Category Archives: New York – Finger Lakes

Finger Lakes Riesling Launch – 2012 Vintage

Finger Lakes Riesling Launch 2012 - The line up.

Finger Lakes Riesling Launch 2012 – The line up.

Disclaimer: The wines were received as media samples from the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance. Opinions are all my own.

Last week, I participated in the Finger Lakes Riesling Launch virtual tasting. For a couple of years now, the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance has been presenting the new vintage of the region’s Rieslings in several events called Riesling Launch. Part of it are several Twitter tastings, in which wine writers and consumers can engage with wine makers. For this tasting, the Alliance was live streaming the wine makers of the particular wines that we were tasting. Writers had submitted questions beforehand, and there were to be answers to these questions…

So much for the theory. I have participated in a Twitter tasting with the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance in the past (see here), and I had a great time. The possibility to engage with winemakers directly, to get answers from them, to exchange ideas, to connect, was awesome. It was overwhelming at times, trying, tasting, typing, reading, engaging, but it was fun. To me, I think the live stream was one dimension too much. It was impossible for me to taste, listen, type, watch, read, engage, and listen again…add to that that the stream just worked for the first half, and I can state that I would have been fine without the live stream. I think it’s an interesting idea, I just think the connection with Twitter and tasting wines is too much…

But to the wines. I have written about the region previously, so feel free to check out this post that I wrote for the Finger Lakes Wine Month back in May.

We had a couple of friends over, I made my Korean spicy-braised potatoes and later we moved on to cheese that our friends had brought. We tasted the wines in order from driest to sweetest, as suggested by the Alliance. The 2012 growing season is generally described as warm and pretty dry, which led to a lot of sugar in the grapes. Ultimately, this can lead to higher levels of alcohol in the wine. All wines were made with 100% Riesling grapes.

Finger Lakes Riesling Launch 2012 - The dry wines

Finger Lakes Riesling Launch 2012 – The dry wines

We started off with the 2012 Knapp Dry Riesling Estate KV. The winery was founded in 1984 and is located at Cayuga Lake tending to 40 acres under vine. The grapes for this wine came from one 1.5 acre plot (single vineyard, yay!!) called Block 11. The wine has 12.5% ABV, only 182 cases were produced, $18.95. It is a collaboration between the vineyard manager Christ King and the winemaker Steve DiFrancesco. The wine poured in a light yellow color with a sweetish nose of peach, white grape and lemon aromas. The nose prepared me for a semi-sweet wine (it just smelled so sweet), but fortunately the wine definitely tasted dry. It was citrussy and tasted quite nice. Very clean tasting, refreshing. This wine definitely reminded me of a German Riesling. There were slight, slight bitter aromas at the end which were no problem though. Nina thought it was more a feinherb-tasting wine (meaning a drier semi-sweet), but I disagree. To me, it was dry. Definitely an impressive start.

Next up was the 2012 Lakewood Vineyards Dry Riesling.  Lakewood Vineyards Winery was founded in 1989, but grapes have been grown on this family-owned farm since the 1950s. It has 80 acres under vine, ten of them Riesling. The four different blocks of Riesling that were used for this wine were fermented separately and then blended in January. Bottling begins in April. The wine has 11.7% ABV, 810 cases were produced, $12.99. The winemaker is Chris Stamp, grandson of the farm’s founder. This wine’s color was lighter than the Knapp, very light yellow. Its nose was floral, with nectarine aromas being very prominent. It was a beautiful nose. On the palate, the wine seemed a bit heavier than the Knapp giving it a great mouth-feel. There was a nice amount of acidity with pear and sweet apple aromas. The middle part was the best in this wine for me. It just opened up and became wide with a hint of creaminess. The finish then surprised with citrus aromas coming in. This wine really worked for me. Front and middle section were very lovely, the finish was decent. Add in the price tag and you have a stunner!

The last dry-labelled of the evening was the 2012 Lamoreaux Landing Red Oak Vineyard Riesling, another single vineyard wine. Lamoreaux Landing is run in the third generation, with holdings on Seneca Lake. The wine has 12.5% ABV, 400 cases produced, $19.99. In the glass, this Riesling was extremely light in color, almost looked as clear as water (I was surprised by how light the color of the first wine was, but we kept going lighter and lighter). The nose was screaming peaches at me. Peaches, peaches, peaches. Great nose, very fresh, too. I was excited. On the palate, though, this light-bodied wine was somewhat less impressive. The flavors were subdued, just some slight pear and strawberries. There was a tad too much heat for my palate. After half an hour it got a bit milder. I was somewhat disappointed by this wine. Maybe it came in the wrong spot after the very flavorful Lakewood, but it just did not seem very aromatic to me, which is something I want in a Riesling…tweets from other writers suggest that they really liked this wine. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think it was bad. It was just not aromatic enough for me.

Finger Lakes Riesling Launch 2012 - The semi dry and semi sweet

Finger Lakes Riesling Launch 2012 – The semi dry and semi sweet

We then entered the semi-sweet zone, one of my favorite zones in Riesling. I just think that some amount of residual sugar really helps bring out the aromatics. So I was excited to try the next two.

First up was the 2012 Lucas Vineyards Semi-Dry Riesling. The winery is located at Cayuga Lake and has been around since 1980 tending to 32 acres of vines, only 5 acres being Riesling. The winemaker is Jeff Houck, the wine has 11.4% ABV, $13.99. I am not sure whether my bottle was flawed, but this wine did not work for me at all. The nose was weirdly devoid of fruit and same goes for the taste. Just nothing seemed to be coming together. I will therefore not comment on this wine.

The final wine was the 2012 Glenora Wine Cellars Riesling. The winery was the first on Seneca Lake, and the wine was also made by Steve DiFrancesco, the winemaker of the first wine. The grapes came from three different farms around Seneca Lake. 2,600 cases were produced and the wine has 12% ABV, $13.99. During the tasting in May, we had the chance to try a Glenora Gewürztraminer which I found pretty flavorful. The wine poured in a lighter yellow color. The nose was pretty, with honey, sweet apple and tropical fruit aromas. I liked it. Maybe a bit too much honey for a wine that is supposed to be medium-sweet, but pretty. On the palate, the medium-bodied wine first showed its 12% ABV. That was a bummer. Aroma-wise, it was great with papaya and pineapple. There was some acidity, but I wished there was more of it. The finish felt a bit flat, with bitter aromas and petrol. This wine started out nicely, the aromas were there, the weight was there. But then I feel like the alcohol took over. I wish it had clocked in at maybe 10.5% or so, with the added sugar, ok, but that might have brought a bit more balance. I can see that the lack of acidity was another problem, so at 10.5 it might have ended up tasting too sweet. A conundrum, for sure…this wine is still very young, so maybe it will need some more time to get the flavors together and for the alcohol to integrate better.

All in all, I was most impressed by the dry wines with the Lakewood being the standout wine here. That just worked for me. Light and flavorful, just like a dry Riesling should be. The Knapp was also a strong showing. The Lamoreux I will have to retry on its own one of these days. I really feel like it might have been harmed by the depth of flavors in and direct comparison with the Lakewood Riesling. This outcome was a surprise for me, given how much I prefer the medium sweet Rieslings in general. But that, to me, is also testament to the quality of these Rieslings…Finger Lakes Rieslings are definitely worth trying out.

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Sunday Read: Finger Lakes Region – Where Riesling Rules

I will be participating in the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance 2012 Riesling Launch virtual tasting on September 16. The tasting will be conducted from 8pm until 9pm EST via tweets on Twitter and a live stream on USTREAM, where a panel consisting of the participating wineries’ winemakers will answer questions. The hashtag is #FLXWineVT. Come join if you find the time! The participating wineries are: Knapp Winery, Lakewood Vineyards, Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars, Lucas Vineyards and Glenora Wine Cellars.

I have been doing some reading preparing for the tasting (and the wines have arrived at my house courtesy of the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance) and I found the article I want to share today one of the best reads. It gives a good introduction into what Finger Lakes wine country feels like and what current trends and ideas are. I have yet to visit the area, so I don’t know how true the impressions are, but they helped me in better understanding what is going on.

Lettie Teague seems to want the Finger Lakes wineries to focus more on the core message: Riesling, Riesling, Riesling. I am not sure whether that is the only way to go. I have tried some really good wines from other grape varieties, so I think it is legitimate to tout those credentials as well. In any case, it is time to visit the Finger Lakes in person…

Happy Sunday, and come join the tasting tomorrow!

Lettie Teague: Finger Lakes Region – Where Riesling Rules

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Finger Lakes Virtual Tasting on May 25, 2013

Finger Lakes Wine Month Tasting Line Up

Finger Lakes Wine Month Tasting Line Up

All Finger Lakes wines were provided as media samples by Finger Lakes Wine Alliance.

As I mentioned in my introductory post to the Finger Lakes region last week, I received a box with five samples to try during the Finger Lakes Wine Month’s final virtual tasting held on Twitter and Facebook last Saturday. There were two Gewürztraminers, one Riesling, one Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend and one Cabernet Franc in the box. Given that five bottles are a lot, and that I like company, I invited my friend John, The Food and Wine Hedonist, to come with his wife and share the fun. Then I found out that Jeff, The Drunken Cyclist, was also going to be in town, so I strong-armed him into joining us as well. Add in two friends who are also quite into wine and we had a party. We got some cheeses and different, thinly sliced bacon (including a lamb bacon) to go with the wines and naturally some baguette. It’s what we used to do all the time in Germany where wine, cheese, bacon and bread all were way cheaper than here…oh, the good old days.

The “virtual” in this tasting was achieved by us wine bloggers taking photos of the bottles and tweeting our first impressions out to the world. Some of the winemakers were also active on Twitter, so it was a nice back and forth at times. I do have to say that I did struggle a bit in the beginning, because it is an awful lot to handle: trying a wine, taking a photo, finding a half witty 140 letter post, posting it, reading what others post…it does become exhausting. Jeff was much more of a pro, but he’s also done it before. It was a lot of fun, though, all in all!

Ruinart Brut Rose

Ruinart Brut Rose

Jeff, in his capacity as #ChampagneSlut (a handle I like to add to his name on Twitter because he is very much into the bubbles) brought a bottle of Rose Champagne from Ruinart to begin with. By that, he saved me since somehow I had totally spaced what to start the tasting with…Now I am not much of a bubbles drinker, and am usually at a loss describing them. I think the bubbles occupy me too much to focus on flavors. But I can tell you that this Ruinart champagne was very good, nicely spicy. I thought the bubbles were a bit too aggressive, but what do I know? Everyone seemed to really like it and I enjoyed it quite a bit as well.

John had brought some Asian pork lettuce wraps, which we decided to pair with the two Gewürztraminers. And off we went into the tasting:

Glenora Wine Cellars 2012 Gewürztraminer

Glenora Wine Cellars 2012 Gewürztraminer

First up was the Glenora Wine Cellars 2012 Gewürztraminer. The winery is located at Seneca Lake and has been around since 1977. The wine had 13% ABV. It showed a surprisingly light color in the glass. The nose was beautiful: floral and perfumy, with some sweetness. A very typical Gewürztraminer nose in my book. On the palate, there were again floral aromas, and the wine was a tad heavier than I wanted it to be, but luckily it tasted less dry than advertised. I really believe the, still low, residual sugar helped this wine tremendously. Nice, lingering finish. It also paired exceptionally well with the lettuce wraps. This was definitely a crowd favorite of the evening!

Sheldrake Point Vineyard 2012 Gewürztraminer

Sheldrake Point Vineyard 2012 Gewürztraminer

Next up: The Sheldrake Point Vineyard 2012 Gewürztraminer. Sheldrake Point Vineyard was founded in 1997 and is located at Cayuga Lake. This wine had 13.4% ABV. First off, let me say that I really liked the label. Most of the wineries’ labels this evening could benefit from less clutter and more modern appeal. Sheldrake Point definitely stood out positively! In the glass, we got a light colored wine. The nose was in stark contrast to Glenora’s wine: much more focused and clean, with just hints of Gewürztraminer aromas. This continued on the palate, which all in all was too subdued for me. There were pear aromas which I liked. But most of all, the wine had too much heat which made it seem unbalanced. You could really taste the 13.4% ABV, which were too much for me.

Swedish Hill Winery 2011 Dry Riesling

Swedish Hill Winery 2011 Dry Riesling

Up next, and now tasted with cheeses and bacon only, was the Swedish Hill Winery 2011 Dry Riesling. Swedish Hill is one of the larger producers in the Finger Lakes region and has been around since 1969. The wine had 11.5% ABV. It poured in a quite golden color, which I found rather exceptional in a dry Riesling, very pretty. The nose was a bit weird: It showed signs of petrol, which I usually don’t expect to find in young Rieslings, but not much else. I am not sure I would even have recognized the nose as Riesling. On the palate, the wine showed good acidity and very, very intense citrus aromas. I don’t think I ever came across a Riesling that was so decidedly citrussy. It was very refreshing, but maybe a bit one dimensional. There was agreement around the table that there might have been something wrong with the bottle, because there was what I can only describe as some funkiness going on…so, not entirely sure. But definitely an interesting tasting wine.

Stony Lonsesome Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot

Stony Lonsesome Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot

We then moved on to the reds: First up, the Stony Lonsesome Estates NV Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend. On paper, this was an interesting experiment: It was blended from 54% Merlot and 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the Merlot coming from the 2010 vintage and the Cabernet from the 2011 vintage. The grapes were harvested from some of the oldest vines for their varieties in the Finger Lakes (both planted in 1982). Stony Lonesome Estates is one of three wineries (and a brewery) run by Three Brothers Wineries. The wine had 11% ABV. I was intrigued by the idea to blend two vintages for this wine, and I really wanted to like it. But when I tried it, I struggled: It poured in a surprisingly light color, which one would not expect from a Cab Sav and Merlot blend. It looked much more like a Pinot noir. The nose showed some nice fruit, but on the palate the wine just didn’t work for me. It tasted too sweet (despite the winery information stating it contains 0% of residual sugar), and I am not sure the varieties came through for me. It felt a bit all over the place and unfocused. I can see this as a summer afternoon wine, out on the patio, maybe slightly chilled. But I just could not see it achieving what the winemaker had hoped for, especially at the suggested retail price point. That was a bit sad.

Dr. Konstantin Frank Cabernet Franc 2010

Dr. Konstantin Frank Cabernet Franc 2010

Last up came the Dr. Konstantin Frank Cabernet Sauvignon 2010. The wine clocked in at 12.8% ABV. As I explained in my introductory post, Dr. Frank is one of the leading wineries in the region. And boy did this wine shine! Great color, and a great herbal nose, branchy, earthy, just fabulous. Very old world style. Initially, it had a very earthy feel to it. It was greatly balanced and had a lingering, long finish. A bit later, the wine became much more fruity and that was a very pleasant surprise. This was a uniquely interesting and well made wine and seemed like a great fit for the region. Everyone at the table was very impressed. What a great finish to a fascinating tasting experience. I really want to go and explore the Finger Lakes more now that I have tasted some. Definitely worth investigating more.

To finish off the evening, we cracked open another bottle of Champagne provided by John, and two German Rieslings which I intend to write about in separate posts…it was a wonderful evening all around.

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