Seyval Blanc x Schuyler crossing, which is kind of cool because I'm a little familiar with Seyval, but I didn't know anything about Schuyler. It turns out that Schuyler is itself a crossing of Zinfandel and another hybrid grape known as Ontario (which is a crossing of Winchell and Moore's Diamond). Which means that Cayuga is the offspring of Seyval Blanc, the grandchild of Zinfandel and the great-grandchild of Moore's Diamond, three very different grapes!
As with human beings, one can get into trouble expecting family members to closely resemble one another. Cayuga bears virtually no resemblance to Zinfandel, and though it can occasionally pick up some foxiness if allowed to over-ripen, it doesn't bear much resemblance to Moore's Diamond either. Interestingly, the two grapes that Cayuga is most often compared to are Riesling and Muscat, neither of which figure into its family history. Like Riesling and Muscat, Cayuga is often made into an off-dry or medium sweet wine, though it also makes interesting sparkling wines if harvested early enough. It is most heavily planted in New York state, where it covers just over 400 acres, but can also be found in the American Midwest and to a more limited extent in the northeastern US and southeastern Canada.
Cayuga was created in 1946 at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York, by John Einset and Willard B. Robinson. It was selected from other seedlings in 1952 and was finally released in 1972 as "the first of a Finger Lakes series of wine grapes for New York." Cayuga was successful because it buds late and ripens early, which cuts off the extreme ends of the growing season. It is a heavily productive and vigorous vine that benefits from a discouraging hand in the vineyard. In fact, in 1964, a "25 variety trial" was undertaken to test the "most commercially promising American and French hybrid varieties and six new Geneva selections." The 25 selected vines were planted on three different sites in New York and various statistics were gathered about them over a period of several years. One of the statistics was total yield and Cayuga outperformed all of the other grapes in the trial in that category. It has decent disease and fungal resistance, but only moderate cold-hardiness, which has prevented it from becoming more popular with growers.
I was able to try two different wines from the Cayuga White grape. The first was a NV wine from Jewell Towne Vineyards in New Hampshire. Jewell Towne is the oldest winery in New Hampshire, though they only opened in 1994. The owner, Peter Oldak, has been growing grapes on the property since 1982, when he planted six vines on a hobbyist lark. By 1990, he was growing over 60 different varieties and decided to teach himself how to make wine. He made a few vintages for other wineries but decided to open his own winery in 1994. His debut vintage was only 40 cases which sold out in three weeks. Today, Jewell Towne produces over 7000 cases per year and is really the first name in New Hampshire wine today. I picked this wine up at a state store in Nashua for around $12. In the glass the wine was a very pale silvery lemon color that was almost water-white. The nose was moderately intense with aromas of peach, grapefruit, pineapple, pear and cheese. On the palate the wine was light bodied with medium acidity. It was medium sweet with flavors of mandarin orange, pineapple candy, pear, white peach and golden apple. It finished short and with a bit of bitterness. It was a fairly nice wine for the money, but wasn't anything too memorable.
The second wine that I tried was the 2011 Ravines "Keuka Village," which is 80% Cayuga and 20% Vignoles. Ravines is located on Keuka Lake in the Finger Lakes, but I picked this up locally at the Spirited Gourmet for around $13. In the glass the wine was a deep gold color. The nose was moderately intense with aromas of honey, green apple, pear, apricot and orange marmalade. On the palate, the wine was on the fuller side of medium with high acidity. It was off-dry with flavors of green apple, lime, honeysuckle flower, orange peel, white grapefruit and pineapple. It was bright, tart and zippy, which surprised me a little because the nose really smelled sweet and I thought this was going to be a syrupy mess. It was nice and citrusy, though, and I could definitely see why someone might want to compare this wine to a kabinett level Riesling. It was nicely aromatic and fairly well balanced, which is a pretty nice combination in a sine under $15.
A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.