Stever Hill Vineyards - Winery Review

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Stever Hill Vineyards is located just a mile South of Branchport on the West side of Keuka Lake. On a recent visit we found that this winery fills a nice spot in the large gap between Dr. Frank's and Hunt Country. On a physical level it is in between the two wineries (though much closer to Hunt Country) and on a wine basis it offers something for those who like sweeter and more unusual/creative wines.  Typically the West side of Keuka lake tends to have more wineries that are better at dry wine and Bully Hill was the main source of sweeter wine.  Now Bully Hill has some company.    Stever Hill Winery is fairly new, but the owner told us that they are 5th generation grape growers in the region. 

The Wine

Being a rather small winery they have a largish collection of around 18 wines to choose from.  Ranging from bone dry to very sweet. I tried both, but found at this stage they are better at the sweeter wine.  I have a feeling their dry wines will come along in time, but I think they already have a good grasp of sweet wine production.  Many of their sweeter wines are described with the terms "grapey" and "chewy".  The "grapey" is obvious and close to unavoidable when using varietals like Niagara and Concord.  The chewy (which is usually used in regards to a wine being rich and full bodied with high tannic) in this case was used to mean viscous & thick (like syrup) ...and I do mean this in a positive way.   If you enjoy sweet wines, you are bound to find something among names like Redneck Riley's Concord, Cooper's Pink, or Mae's Rose (named after the winemaker's mother) that will excite your taste buds.  They also make a Blueberry desert wine (from 100% blueberries) that would go well with a nice cheese cake any day of the week.  I have to say though of all the sweet wines, I was most intrigued with Kelly's Concord Port.  It really is a nice use of what is a very foxy grape.  Fortified with Brandy, it was well balanced and finished with a not so subtle hint of anise.  It was perfectly suited for this cold winter day were tasting on.  Warming from your hands in a nice large globed glass or brandy snifter, it goes perfectly with a warm fire and the sound of a howling cold wind outside.

On their white wine list they had three Chardonnays (Dry, No-Oak, and Smooth?) that we did not try (perhaps on a warmer day).  I was happy to try their Traminette.  It was fragrant and floral, but a touch too acidic to excite me, but I think there are fans of this style who would enjoy it greatly.  I like the varietal and am glad another winery in the region is producing wine from it.

Stever Hill's red wine list offered a Cabernet Franc, a Merlot and a Meritage-like blend called Old Barn Red.  I was not turned off by any of them, but at the same time was not wowed by them.  In fairness to this cute new winery, I had just come from Dr. Frank's so any other winery would have had a hard time impressing me with their dry reds too.

The Setting

The tasting room is just up the hill roughly a mile from Rt 54A that runs along the shore of Keuka Lake.  The building itself, which is a timber framed barn, was a bit under construction, yet close to being finished off.  Being a wood guy myself, I enjoyed the tasting counter of Cherry and the various woods they have used inside.  We were treated to a nice pleasant tasting from Kelly (of whom the port is named after) the wife of the winemaker and co-owner of the winery.  She did a nice job taking us through the wines and giving us some of the background on the unique names and history as the tasting proceeded.

I look forward to seeing this winery develop and will happily stop in again the next time we get over to the West side of Keuka Lake.  They have something for everyone and offer a nice relaxed atmosphere.  The view of the lake is also pretty nice...I hope they develop a nice picnic area (wishful hint).

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