On New York Wines, Taking a trip to Upstate New York would not be complete without a visit to one of the hundreds of wineries. Most situated along the Finger Lakes, one could tour ten beautiful, water-side wineries a day if desired.
Originally born just outside of Rochester, I’ve visited a few of the wineries along Cayuga Lake in past summer trips and envisioned what it would be like to work at such a beautiful place along the water. Once my thoughts reached winter time, with their cold and snowy temps, that’s when I would decide, “Nope, that business is not for me.” I’ll stick to my summer visits, thank you.
On my last trip to Upstate New York this fall, The Wine Travel Card Founder Jeff Arnold suggested that I visit a Finger Lakes vineyard a little ways from the water called Casa Larga Vineyards—in my hometown of Fairport, no less. A winery in my hometown? Arnold really didn’t need to do any more convincing than that! New York, Wine, and good company!
Casa Larga is situated on the top of the hill along one of Fairport’s main streets, Turk Hill Road. They have a full wine store, daily tastings and property tours and host an array of events in their beautiful Bella Vista events facility. Although my mother and grandmother lived in the area for a much longer time than I, none of us had visited Casa Larga Vineyards and knew we were in for a treat.
Connie, who has been working at the vineyard for 15 years, gave us a thorough tour of the property and explained in detail the winemaking process—from the barrel types to the sediment removal process, the bottling line and the types of cork they use. She taught us many details about winemaking tradition we had never known, such as why bottles are tinted differently—dark bottles mean the wine is oak aged and clear means the wine is steel aged.
Casa Larga began as a hobby in 1974 by Andrew Colaruotolo (Mr. C). A successful home builder, Colaruotolo built many of the houses the vineyard overlooks, and decided on the location for the vineyard in order to be closer to his work. He chose the name Casa Larga, reminiscent of his grandparent’s vineyard Casa Larga, where he grew up by in Italy. It became New York’s 21st winery, and had its first harvest in 1978. Colaruotolo passed in 2004, and his wife and three children now run the vineyards, with even a few grandchildren involved, keeping it a family tradition.
A special treat for us, Ann Colaruotolo (Mrs. C) was on site that day and we had an enjoyable conversation with her during our wine tasting. Friendly and warm-hearted, like most Upstate New Yorkers, she told us about the family business and their personal connection to the winery, carrying on in her husband’s memory.
Casa Larga currently grows 13 grape varietals across its 30 acres, and makes 26 wine varietals. Of these wine varietals, they are most well-known and awarded for their ice wine—what I had most anticipated trying. Connie explained that, in order to harvest the grapes for the ice wine, the temperature needs to be 17 degrees or below for at least four full hours. Usually occurring in late December or January, this small window requires harvesters to be on their game and ready to go once the temperature is right.
Before visiting, I had been told ice wine tends to be syrupy and overly sweet, so I was a bit cautious in my first sip. I am happy to say, my friends were wrong—at least about Casa Larga’s ice wine! A perfect dessert wine to sip with friends, all three of Casa Larga’s ice wines that we tasted were unbelievably flavorful and delicious.
2008 Fiori Vidal Ice Wine, my grandma’s favorite, had honey and peach aromas with flavors of pineapple, apricot and butterscotch.
2008 Fiori Cabernet Franc Ice Wine, my mother’s favorite, had a ruby red hue, with a distinct strawberry aroma and flavor.
2009 Riesling Ice Wine, my favorite, had a grape and honey aroma with apricot and grapefruit flavors.
All were smooth in their sweetness and left an amazing aftertaste, without the sugary finish I had feared. Naturally, since we all had a different favorite, we bought a bottle of each to take home.
Casa Larga is no rookie in the winemaking industry. With over 30 years of experience, they have compiled dozens of awards, most notably for their ice wine, and adhere strongly to winemaking tradition. For those who find themselves in Upstate New York, take an afternoon to stop by Casa Larga. Sip on some ice wine and say hello to my home town for me!
Casa Larga is 25 minutes southeast from the Greater Rochester International Airport and 25 minutes northwest of Canandaigua Lake (the closest of the Finger Lakes). The wine shop is open and tastings are available daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.