One Romance (28)

Seyve-Villard hybrid number 5276 is known as Seyval Blanc or Seyval, for short. The grape’s development is attributed to the Villard family of grape hybridizers.

Suitable in cool climates, Seyval is grown widely in New York and in England as well. In the past, it had been grown in France, but these days European Union rules forbid inter-specific species hybrids for wine, which makes British wine industry people bristle.

Nick hadn’t heard of the grape until his first visit to the Finger Lakes. He liked the Seyval wines that he had tasted, as everyday quaffers. They were medium-bodied whites with clean, citric-like qualities to them, except when they weren’t. A few Finger Lakes winemakers got the notion that Seyval would make a fine replacement for Chardonnay, so they began to give it oak treatment and allow it to undergo the secondary malolactic fermentation that softens mouth feel by converting malic in the wine to lactic acid. The result was spotty, but when it worked, it seemed to work well enough.

Nick had no intention of producing Seyval wine. He wanted mainly to keep the line of wines short: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Vignoles, and possibly a house blend. Yet, even though things worked out and he got a replacement for his Chardonnay juice, he decided to try his hand at Seyval, opting for the clean, citric-like style. It turned out to be a good decision.

Seyval juice was quick to ferment, easy to work with, and half the price of Chardonnay. It gave him a wine to offer to customers at $8 a bottle, exactly where he wanted to price his house blend. The wine he produced was nearly bone dry, aromatic and almost overly citric. It reminded him of a few whites he had consumed in the past that had been produced in France’s Loire Valley.

At the same time that he produced Seyval, Nick was wrapped up with Chardonnay. The latter would be produced in a clean style, too, with no malolactic fermentation but with just a touch of oak, for which he bought a few Yugoslavian barrels for the cellar.

When not subjected to malolactic fermentation, Finger Lakes Chardonnay can remind of Maconnais wines, with hints of crisp apple on the palate. The aroma of clean local Chardonnay often reminds Nick of malt in a beer-like situation, but not many people agree with him.

Not having a means to control temperature within the fermenting tanks, Nick relied on outside temperature and luck. But because of his lack of control he also decided on yeasts that worked well at cool temperatures, which in the Finger Lakes arrive almost without fail the day after Labor Day, as if someone flipped a switch. As he carefully watched his fermentations, he saw how they slowed after a cool night and then as they warmed during the beautiful early autumn days a tendency to speed up—that’s when he cooled the tanks down with sprays of cold water.

It was lucky for him that he used well water, and that his wells did not run dry. But he was forced by the Ag and Markets inspector to chlorinate his water, especially for use in the tasting room, and that caused both money and aggravation as the chlorinator was not exactly a perfect machine. Also luckily, Nick’s winemaking facility was low on porous wood products, a fact that helped him avoid TCA taint with all that chlorine around. It took a few years into his winemaking before the nasty taint got to one of his wines, but that was no worry just yet.

When the fermentations each ended, Nick had a total of three new wines with two more to go—Riesling and Vignoles. The Vignoles came right on the heels of the Seyval, so within a couple of days he was back in the truck and on his way to pick up juice. On the way, he couldn’t help think that his friend Fred would likely escape having to get his hands dirty, as there was just one more juice run to go and Fred still hadn’t said exactly which weekend he would visit. But then, after taking in the Vignoles he would have three wines fermenting simultaneously with a fourth in the offing. He was bound to find some dirty work for Fred–and then that evening…

“Hello Nick.”

It was Fred calling.

“Hey Fred. You comin’ up this weekend?”

“Oh man, I’m sorry to have to tell you this but I have an emergency at work. I’ll be tied up with a project for another two or three weeks…”

Nick cut him off.

“You lazy bastard. You are making this up.”

“Yeah, sure, Nick. Like I don’t want to get away from here. Anyway, are you trying to see me work hard? Is that all you care about?”

The two friends could slip easily into chiding and kidding without hurting because they know each other so long and so well. But this time, there was a tinge of disappointment in Nick’s chide. He didn’t think deeply about it, but when confronted with this situation it became clear to him that he missed his friends greatly. It wasn’t that he was sorry to be where he is. It was that he wasn’t too crazy about what it cost to follow his dream.

In his large Federal style home that was built in 1827, Nick was comfortable and content. In his small winery and tasting room, he was proud. In his relationships with the people he deals with daily he was competent. But he had no close friends nearby and that made him feel lonely at times, especially since Theresa was there only on weekends. Perhaps, if he hadn’t been working almost every waking minute, he might have chucked the idea by this time. But he has been busy and he hadn’t been brooding or dwelling on the loneliness—until Fred hit him with the news.

“Ah, Fred. It’s not that. Don’t worry about it. I understand.”

“Nick. We miss you, too.”

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Copyright Thomas Pellechia
September 2010. All rights reserved.

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