A Finger Lakes Red That’s Franc-ly Better – Wine & Spirits Magazine

A Finger Lakes Red That’s Franc-ly Better


Fox Run Vineyards overlooking Seneca Lake (Courtesy of Fox Run Vineyards)

Bordeaux red varieties have been in the ground in the Finger Lakes at lot longer than you might expect, and recent dramatic improvements in quality have them back in the spotlight. This 2019 Meritage from Fox Run is a compellingly savory case in point.

Fox Run winemaker Peter Bell’s first best wine was a 1991 cabernet, from vines planted in the 1970s. And while he finds that climate change may have improved growing conditions for red varieties, he attributes recent improvements in Finger Lakes reds to changes in how they work with the vines.

Of the three varieties in this 2019 blend, Bell finds merlot to be the most temperamental (he used the word ‘pouty’) and least winter hardy. Cabernet sauvignon at Fox Run can survive the cold, but struggles to ripen in less than perfect years. Cabernet franc, however, is the standout as the most cold-tolerant and flavorful. And you can taste it in this 2019 Meritage, a ripeness factor Bell ties to how his team manages the vine canopy. “Once we figured out how to cope with cabernet franc’s vigor issues,” Bell says, “it makes the most consistently good wine.”

While there’s only 20 percent cabernet franc in this blend—the rest is merlot and cabernet sauvignon—the smoke, clove and sanguine notes all suggest that franc is wagging the dog. The aromas are all about savor, while the texture comes off elegant and silky, with mid-weight tannins and fine detail.

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Fox Run 2019 Seneca Lake Meritage

Every week, our editors highlight a wine that intrigued them in our blind panel tastings, expanding on their tasting note in this space. These are entirely editorial choices; there are no paid placements. Subscribers can also access the original tasting note by searching here.

Patrick J. Comiskey covers US wines for Wine & Spirits magazine, focusing on the Pacific Northwest, California’s Central Coast and New York’s Finger Lakes.


This story appears in the print issue of December 2021.
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