a final course that was both decadent and refreshing.
If you’re looking for a wine paired dinner that immerses you in the vines, both literally in the fields and metaphorically with the stories and tales of the harvest, production and creation of the wines, then this is the meal for you. Amanda and Vinny sat at the table with us, to answer questions and share what they were experiencing with the wine and food, and the rest of the table was filled with a range of people excited to chat about wine, food, and the Finger Lakes.