The FLWA bills the area as North America's premier cool-climate winegrowing region. Located in the east-central part of New York, south of Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes AVA is recognized by most who offer their opinion as the best source for Rieslings in America. The slate soil and microclimates near the three main Finger Lakes make for the good growing of Riesling grapes.
During the Ustream cast, the winemakers said that young Finger Lakes Rieslings show lots of fruit, while more complex notes appear with time. They also noted that wines from cooler vintages age better than those of warm vintages.
Minerals and citrus are the hallmark notes of Finger Lakes Riesling wines, which can range from very dry to very sweet. How do you know which are which? Sometimes, the label will explain the sweetness level in the wine’s name. There is some help for the consumer, though, when the wine's name does not make it apparent.
The International Riesling Foundation has created a "Riesling Taste Profile," which appears on the label of all Finger Lakes Rieslings. It’s a drawing of a meter, showing the sweetness level of the wine. It is a concept which might well be adopted by makers of Syrah wines, since that grape shows quite differently in cool and warm climate designations. It’s a great way to help consumers know what to expect in the bottle.
All of these Rieslings are fermented in stainless steel and are priced between $14 and $20. These wines are arranged in order of sweetness by the International Riesling Foundation scale:
Located on Cayuga Lake, Knapp Winery is close to Seneca Falls and easily accessible from the New York State Thruway - unless Arlo Guthrie declares it "closed, man." Knapp Owner Gene Pierce also owns Glenora Wine Cellars to the west on Seneca Lake.
Vineyard manager Chris King and winemaker Steve DiFrancesco share the kudos for this single-vineyard wine. The pair worked together before and after harvest on this Riesling. 182 cases were made with an alcohol content of 12.5% abv and a residual sugar mark of 0.5%. That puts it over on the "dry" side of the International Riesling Foundation's sweetness meter.. It is bottled under natural cork.
With a pale yellow straw tint, this wine's nose is very fragrant. It wafted from my glass to the other side of the room. There's a lot of fruit in there, peaches and pears mostly, with a zingy citrus streak and a healthy dose of earthy minerals. The palate leans more toward apricots and lemons laced with minerals. The acidity is typically great - that's no surprise with Finger Lakes wines. Many taking part in the virtual tasting on Twitter delighted in this wine's refreshing acidity. A sense of earth carries through right to the finish, which is long and graced with a touch of custard.
Lakewood Vineyards Winemaker Chris Stamp is a grandson of the estate's founders. David Stamp - another grandson - oversees the grape growing.
The Lakewood 2012 Dry Riesling hits the dry range on the sweetness meter - the residual sugar is just 0.78% - and has a super-low 11.7% abv. 810 cases of this Riesling were produced and it retails for $13.
My wife says the wine shows a tart green apple note with a lovely butterscotch flavor. She thinks it smells nice and creamy, but tastes more tart. I don't get the creamy aspect, but the tart apples hit me just right. A streak of lime runs through the mid-palate with hints of petrol darting in and out. The acidity is top-notch, even when chilled.
On Seneca Lake, Lamoreaux Landing's Red Oak Vineyard is sustainable. It is the winery's newest vineyard - this is its fifth vintage. Winemaker Colin Grant crafts not only Riesling, but reds, dessert wines and a Blanc de Blancs sparkler as well.
The Red Oak Riesling clocks in as "medium-dry" on the sweetness scale, and runs a moderate 12.5% abv. The pale wine come under a natural cork.
Nice apples and pears dominate the nose with muted slate tones apparent. The palate is very mineral driven, with apple, lime and pear notes standing behind the earthiness. This Riesling has a nice acidity and tastes very clean - perfect for food pairing.
Lucas Vineyards is located on the western side of Cayuga Lake. Established in 1980, it's the oldest winery on that lake. Ruth Lucas founded the place and still sits at the helm. Winemaker Jeff Houck has created a wine that hits a little more to the right on the sweetness meter, at "semi-dry." The residual sugar is 2.2% and the alcohol sits at 11.4% abv. Houck says a small amount of botrytis was present in these grapes, but it was not prevalent. It's bottled under natural cork.
Very pale in the glass, this Riesling shows remarkable fruit - peach, pear and apple aromas fly out of the glass. The palate is equally fruity, with a nice layer of earth on the peaches, pears and apples. A slate note and a touch of citrus add to the wine's zing and the good acidity brings a freshness and food friendly quality.
The winery recommends pairing with shellfish, white meat and vegetarian dishes.
The winemaker at Glenora Wine Cellars - Steve DiFrancesco - has 34 vintages under his belt. The grapes for this wine come from three vineyards on both the east and west sides of Seneca Lake.
A warm vintage produced riper grapes and higher alcohol, although it still hits only 12% abv. There was some grumbling online about the alcohol, but I didn't detect it as a problem. 2,600 cases were made - a large amount for a Finger Lakes winery - and it is medium-sweet on the IRF scale. It's bottled under a synthetic cork.
A big, fruity nose displays lots of apricot and peach, and the palate has a hint of peach pie mingling with that Finger Lakes acidity. It is definitely fruit-forward, with muted minerality setting off the flavors. Fans of sweet Rieslings will love it, but there's plenty of acidity here, too.
They say to pair it with vegetarian dishes, chicken or fish. It's on the sweet side, so it will be fine with spicy food, too.
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