Heart & Hands Wine Company – Pinot Noir and Beyond

Heart & Hands Wine Company – Pinot Noir and Beyond

Heart & Hands WinesSince being exposed to Finger Lakes wines nearly 10 years ago, I have been a staunch supporter of the products coming out of that region.

I am a devoted fan of high minerality, dry Rieslings from the Mosel region and to me, Finger Lakes dry Rieslings rank up there with those fabulous German wines. While a growing number of wine aficionados know and enjoy Finger Lakes Rieslings, a grape some of the wineries in the region do well is Pinot Noir. The winery doing Pinot Noir best is, in my opinion, Heart & Hands Wine Company on the northeastern shore of Cayuga Lake.

Tom Higgins

Tom Higgins

Tech industry veteran Tom Higgins, with experience working at Zachy’s Wine & Liquor and vineyards in Bordeaux and the Finger Lakes, established Heart & Hands with his spouse Susan in 2006. After investing a significant amount of time on site selection to find the location most conducive to growing Pinot Noir, Tom and Susan opted for a 6 acre plot located about 200 meters from the shoreline of Carr’s Cove on Cayuga Lake. The winery officially opened in 2008 and the cozy tasting room opened to the public in 2009.

Puzzled by the Claddagh ring on their wine labels, I asked Susan why they had chosen it and she explained that the Irish wedding ring symbol depicts love, togetherness and fidelity, hence the heart and hands name of their winery. Tom and Susan named their wine club The Claddagh Club. Members of the wine club receive quarterly allocations of Heart & Hands wines, including guaranteed allocations of “Single Vineyard” Pinot Noirs and Rieslings and allocations of club-only wines. There are two club membership levels: “Eclectic Collection” or “Exclusively Red”. The Eclectic Collection features wines selected from the full portfolio, including Pinot Noir, Sparkling Wine and Riesling. The Exclusively Red Collection, of which I am a member, features Pinot Noir exclusively.

Fion the Winery Dog

Fion the Winery Dog

The boutique winery produces around 2,000 cases of wine a year and focuses solely on Riesling and Pinot Noir. During a recent visit, Susan poured us most of the collection under the watchful eye of her gentle giant winery dog, Fion. Here are tasting notes for some of these wines:

2009 Heart & Hands Barrel Reserve Pinot Noir ($40.99)

Medium raspberry-colored in the glass. Cherry, mocha and spiced aromas. Palate of ripe cherries and a little jammy stone fruit with a velvety mouthfeel and a long finish with some lingering tannins. This wine is closed under Vino-Seal for a completely leak-proof and taste neutral closure. A lovely Pinot Noir.

2011 Heart & Hands Polarity Pinot Noir Blanc ($26.99)

What happens to Pinot Noir that is pressed with almost no contact to the skins? Pinot Noir Blanc. Lightly golden in the glass, this is a pretty different yet delicious wine. Caramel and pear tart with a buttery crust in a glass. Long dry finish.

2011 Dry Riesling ($22.99)

Pale lemon-colored in the glass, this wine offers lemon/lime aromas. While there is still citrus on the palate, the flavors are richer with some peach and ripe melon. Dry, medium finish.

Heart & Hands Pinot Noir has garnered some very good press in recent years for its stellar wines, even getting some love from James Molesworth of Wine Spectator who recognizes that Tom is willing to lower yields to produce superior quality Pinot Noir.

Heart & Hands wines are available through the winery’s online store or at select New York restaurants and retail locations. Now, if the winery could develop a more robust distribution channel so more of us can enjoy its products….

The tasting room is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12 – 5pm, and on Mondays and Thursdays by appointment.

4162 State Route 90, Union Springs, NY, 13160

(315) 889-8500





The Finger Lakes for Wine Lovers

Photo Credit: Heron Hill Winery

I’m a huge fan of the Finger Lakes and its outstanding wines.  Here is an article of mine on traveling to the Finger Lakes and which wineries to visit along the way published by Jersey Bites.




2009 Red Newt Circle Riesling

2009 Red Newt Circle Riesling

I met Red Newt Cellars co-founder, Debra Whiting at the New York Wine Expo this year and loved how passionate and proud she is of this well-crafted Riesling.

The 2009 Circle Riesling is ideal in any setting with its 3.2% residual sugar.  Great on a Tuesday night with Thai take out or paired with lobster in a spicy red sauce on the weekend.  The fact that this Finger Lakes Riesling is affordable is just another perk and makes it possible to order by the case for most wine lovers to have on hand for any occasion.

The wine is crisp, bright and juicy with the right amount of acidity.  On the nose, the aroma is peaches and nectarines.  In the mouth, it’s Meyer lemons with honey and Fiji apple undertones.  The finish is clean and slightly sweet and makes me look forward to the next sip.

Wine Spectator 86 points.

Around $13.

Chateau Frank Célèbre

Chateau Frank Célèbre

Chateau Frank Celebre

Thought this Cremant-style sparkling wine from Dr Konstantin Frank was super.  Riddled by hand and aged ‘sur lies’, this sparkling Riesling offers apple on the nose and tiny, creamy bubbles.  Super enjoyable.

Around ($19.99).

Heron Hill Winery – Finger Lakes Wines Done Well in a Gorgeous Space

Heron Hill Winery – Finger Lakes Wines Done Well in a Gorgeous Space

Photo Credit: Heron Hill Winery

Since its first vintage in 1977, Heron Hill has grown from a small 5,000 case winery that only made white wines into an award-winning, dynamic, 20,000 case production facility and entertainment destination for more than 50,000 people every year.

Overlooking scenic Keuka Lake, the winery’s tasting room is a sprawling, beautiful space with neat architecture and a friendly staff.  At the recommendation of Lenn Thompson of the New York Cork Report, my tasting party met with tasting hall manager, Tambi Schweizer during a recent visit to the winery.  Tambi’s knowledge of her products and her enthusiasm for the wine business is palpable and made my party’s time at the winery all the more enjoyable.

Our tasting focused primarily on comparing various wines of the same varietal against one another with a peppering of other neat finds.

  • First on the list were the 2008 Ingle Vineyards Chardonnay Unoaked ($14.99) and the 2009 Classic Chardonnay Unoaked ($12.99).  Both wines are light and refreshing with notes of green apple, but the former is super well-balanced with lemony undertones and mineral-infused, longish finish. Both enjoyable, but Ingle Vineyards will only found at the winery (which I did).
  • Second, and being sampled alone, was the 2008 Reserve Pinot Blanc ($17.99).  Nice all-purpose wine with crisp green apple nose and the right level of acidity that would make it likeable with food or without.
  • Next on agenda were the 2007 Reserve Old Vines Riesling ($24.99), the 2008 Classic Dry Riesling ($12.99) and the 2007 Ingle Vineyard Riesling ($14.99).  All three are nice examples of Finger Lakes Rieslings, but the Reserve with its bold juicy citrus bouquet and crisp finish reminded me of the best tastings in Mosel.  The Ingle offers the characteristics I enjoy in a Riesling: lemony, tart green apple but with a richness and crisp finish I crave to pair with shellfish.
  • Tambi offered a nice treat, the 2009 Classic Muscat ($12.99).  Tropical flower nose, tropical fruit flavors. Neat wine.
  • We moved on to sweeter Rieslings with the 2008 Classic Semi-Dry Riesling ($12.99) and the 2009 Classic Semi-Sweet Riesling ($12.99).  The Semi-Dry is Heron Hill’s most popular Riesling – for good reasons. It’s sweet on the palate, dry on the finish with a nice amount of acidity.  The Semi-Sweet is super with its mouthful of juicy pear/peach and its flowery nose – craving spicy Indian food just remembering it.
  • Next on the agenda were the Pinot Noirs: 2007 Ingle Vineyard Pinot Noir ($14.99) and the 2007 Reserve Pinot Noir ($29.99).  The Ingle Vineyard is light in color and offers a silky mouthfeel and cherry/raspberry flavors.  The slightly smoky reserve is fuller-bodied, boasts of bright cherries in the glass, on the nose and on the palate.  Nice wine.
  • Next were the 2007 Classic Cabernet Franc ($12.99) and the 2006 Eclipse Red ($13.99).  The Cab Franc is a nice example of a varietal that not all vineyards in the Finger Lakes do well.  Food-friendly wine with big mouthful of ripe raspberries and oaky finish.  Can’t wait to pair this wine with my porcini risotto.
  • Last but certainly not least were the Late Harvest wines: 2005 Late Harvest Chardonnay ($44.99) and the 2007 Late Harvest Vidal Blanc ($17.99).  Love late harvest wines, so was excited to try these.  Both offer a honeyed and lush ripe fruit flavors but the Vidal Blanc has a nice spicy finish and 13.5% residual sugar level that I loved.

The wines are enjoyable and showcase Finger Lakes favorites in a positive light.  Visiting the winery around lunchtime?  Don’t hesitate to grab a tasty bite at the Heron Hill Café located on the premises.  Ask for the ‘adult grilled cheese’ not featured on the menu, it’s a winner.

To order Heron Hill wines, visit the winery online or better yet, stop by the tasting room located at:

9301 County Route 76

Hammondsport, NY 14840

Telephone: 800-441-4241

Follow Heron Hill Winery on Twitter at www.twitter.com/heronhillwinery or like its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/heronhillwinery.

Red Tail Ridge Winery – Thinking Green on Seneca Lake

Red Tail Ridge Winery – Thinking Green on Seneca Lake

Red Tail Ridge Winery

At the recommendation of Lenn Thompson of the New York Cork Report, we visited 5-year old Red Tail Ridge Winery on a recent visit to the Finger Lakes wine region.

Red Tail Ridge winery is owned and operated by Mike Schnelle and Nancy Irelan (short video), a husband and wife team, who are dedicated to producing fine wine in the Finger Lakes.  Red Tail Ridge is the first LEED®-certified green winery in New York.  Red Tail Ridge’s “green” features:

  • New wine processing building aims for LEED Silver certification.
  • Walls contain recycled materials.
  • Fieldstone on facade came from vineyard grounds.
  • Geothermal heating/cooling system.
  • ‘Daylighting’ to cut energy use.
  • Use of suppliers within a 500-mile radius.
  • Drainage ditches, drain tile and irrigation pond minimize storm runoff.
  • Laser-straight rows planted 6 feet apart aid in cultivation and weed control.
  • Fencing and nets deter wildlife humanely.

Our tasting was led by self-proclaimed ‘hired gun’ Noel, a knowledgeable wine and Finger Lakes enthusiast.

  • We first sampled the 2009 Sans Oak Chardonnay: Typical non-oaked Chardonnay characteristics – ripe pear/juicy apple with a creamy finish.  Around $11.95.
  • Second, we sipped on 2008 Barrel-Fermented Chardonnay: Nutty peach flavors, creamy nutmeg finish.  Around $16.99.
  • Our third offering was the 2008 Dry Riesling:  Tangy key lime and juicy tropical fruit with dry finish.  Wine Spectator: 89 points. Around $18.95.
  • Next was the 2008 Semi-Sweet Riesling:  Rich, peachy nose with tangerine/cantaloupe flavor. Unctuous finish that lingers. Think – Indian food. Around $13.95.
  • A new varietal to me was the 2008 Lemberger: Mouthful of ripe cherries, spicy, slightly chocolaty notes.  Around $19.95.
  • Finally, we sipped the 2008 Estate Pinot Noir:  Nose is in-your-face with bright cherries.  Big mouthful of raspberries/ripe cherries with hints of butterscotch. Around $19.95.

The winery even features a charity wine, 2009 Good Karma, where 3% of the per-bottle profit is donated to Foodlink, a regional food bank.

Red Tail Ridge In Stores

Red Tail Ridge wines can be purchased at the winery, by phone at 315-536-4580, via email at tastingroom@redtailridgewinery.com, at many fine wine stores and can be enjoyed at many New York tri-state restaurants and select California dining establishments.

Good wine producer, confident in its pursuit of sustainability, Red Tail Ridge Winery is a must-visit Seneca Lake winery.  The cozy tasting room is located at:

846 State Route 14
Penn Yan, NY 14527