By Richy Petrina of Ithaca Wine Ventures
The beginning of each new year is an exciting time. It is filled with promises of new resolutions, new adventures, and new beginnings. And hope, heaps and loads of hope, for all that is to come in an otherwise constantly changing environment.
It is with this renewed excitement for the future that I chose to go back in time and write about a ten-year old wine. For this wine, as the winery’s inaugural red, wonderfully represents and celebrates the hope that a winemaker has for our region.
Element is a small wine project founded by Christopher Bates, a multi-faceted individual with unrelenting focus and pickup-driving worn-hands-covered-in-dirt passion for his native Finger Lakes. He has worked in various wine regions and kitchens around the world and ultimately – thankfully – chose to come back home and plant roots here.
Perhaps best known for his burgers and hotdogs and amusing t-shirts at The Wienery… or the intimate and nationally recognized dining experience at FLX Table… or that he’s a respected Master Sommelier. Some may not know that he was the first to achieve that accomplishment as an executive chef. Or that he makes some excellent wine.
Together with his life and business partner Isabel, they launched Element in 2009 making only one wine: a dry Riesling. The next year, they started with the reds. And this bottle—from that exact vintage—represents their limitless confidence in this region’s ability to produce beautiful red wines. Wines that belong on any table, alongside other great red wines of the world, proudly standing shoulder to shoulder.
This bottle merits decanting, if only to avoid the expected sediment for a 2010. It opens up like a blooming flower and you can feel and taste what a decade of bottle ageing can do for a well-crafted Cabernet Franc. Like a luxurious journey on the Orient Express, I picked up dried spices and steeped Morrocan mint tea leaves, stewed plums and cherries, weathered leather and tobacco.
The delicate mouthfeel is delightfully balanced by the long finish. It is, like its winemaker, a serious wine that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Both are poised with the knowledge that they are of this place.
I enjoyed this splurge of a wine with an equally fancy treat: roast duck breast. Prepared with crispy skin, sour cherry compote, shitake risotto, and kale salad with pomegranate seeds. The texture of the duck, earthiness of the mushrooms, and red berries all played so nicely with the wine. Perfect for a cold and otherwise normal evening, in a new year when comfort seems to be the real luxury.
With each bottle of Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc I get to open, I’m discovering the wondrous and wide spectrum of styles made by so many exceptional producers. From young, fresh, and pretty to older and more refined wines, there seems to be a new adventure around each corner waiting to be discovered.
How about that for a resolution! Cheers to a new year and everything ahead of us.
Richy Petrina founded Ithaca Wine Ventures in June of 2019 to elevate and amplify the region and its exceptional producers. The startup’s latest project, WINEcsa.org, is a wine club from the Finger Lakes featuring a different winery each month, with local drop-offs and nationwide shipping.