Monday, October 27, 2014

Finger Lakes Riesling: Heron Hill Winery

Few wine regions know how to get a Twitter conversation going like New York's Finger Lakes AVA.  The Finger Lakes Wine Alliance recently celebrated the launch of the 2013 vintage of Finger Lakes Rieslings through a social media gathering.  The group claims as their own the title of, "North America's premier cool-climate wine growing region."  It's probable that only other North American wine growing regions would offer an argument.  Even so, it would just be sour grapes.

The Finger Lakes region is south of Lake Ontario, in central New York.  The glacier-sculpted lakes, great microclimates and talented winemakers make a wide variety of vitis vinifera wines, but the FLX is best known for its Rieslings.

On Twitter, it was a Riesling love fest.  @GrapeBelt tweeted, "Time to spread the Good News: #FLXRiesling is a major player, here to stay!"  @ilove2drinkwine not only likes the wine, but the lower alcohol content of Rieslings: "One great thing about #FLXRiesling? Had about 8 glasses by the time I was done last night -- #NoHangoverForMe."  You can view the entire Twitter conversation as it happened here.


Heron Hill Winery 2013 Classic Dry Riesling

Noted wine expert Janis Robinson wrote recently that "Riesling can transmit terroir more sensitively than any white wine grape I know, making it truly the counterpart of the Pinot Noir that is so often grown alongside it."  However, she fears its powerful nature and schizophrenic sugar content are keeping bottles dusty in your local wine emporium.  She does note that Riesling has become "the signature grape variety of the Finger Lakes." 


Heron Hill Winery overlooks lovely Keuka Lake, as it has for over 35 years.  Their 17,000-case production makes them a fairly large player in the Finger Lakes wine scene.  The winery facility is built into the side of the hill, so gravity feeds the juice through the winemaking process instead of pumping.  

Winemaker Bernard Cannac was born and raised in Languedoc, so it is fitting that he is up to his elbows in grapes.  He oversees the production of the estate wines from Keuka Lake as well the Ingle family's other estate, on the west side of Canandaigua Lake.  Wouldn't you love to be able to say, "My other estate?"  Sustainable farming and harvesting by hand are all in a day's work for Cannac and crew.

The '13 Heron Hill Classic Dry Riesling is made from four different lots of grapes - 13% Keuka Lake estate, 68% Seneca Lake, 16% Cayuga Lake, 3% Skaneateles Lake.  I asked for help from a local on the pronunciation of that last lake, and I was told it's "Skinny-Atlas."  I'm glad I asked for help.
The lots are fermented separately, then blended together.  Alcohol is 12% abv and residual sugar is a low 0.23%.

The Heron Hill looks pretty - tinted golden yellow - and smells even prettier.  Peaches and lemon aromas are bolstered by minerals and an herbal note.  The flavor side of the ledger sheet tallies plenty of green apple, citrus and a slight hint of apricot.  There's a citrus/savory finish which lasts for days.  The folks at Heron Hill say to pair it with something that has bite to it, like spicy Thai food, Asiago cheese or horseradish.