Friday, August 16, 2013

Finger Lakes Riesling: Red Tail Ridge

Red Tail Ridge Winery is the product of Mike Schnelle and Nancy Irelan, a husband and wife team still awaiting their tenth year on Seneca Lake.  Irelan is the winemaker - she has a background with what she terms "a large corporate California winery" - and Schnelle comes from construction.  He handles the wine growing and any heavy lifting that needs to be done.

They have appeared before in the Now And Zin Wine Country series, and you can see the previous articles on Red Tail Ridge and their cool-climate wines here and here.

The wines of Red Tail Ridge are largely Riesling, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but Irelan and Schelle also like to dabble in some pet projects.  On their website Irelan explains, "We have a small plot of the Italian varietal, Teroldego.  We also have a few rows of Dornfelder—a German red variety."  They will plant more small experimental plots of other obscure varieties to see how they take to the Finger Lakes terroir.

Schnelle and Irelan were kind enough to send a few samples of their Red Tail Ridge estate wines to me for the purpose of this article.

RTR Estate Vinyard Riesling, Finger Lakes 2012

This $16 Riesling is stainless steel fermented and experiences no malolactic fermentation.  852 cases were produced.  Red Tail Ridge makes about 6,000 cases of wine per year.  This entry-level Riesling is priced nicely and isn't going to scare off any novice wine lovers.  It's listed as "vegan-friendly," by the way.

The wine shows a pale tint, with a bouquet of fruit and flowers and an herbal side that caresses the sweetness.  Orange peel shows nicely.  The sweet side is lovely, pears and peaches are in front. Decent acidity makes me think it would pair well with spicy Asian food - but it sips beautifully all by itself.

RTR Vineyard Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes 2012

This effort is much drier than the previous wine.  It also is fermented in stainless steel tanks with no malolactic fermentation, so it's fairly edgy.  The retail sticker is $19.  For grape geeks, clones 90 and 110 are used and 460 cases were produced.  It is bottled under cork and has an alcohol level of only 12%.  The sweetness meter on the back label shows it just one click away from the dry end of the scale.

Very pale, the wine makes bubbles which cling to the side of the glass.  The nose displays a beautiful slate figure, with muted fruit expressed through a layer of minerals.  The palate gives a fruitier taste, but there is still a significant earthiness.  Citrus notes join a fresh acidity, and just a hint of sweetness makes it an easy choice to pair with shellfish and crustaceans.

Good Karma 2012

This is Red Tail Ridge's charity wine.  Ten percent of the profit per bottle is donated to the food bank in the state where you live.  Foodlink, in Rochester, New York, assists in redistributing funds to other food banks across the country.

840 cases were made, from 89% estate grown Riesling and 11% Seneca Lake unoaked Chardonnay.  By the numbers, the steel fermented wine has an alcohol count of only 12%, residual sugar of 1.8% and sells for $14.  I suppose that since it’s a blend that's why there is no “sweetness meter” on the back label, as on their Rieslings.  If there were, it would register somewhere in the middle ground between dry and sweet.

Pale in the glass, the wine offers a slightly floral nose with citrus and a green element present.  It smells very pretty.  On the palate, slight earthiness is joined by a touch of sweetness and flavors of pears, peaches and a hint of spice.  It's very easy to drink, with acidity taking a backseat to flavor.

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