Forge Cellars is trying something a little different- instead of having an open tasting room where guests can come and go as they please, they’ve decided to host seated tastings that you book in advance through their website. The benefits of this are clear when you enter their tasting room, which is actually just a table set up in the wine production facility that overlooks Seneca Lake.
Instead of being potentially crammed at a tasting bar with a large group, getting intermittent attention from the tasting room staff, you are sat at an artfully staged high top table with a group of 8 people. Everyone works through the whole tasting together as a group, which also means that as a group you get to discuss the wines.
Forge Cellars is a small production winery that focuses producing on Riesling and Pinot Noir. The winery began as a collaborative effort between Louis Barruol of Château de Saint Cosme in Gigondas, Rick Rainey, the vineyard and general manager, and Vineyards, and Justin Boyette, winemaker.
It’s the hipster winery of Seneca Lake, and I mean that in a good way. Their goal is to make wines completely with their own hands- picking, sorting, loading and unloading from the press- all by hand. They use only native yeast and spontaneous fermentation, and don’t filter or fine the wines.
Wine Tasting at Forge Cellars
When we entered the tasting room, we were greeted by Alex Bond, the assistant winemaker whose enthusiasm for the winery is contagious, who was ready to lead us through the wine tasting, where we would sample seven of their wines.
2015 Riesling Classique: Given the name, you already know this is their classic Riesling, and it is the wine that you’re most likely to see in restaurants and stores. It is a blend of 10 different vineyards’ Riesling and was partially fermented in neutral French oak barrels. It has a nose of nectarine, lemon and tangerine, that is complemented by a light oily mouthfeel, lingering lemon on the palate, almost totally dry, and a mid-range acidity.
They also have two single vineyard Rieslings, one from Leidenfrost, and the other from Sawmill Creek, which is a fascinating comparison. Despite the vineyards being fairly close to one another, they produce dramatically different wines.
2015 Riesling Les Alliés: The Les Alliés designation means that these grapes stood out from the others due to their higher quality and are worthy of being produced separately as a special wine. The Riesling had notes of slate, nectarine and honey suckle with a clean slate finish, light citrus notes, and nice cleansing acidity on the palate.
2015 Pinot Noir Classique: Made from 13 sites on the east side of Seneca Lake, this Pinot Noir has notes of plum, cherry, smoke, with some floral hints. When sipped, it has a silky mouthfeel and tannin, with lingering notes of truffle on the palate. They also make a 2015 Pinot Noir Les Alliés, that has stronger notes of stone, cherry, and cigar box, with a silky delicate tannin.
2016 Pinot Noir Rosé: Produced from grapes at the Standing Stone vineyards, the nose is watermelon rind and dried strawberry, with a silkly lingering palate, mild acidity, and lingering notes of orange peel.
Planning Your Visit
Hours: They are open for tastings on most Fridays at 5 p.m., and Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. Remember to book in advance on their website. If you have a group bigger than 5, they ask that you call ahead.
Tasting Fee: Free!
Wine Prices: Their wines range from $19 for the Riesling Classique to $32 for the Pinot Noir Les Alliés.
Other Amenities: During the tasting they have freshly warmed bread and homemade butter that pairs perfectly with the dry and acidic Rieslings. I’m also going to include the amazing view and scenic tasting table as an amenity.
Final thoughts? This is a much slower tasting experience, and I really enjoyed that. It gives you the opportunity to talk with the staff (Alex answered all of our questions and was awesome to chat with), ask a lot of questions, and really enjoy the wines without feeling rushed- there’s no bus of people waiting to get in, or a next appointment that is going to kick you out. You can really dive deep into the wines.