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Lakewood Vineyards Candeo

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Behind the Bottle:Candeo

Lakewood Vineyards Candeo

A sprightly wine to put a spring in your step, and your mouth

By Amelia Sauter

Chris Stamp is the President and Winemaker at Lakewood Vineyards in Watkins Glen. One of their award-winning sparkling wines, Candeo, is mechanically carbonated, meaning the bubbles are added after the wine is already made. We tasted Candeo–actually, we drank the whole delightful bottle–and asked Chris to tell us the story behind this bubbly.

Amelia Sauter: What inspired you to make Candeo?

Chris Stamp: We were trying to imitate Prosecco. My wife and I were enjoying Prosecco in the evenings after work and kind of got hooked. One night I said, you know, I think I could do this. So I made a small 5-gallon batch trial. We took a lot of notes, and ran all sorts of lab analyses on Proseccos: pH, acid, residual sugar. The next year we made 1,000 gallons of Candeo.

AS: I read that Candeo is Latin for “sparkle.” What’s the story behind the name?

CS: Too much Catholic church as a kid? (laughs) I like the sound of Latin words. It makes it sound more exotic.

AS: What grapes do you use in Candeo?

CS: It’s made out of Cayuga White. We let them ripen a little further than usual but we only use the free-run juice.

AS: Free-run juice?

CS: The grapes are destemmed and crushed, meaning we crack the skins on the grapes and then allow the juice to naturally run out without applying any external pressure on the grapes. That is usually the most delicate juice provided by the grape.

AS: I hear Cayuga White and I get scared because native grapes in the Finger Lakes are often sweet and a little rough on the palate. But the Candeo was soooo good.

CS: We wanted something that didn’t taste grapey or foxy. Cayuga White was bred by Cornell to NOT taste like Labrusca [Native American] grapes, as well as to manage our winters and be disease-resistant. You don’t get the Labrusca character in the free-run but a little bit of melon-y Muscat-y flavor. Cayuga White grapes are widely grown and you probably drink way more of them than you think. Another key is that we balance the sugar with the acid so it lands on the verge of dry.

AS: Why do you carbonate it at bottling time instead of doing a second fermentation like champagne?

CS: The problem with champagne – and one of the reasons you save it for the big celebration – is that it’s pretty pricy. Candeo is carbonated in bulk – the whole tank – rather than aging in individual bottles. Then it is counter-pressure bottled and crown-capped, eliminating a lot of the labor that runs the price up on champagne. We don’t have any of that second yeast contact so it doesn’t have that toasty flavor or aroma; instead it’s really crisp and fruit-forward.

AS: Your bottle notes don’t say much about the taste of the wine.

CS: In this case I quite intentionally avoided describing the wine, which was a big change for me. I focused on the wine personality – edgy and fun – and I’m going to stick to my guns on that.

AS: What makes a wine “fun?”

CS: The message we wanted to send was: Don’t wait for a big cork-popping celebration to drink this. It’s a wine that’s made to be enjoyed now. You can open a bottle when you’re getting ready to grill chicken on a Friday night or sit on the deck or have a glass of wine by the fireplace.

Candeo is for someone who wants something more than slogging down a beer, something more thoughtful, but there doesn’t have to have a whole lot of fancy ritual around it. You can design your own ritual. My wife calls it Mommy’s Happy Juice.

4024 Route 14, Watkins Glen, 607.535.9252, lakewoodvineyards.com

Amelia Sauter is the co-owner of Felicia’s Atomic Lounge & Cupcakery in Ithaca. She blogs at drinkmywords.com.

This interview originally appeared in our Spring 2013 issue.

Check out this recipe featuring Candeo from our 2014 Wine Issue!

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