Picking up the wine glass in front of me, I look at the chardonnay I am about to taste. Following a slight swirl to release the aromas, then a sniff, a sip, and now it is time to savor the depth of this wonderful wine. Over the next few minutes, I continue to take small sips. A warm Sunday spring day convinced me it was a perfect day for an O·Neh·Da Flight. I’m not talking about taking a plane somewhere, I’m referring to a flight of five wines at one of the oldest vineyards in New York State.
O Neh Da Vineyards, or as they write it O-Neh-Da or O·Neh·Da, was established over 150 years ago on the shores of Hemlock Lake. Hemlock Lake is one of the 11 Finger Lakes of New York, and the only one not known by its Native American name. The Seneca Nation called it O·Neh·Da (OH NAY DAH). Bishop McQuaid of Rochester established the vineyard to produce sacramental wine for the region’s churches. With respect to the Seneca Nation, he gave the vineyards the lake’s name. The bishop also built a cottage for his frequent stays as he oversaw the development of the vineyard. At the time a few small cottages and even a few hotels dotted the shoreline of Hemlock Lake and a steamboat ferried passengers to the cottages and hotels.
When the City of Rochester claimed the lake for its water source, the cottages and hotels were removed, and the area reverted to its natural state. However, the church retained their land including the vineyard and the cottage. Later the cottage became the start of a seminary while the St Michael’s Seminary was built. As times changed, the vineyard was at first leased to a private winemaker and later sold. The new owners still produce the sacramental wines and are the oldest sacramental wine vineyard in the New World. The vineyard also has two consumer brands, O·Neh·Da and Eagle Crest Vineyards. Control of Hemlock Lake has been turned over to the state, and they established the Hemlock- Canadice State Forest. The forest is a breeding ground for Bald Eagles.
Sunday Concerts at O·Neh·Da
Currently, the tasting room is open on Sundays from noon to 5 pm. Starting around 2 pm, they have a live band. While just only a short walk from home, I only visited them a few times last year. I found it a relaxing way to spend the afternoon, and I plan to visit most Sundays this year. The music is relaxing, and some people even get up to dance. The guests are from a wide range of age groups with couples, groups of friends, and singles. Tables and comfortable seating along with a vintage VW Van set the event center. Weather permitting, you can also sit outside and still enjoy the music.
The band changes each week, and so far, the ones I have listened to were very good. There is a $5 donation/cover charge, and you can purchase wine by the glass or bottle. They also have wine slushies and some food selections for purchase.
Turning My O·Neh·Da Wine Flight Into a Tasting
If you are not sure what wine you want to purchase, then consider getting a Fireside Flight. The Fireside Flight is a selection of five wines from their available wines. Each wine is a 2 oz pour. During my visit, they had ten wines to choose from, six were white wines and four were red wines. I decided to try five of the white wines. After my recent Chocolate tasting experience, I decided that I would drink my flight slowly and do a tasting of each. While wine tasting is an art, I will just briefly describe the steps.
- See: Very simply, look at the wine in the glass and see how clear it is and the color.
- Swirl: Yes, we all laugh when we see a snob do this in a restaurant or in a movie. However, it helps aerate the wine and release the flavors and aromas. As I mentioned in my book, taste, and aromas are linked.
- Sniff: Another laughing at another point. You need not stick your entire nose into the glass, still sniff the wine after you swill. If you are new at wine tasting, sniff once before swilling and again afterward. You should realize that the swirling does release more aromas. Ask yourself, what does the smell remind you of?
- Sip: Take a small sip of the wine and hold it in your mouth. Note the flavor and then gently swish it around in your mouth. You may notice a change in taste.
- Savor: After you swallow the sip of wine, enjoy the aftertaste. Many times, you will feel that it has changed. After a short pause, take another small sip and repeat the process. You will often notice subtle changes in the taste of the second sip. Enjoy the rest of your wine.
Before you repeat this process with your next wine, you should cleanse your palate. Dark chocolate is a great choice, and no I am not just saying that as an excuse to have some chocolate. The O·Neh·Da / Eagle Crest vineyard tasting room just happens to sell some outstanding chocolate from an local artisan maker.
My O·Neh·Da / Eagle Crest Vineyard Fireside Flight Taste
I do not frequently drink, still, I do like a glass of wine on occasion. Mostly, when I get a bottle of wine, I will have one or two glasses and the remaining portion of the bottle goes for cooking. Your first reaction may be that is a waste of a good bottle of wine. One rule of thumb when cooking with wine is only using wine that you enjoy drinking. If the wine is not good enough to drink, it is not good enough to cook with either.
When I was living in Virginia, I kept a well-stocked wine refrigerator and still drank less than a bottle a month. I would visit local wine festivals and do the wine tasting. Ingleside produced a couple that I really loved, including an ice wine that was perfect for the hot tub.
When I was living in Germany, I often did the same. While most people associate German festivals with beer, they have a good deal of outstanding wine-producing areas which have their own festivals. Also, I was near the French border, so visited some French festivals as well.
Everyone’s taste is different. What one person may feel is an outstanding wine, another may not. Also, people experience taste differently. Wine experts will often tell us that a wine taste like a certain fruit or vanilla. Not everyone will experience the same sensations. These are my impressions of the flight I tasted; your experience will be different. Mostly, I did not experience the same sensation as the wine description. That is just me. The wines are tasted from driest (less sweet) to sweetest, and yes cleanse between wines with dark chocolate.
- Unoaked Chardonnay: Chardonnay is often fermented in oak barrels. Doing so infuses the oak flavor. Not all are, as this one is unoaked. Their description of this wine states it is dry and lively with a taste of green apples, stone fruit, and Bartlett pears. I mostly agree with this as I smelled green apples when I sniffed it and had a subtle taste of pear as the initial taste started to fade. The taste seems to lightly linger. At $20 a bottle, it was the most expensive wine in my flight.
- Dry Riesling: The Finger Lakes is one of the three areas in the United States producing Riesling. Riesling’s are some of the most collectible wines in the world. To be fair, I need to state that Riesling’s are not on my favorite list of wines, I find them too tart. The vineyard says this wine sends notes of key lime and tangerine for a zesty tart tango. I did not sense these tastes but will agree it was tart. To me it also left an aftertaste that reminded me of the aftertaste, I have from scuba diving with a silicon mouthpiece. This was my least favorite wine. Remember, each person’s taste is different.
- Medium Dry Riesling: I did like this Riesling better than the dry and did sense a citrus taste.
- Fennario: The description calls it sweet and grapey. The label calls this a table wine, and I do not recall any specific grape mentioned. The 3.9% residual sugar would place this in the semi-sweet range. I assume it is a blend. I found the taste very nice and think this will be a good choice to serve with a cooking-to-impress dinner paired with chicken or seafood. Overall, this was my second favorite of the five.
- Yummy: This is a sparkling wine on the sweet side, with a residual sugar level of 6%. They describe it as full round sweetness of cotton candy and pineapple. I am not certain if I would consider it that sweet, still, it was sweeter than the others. I felt it was well-balanced and left an interesting aftertaste. Yes, it went perfectly with my last piece of dark chocolate and will likely be the bottle I purchase when I next visit to listen to a band. At $14 a bottle, this was the least expensive wine in my flight.
Plan your visit to O Neh Da – Eagle Crest Vineyards
While you can order their wines from the website, it is an enjoyable outing to visit the vineyard and enjoy your day with some fine wine and music. Hope to see you there.