Geology Series - An Expression of Place, Method, and Time

Fox Run Vineyards Geology Series wines

Fox Run Vineyards Riesling Geology Series highlights the geological terroir of its Seneca Lake vineyards, forging a provocative 21st century link to a landscape spawned thousands of years ago. "We are at the forefront of a new era at Fox Run," says Scott Osborn, "gaining a deeper knowledge of these ancient landscapes and the interplay between our unique terroir and our production of worldclass Riesling."

Two vineyard blocks (Lake Dana Vineyard Block 11 and Hanging Delta Block 7), both within the boundaries of ancient lakes and shorelines, have been identified for the Geology Series - based on the distinctive fruit these specific blocks yield. Riesling bottlings, from one of these vineyard blocks, will be produced each year – each following a different vinification narrative.

Under the guidance of winemakers Peter Bell, the Geology Series hints at stories long past, hidden below the vineyard soil, and will reflect Fox Run’s soil, altitude, position along Seneca Lake, aspect, and weather. The three wines identified as Riesling 10, Riesling 11 and Riesling 12 will bend in different directions as they become wine along different paths. The 2010 vintage, released in 2012 represented the first vintage year in the Geology Series. Each of the three 2010 Rieslings came from the Lake Dana Vineyard Block 11.

Vineyard Historical Background

Geological features of the Finger Lakes

Around 12,400 years ago, the North American Laurentide ice sheet began its retreat from what is currently western New York. The meltwater formed a proglacial lake called Lake Dana, and over the next millennium, Lake Dana lost elevation as water drained eastward to the Mohawk Valley and eventually to the north, setting the course of today’s Genesee River. The waters were reduced to an elevation of 455 feet, and became what we now call Seneca Lake.

Lake Dana’s ancient shoreline, now lying well above Seneca’s, runs along the western boundary of Fox Run’s property. A thick layer of sandy loam has accumulated over the shale and stone of the proglacial lake shore. This fertile, well-drained soil is ideal for the cultivation and ripening of Riesling vines. This particular block within the Lake Dana Vineyard was selected for the inaugural series because these grapes best exemplify the attributes of the 2010 vintage.

Geological features of Fox Run Vineyards

Ancient shorelines aren’t the only geological characteristics that have been identified on our property. Evidence of a paleodelta formed in a post-glacial setting after Lake Dana began to drop from their proglacial elevations. The paleodelta formed at a higher lake level and thus are now present as hanging deltas exposed on hillsides adjacent to the modern lakes.

Geologists identified our hanging delta by the complex soil patterns near Seneca Lake. The gravelly silty clay that dominates most of the vineyard transitions into a sand loam. The distinct layers of unique sand (topset sandy load and lens sandy loam) and clay-rich forests (including brown and pink clays) were deposited by an ancient stream.

View our vineyard map to see the locations of these geologic features.

Vintage & Technique

We have been producing Riesling wines from both vineyard sites long before we took a step back to evaluate the nuanses of these two specific locations on our property. Riesling was originally planted in the Lake Dana Vineyard because it can survive the winters at the higher elevation. Historically, the Riesling from our Hanging Delta and Lake Dana Vineyards were producing some of the top fruit each year. This path of discovery lets us evaluate the terroir of these vineyard locations and the characterized fruit flavors that develop in these wines.

The juice was split into three lots: one to be fermented using current new-world winemaking techniques to dryness, one to be fermented using old-world winemaking practices to be stopped around eight percent alcohol, and one to be fermented using new-world techniques and arrested around eight percent alcohol. All three fermentations were stopped when sensory evaluation told us the balance was perfect.

We call these wines Riesling 10, Riesling 11 and Riesling 12.

This trio of Rieslings is our way to tell our story of place, method and time. They hint at landscapes which once existed on our vineyard sites and they reflect our terroir—our soil, our altitude, our position along Seneca Lake and our weather. We walk along with them as they lead us down a road that bends in different directions as they become wine along different paths. They reflect their vintage and will age along unique trajectories.

With each vintage year, more precise knowledge of these vineyard sites increases. Although Fox Run does not have centuries of viticultural history to work with, there is a growing excitement over the enormous complexity and elegant fruit these vineyard sites are displaying.