Hunt Country's Foxy Lady Blush is made with Catawba grapes

Hunt Country's Foxy Lady Blush is made with Catawba grapes

     One of my favorite moments this year at a Finger Lakes winery occurred at Hunt Country Vineyards on Keuka Lake. After a tasting, three women wandered into the gift shop and exclaimed about one of Hunt Country’s popular wine series, “Oooh, Foxy Lady! Gotta get some of that!”
     After doing research on the grapes and winery processes used in the Finger Lakes, I now know why that series name is so clever.
     The first wine grapes planted in the Finger Lakes, the so-called “native” Vitis labrusca, are also known as fox grapes. They are distinguished by their strong grapey taste. Varieties include Niagara, Catawba, Delaware, Diamond, Isabella and Concord. These grapes tend to produce sweeter wines, and they were all the rage back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. (Remember Lake Niagara and Pink Catawba?)
     Winemakers who wanted to make European-style wines, with grapes that offer a broader range of sweetness from dry to dessert, spurned the fox grapes and instead focused on French-American hybrids and Vitis vinifera grapes such as Chardonnay, Riesling, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon.
     Some Finger Lakes winemakers feel it’s important to keep the native grapes for their historical value. I agree. Having grown up visiting Keuka Lake wineries, I believe (as Hunt Country does) that there is a place for the foxy grapes among all the others on a winemaker’s palate. This year I had two wonderful foxy wines from Keuka Lake, a semi-dry Delaware (Keuka Lake Vineyards) and bright refreshing Diamond (Barrington Cellars). 
     While foxy wines might not share the prestige of hybrids and viniferas, they’re part of Finger Lakes winemaking history and its taste. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful for the efforts of Dr. Konstantin Frank to bring us viniferas (tonight I had a glass of Anthony Road’s brilliant 2008 Semi-Dry Riesling  — named best NY wine of the year). 
     But  as Jimi Hendrix sang, “Ooh, foxy lady!” And who’d argue with Jimi?

Advertisements