Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Aromatic White Wines Of The Finger Lakes: Gewürztraminer

There are not many American wine regions that make me jealous that I don't live there, but New York's Finger Lakes region does.  I would love to be close enough to those long lakes gouged out by glaciers to visit every weekend - or every day, for that matter.  I live in Southern California, so I have no complaints - the Santa Barbara County wine country is my spiritual home.  Even so, I sometimes think I would trade my "sunny and 78" for scraping snow off my windshield - if the Finger Lakes were held in the balance.

The cool climate of this area means the wines generally have an acidity level that is best described in superlatives.  The fruit is sometimes overshadowed by the minerals, but that's OK with me.  the wines of the Finger Lakes are overall superior products, even though they are made just south of Lake Ontario.  If you are shopping around for great wines to place on the Thanksgiving table, the Finger Lakes region is a good place to start.

Billed as "North AmerIca's premier cool-climate winegrowing region," the winemakers of the Finger Lakes produce wines which are fresh, crisp, refreshing, relatively low in alcohol and given to having minerality to burn.

I was invited to join the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance Virtual Tasting series when aromatic white wines were the subject of the day.  White wines - particularly Rieslings - are the area's forte, and this selection featured a half dozen wines that showed off some of the other white grape varieties that succeed wildly in the Finger Lakes.  The wines were provided to me for promotional purposes.  You can check out the Twitter feed of comments that transpired during the event here.  Watch the event as it appeared on USTREAM here.

We will cover the three Gewürztraminers today, and in a later post, the Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.

Villa Bellangelo Finger Lakes Gewürztraminer 2012

Gentle warm breezes off Seneca Lake lengthen the growing season at Villa Bellangelo in Dundee, NY.  Winemaker Ian Barry is in his 17th vintage with the winery.  He says he got the 2012 Gewürztraminer a little riper than he did in the previous year.  This wine is all stainless steel, but they plan to produce Gewürztraminer  the same way they make Riesling beginning in 2013, with neutral oak barrels and stirring on the lees.

The 2012 Bellangelo Gewürztraminer is sourced from nearby Gibson Vineyard (91%) and Morris Vineyard (9%). 325 cases were made.  Alcohol is low at 12.9% and residual sugar nearly nonexistent, at only 1%.  It hits the "medium dry" mark on the sweetness scale and is bottled under a natural cork.

The wine shows a nice yellow-gold tint and gives a beautiful nose of flowers, pears and apricots.  On the palate, tangerines are laced with pear juice by persistent mineral notes.  The really fruity flavor has the citrus is in the forefront.  Nice acidity begs for food and a beautiful finish of citrus is marked with minerals.  One taster in the virtual event picked up an oily character, so it's fairly full in the mouth.

Barry suggests pairing it with green curry, spinach Alfredo pizza and, of course, your Thanksgiving feast.


Keuka Springs Vineyards Finger Lakes Gewürztraminer 2012

August Diemel makes the wine for Keuka Springs Vineyards, located in Penn Yan, NY, on the east side of Keuka Lake.  Their ten acres of grapes are home for nine white wine varieties.  Diemel thinks Riesling is the lead actor in the Finger Lakes, but cites Gewürztraminer as the big supporting player.  He says his Gewürztraminer is more like Chardonnay than Riesling, with Riesling's aromatics and the textural qualities of Chardonnay."

He had to harvest early to maintain the acidity in balance with the sugar.  "Our cool climate helps Gewürztraminer maintain its aromatics."  The grapes he used are not estate fruit, and as a Keuka Lake proponent, he refused to comment on the source.

The Keuka Springs Gewürztraminer is sweet, with 8% residual sugar and a moderate 13% abv.  It is bottled under a natural cork with a retail price of $22.  Diemel's suggested pairings for the Keuka Springs Gewürztraminer are grilled shrimp, asparagus or Thai food.  He also likes it as an aperitif.

The nose on the Keuka Springs Gewürztraminer is highly aromatic, showing dried apricots, honey and a whole floral arrangement.  The sweet palate is loaded with white nectarines,pears and a touch of tropical fruit.  Acidity is pretty good, even though the mouthfeel overall is nice and creamy.


Knapp Winery and Vineyard Finger Lakes Dry Gewürztraminer 2012

Sunset Hill Vineyard, where the Knapp Gewürztraminer is grown, is on the west side of Cayuga Lake in Romulus, NY.  It opened for business in 1984 and 32 of their 46 estate acres of grapevines are white wine grapes.  They also manage another vineyard to the north with another 14 acres of white wine grapes.  Winemaker Steve DiFrancesco has 33 harvests to his name, and he works closely with vineyard manager Chris King.

The Knapp Gewürztraminer is just off dry on the sweetness scale typically used to identify the relative sweetness of Rieslings, but it is just as worthwhile in this case.  An alcohol content of 12.5% makes it easy to drink, and the 2.2 residual sugar adds a nice festive touch.  56 cases were produced and it retails for $15.  It comes bottled under a synthetic cork.

With light straw coloring and a beautiful floral and lime nose, the wine shows flavors of pears, sweet satsuma and a little bit of spice.  It's very fruity with a nice and dry mouthfeel.  Good, crisp acidity makes it very fresh.  The finish is memorable, full of citrus and minerality.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter