Showing posts with label Riesling wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Riesling wine. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Washington State Riesling

Wine importers Mack & Schühle have made a name for themselves, searching out wines from across the world and bringing them to U.S. wine lovers.  One of their latest discoveries did not require much travel.  United Ink has three wines from Washington's Columbia Valley and an Oregon Pinot Noir.  Today, the Columbia Valley Riesling.

United Ink Riesling 2020

The 2020 United Ink Riesling is all Columbia Valley Riesling grapes, made dry by winemaker David Forsyth.  The winery says, "the majority of the 2020 Dry Riesling comes from skirted vineyards across a hill line surrounding the Yakima Valley."  The region is known for its semi-arid conditions.  Alcohol tips only 12% abv and the wine retails at a super-low $12.

This Riesling is yellow-green in the glass and offers a very attractive nose dominated by citrus and minerals.  The palate keeps it going, with the flavor of Meyer lemon dancing along with minerals and a bit of peach.  Acidity is good and fresh, but it won't take taste buds off of your tongue.  The winery recommends this one as a pairing with salmon, but anything from the sea will do.


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

What Kind Of Wine Is Tussock Jumper?

Tussock is a kind of grass that grows longer than the grass surrounding it.

A jumper is a sweater - in this case, a red one.

Tussock Jumper Wines says that "tussock" represents their commitment to sustainable wines, and the red jumper is a mark of quality.

A publicist tells me that Tussock Jumper is a French negociant.  They own no vineyards but select quality grapes from small farms in multiple regions, around the globe.  Their wines are blended and bottled locally in order to support micro economies.  The U.S. importer, TRI-VIN, has a list of 24 wines available, from eleven different wine regions around the world.  

Each bottle shows a different animal wearing the red jumper.  Despite the "critter label" aspect, I found these wines to be very tasty, even interesting.  A mobile app is available which allows one to scan the label and get an earful about what's in the bottle from the animal itself.  I found the iPhone app to be balky and just plain goofy, not at all representative of the wine - which deserves much better.

Tussock Jumper Chenin Blanc 2020 - Stellenbosch, South Africa 

This off-dry wine was made with minimal cellar intervention, from 100% Chenin Blanc grapes picked in select vineyards in the Helderberg and Paarl regions, as well as from the high slopes of the Du Toitskloof mountains.  The Western Cape wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks, where it lay on the spent yeast cells for about four months before blending.  Alcohol hits 13% abv and it is available for $13.

This wine has a slightly yellow tint and a nose that is all about the minerals.  The smell of lemon zest, tropical fruit and a wet sidewalk all play into the aroma package.  The palate shows various kinds of citrus, stone fruit and a rich salinity, not to mention the racy acidity.  It's time for shellfish or crustaceans, or any kind of seafood, really. 

Tussock Jumper Riesling 2020 - Mosel, Germany 

These Riesling grapes came from the Rheinhessen region of western Germany, along the Mosel and Rhein river banks, where some of Germany's warmest and driest growing conditions are found.  Tank fermented, the wine sat on the lees - the spent yeast cells - for three months, giving it more weight and added complexity.  Alcohol is low, at only 10.5% abv, and the retail price is just $12.

This pale, off-dry wine's nose features scents of lemon, apricot, apple and cantaloupe.  The palate is mineral-driven with a decent acidity, although not razor-sharp.  Pair it with Thai or Indian curries, sushi or seafood risotto.

Tussock Jumper Sauvignon Blanc 2020 - Marlborough, New Zealand

Marlborough's 2020 growing season had lengthy dry spells, which the folks at TJ say led to concentrated flavors and aromas.  This vintage is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, made from a blend of three vineyards, two in Wairau Valley, and one in Waihopai Valley.  The wine aged on the lees for approximately four weeks before filtering.  Alcohol tips 12.5% abv and the price is $12.

This pale, yellow wine smells extremely grassy - no surprise for a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  There is also a large swath of grapefruit, cantaloupe and tropical fruits cutting through the nose.  The grapefruit comes through explosively on the palate, along with a mineral streak a mile wide.  The mouthfeel is quite crisp and the acidity zippy.  There is just a tiny hint of sweetness here, and the citrus flavor lasts a long while on the finish.  You can pair this with any sort of white meat or seafood, but I think it would be a great choice to go with one's breakfast eggs, if one were so inclined.


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Friday, May 31, 2019

Sweet Wine, But Not Too Sweet

The locals call it paradise on a peninsula.  Michigan's Old Mission Peninsula wine region sticks out of the northwestern edge of the state's main body into Lake Michigan.  Situated on the 45th parallel, about the same latitude where you find Bordeaux, it's a 19-mile spit which juts northward and forms the east and west sides of Grand Traverse Bay.  It's only four miles wide at its broadest point. 

They grow wine grapes there.  The blue waters surrounding the land are some 600 feet deep, that produces what they call a "lake effect" which I am told protects the vines with snow in winter, slows bud break in spring to avoid frost damage, and extends the growing season by up to four weeks.

I've tasted Michigan wines before and found them to be of very high quality, so I had high expectations when the OMP reps sent some of their wines to me for review.  I was not disappointed.

The 2016 Peninsula Cellars Late Harvest Riesling is made from Riesling grapes which were harvested from the Hawkeye Vineyard.  It was vinified in stainless steel and spent six months there, aging.  The wine is not as sweet as many late harvest wines, but I found that makes for a wine which is sweet enough to be fun, but not so sweet as to become overbearing.  The sweetness meter on the back label shows it fully in the sweet range.  Alcohol tips in at a super-low 8.5% abv and the wine retails for $19.

The late harvest Riesling has a yellow-green tint and a somewhat muted nose of citrus, honeydew and a light tropical note.  On the palate, the melon is stronger and is joined by honey and minerals.  Light acidity brings a tingle and the sip finishes sweet and brisk.  It's pleasantly sweet, but is not a dessert-level sweet wine.


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Monday, January 21, 2019

Riesling From CA's Central Coast

Oh, how I love a Riesling with that petrol emotion.  The smell that reminds me of swimming near the flat-bottom boat with the Evinrude on the stern, dripping oil and gasoline into the water.  It's not environmentally sound, but it's from my teenage years on a lake in east Texas and I'm sorry about the water, but I loved that smell. 

Francis Cutruzzola and his partner Lisa Miller were longtime Sonoma County residents who merely visited the Paso Robles area - a lot.  One visit turned into a stay when they bought a vineyard outside of Cambria, where they grow two acres of Riesling grapes and five of Pinot Noir.

They work there with winemaker Stephen Dooley, who in 2019 will mark his tenth year on job.  My wife and I also like visiting the little town, and early on we were confused by the different pronunciations it received, with both a short and long "a" sound.  We gradually settled on the short.

Dooley is a U.C. Davis graduate who, the website says, has worked "the Napa Valley, the Australian outback, and the South African Cape."  His personal winemaking style has been shaped by those experiences.

Petrol.  This 2015 San Luis Obispo County Riesling from the Riven Rock Vineyard has that smell in spades, the smell that I long for in every Riesling I try.  It's so strong it's on the palate, too. There's also a wallop of wet driveway here, and even a hint of gin & tonic.  A nice acidity helps the wine be food-friendly, a natural for Riesling, anyway.


Friday, October 12, 2018

German Riesling A Winner

German wines tend to fall beneath the U.S. wine drinker's radar.  Aside from Riesling, you'll be hard-pressed to find a German grape variety or even a German version of a more familiar grape, on a supermarket shelf.  Specialty wine stores will dig deeper, but depending on their inventory they may not have a very wide coverage.  With this in mind, I was thrilled to be asked to participate in an online tasting event involving German wines, with Matthew Kaner, wine director and partner at several wine bars in the Los Angeles area.

Kaner says of the new world of German wine, "there's more than just Riesling," and he went on during the event to cover a Muller-Thurgau, a Pinot Blanc and a Pinot Gris as well as a Riesling.

Another invitee, Dezel Quillen (@myvinespot) commented that he appreciates "the brightness, raciness, and lower alcohol levels in these wines. But those characteristics are trademarks of Germany's refreshing, cool-climate wines. Not to mention their food-friendly nature."  He knows what he's talking about.

Kaner spoke about German Rieslings, with their ability to age incredibly.  He said they are "time capsules" that can age for a century and called them the "archetype of an age-worthy white wine."  He also offered up an interesting tidbit for wine travel buffs, that the best way to experience Pfalz wine country is to "fly into Frankfurt and make the drive. It's quicker than LA to Santa Barbara."

The Von Winning 2015 Riesling called "Winnings" is a good way to do just that.  Imported by Skurnik Wines of New York, the Terry Theise selection scores big while delivering its attributes in a most understated way.

The Von Winning Weingut has been around for awhile, since 1849.  Leopold Von Winning really started the emphasis on quality wine in 1907, practically current times by European standards.  The team is led today by Stephan Attmann, whom Theise calls an "obsessive winemaker" on the Skurnik website.  The Von Winning grapes are farmed organically while the wines are fermented in oak barrels and handled as little as possible, often bottled unfiltered.

This Riesling from the Pfalz region hits 11.5% abv and sells for about $20.

The 2015 Winnings Riesling shows a golden tint in the glass and a nose which makes me glad I inhaled.  It's austere, with huge slate notes backed by hints of petrol that are starting to show and a whiff of citrus zest to finish off the scent.  The palate is smart and savory, with a sedate acidity softened by the almost creamy mouthfeel.  The finish stays long and leaves tangerine notes to remind the sipper of the pleasure.


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Friday, June 29, 2018

"O" Is For Oregon, Orange

There's change underway at Troon Vineyards in southern Oregon's Applegate Valley.  Some folks say "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it," but the folks at Troon said, "let’s make it better."   Winegrower Craig Camp tells me it’s not just a new label for the 2017 Riesling Orange Wine Whole Grape Ferment.  They have worked for several years to convert the estate to biodynamic farming and winemaking.  Camp says, "As we bring our soils and vines back to health each new release from Troon Vineyard will gain in complexity and pleasure."

The orange Riesling is an unusual wine, to be expected from a winery which has experimented freely with grape selection and even produced a co-fermented "blend."  The designation of "whole grape fermented" was used because Camp says "skin fermented" sounded "kind of yucky."  As always, the grapes from the estate's Kubli Bench were crushed and fermented with native yeasts.  The "whole grape" means the skins stay in there, which is what gives the wine its interesting orange tint and incredible herbal notes.  Alcohol sits easy at 11.5% abv and the wine retails for $20.

The 2017 Troon Vineyard Riesling, Orange Wine, Whole Grape Ferment, Applegate Valley, Kubli Bench Estate Bottled - now that's a mouthful - offers a light touch of tannins, a vibrant acidity and crisp dryness that makes it an extremely refreshing sip.  It's one of the more complex white wines I've tasted.  There's a strong herbal whiff on the nose, backed up by stone fruit.  The tartness hits the perfect middle ground and the wine is as dry as the proverbial bone, so put this wine on the dinner table with full confidence.


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Monday, May 21, 2018

Wine And Food: Jar

Suzanne Tracht and Preech Narkthong, of Jar
Don't you love it when a restaurant wine pairing works out?  It did so for me recently at Jar in Los Angeles, and the experience underscored how a sommelier can make all the difference.

Al Melendez is actually the manager there, but he spoke with the knowledge of a somm, and the passion of one.  Al greeted my wife and I warmly after we had been seated and asked if he could help with the wine selection.  As I sipped the negroni, I told him I was thinking about the Alsatian Riesling with the Dover sole.  He seemed like he had something he wanted to say.

I asked what he would recommend, and he leapt into action.  "Let me pour a few samples for you and you tell me which is best for the fish."  He hooked me, just like that sole had been.

The Dover sole came with pickled ramp butter, and something about the Riesling tickled my fancy.  Al was one somm type who wasn't pushing it.  He poured samples of a Pouilly Fuissé, a Sancerre and the Lang & Reed Chenin Blanc from Napa Valley.  For my taste, the Chardonnay was close, the Sauvignon Blanc was a little too Sauvignon Blanc and the Chenin Blanc was just right.

It paired wonderfully, with a pert sweetness that set off the ramp concoction just right, yet dry enough and fresh enough to fit the fish like a glove, if that's possible.  Plus, It was rather big for a white, perfect with the light seafood.  It was a hit with the crab deviled eggs as well.  The wine lifted the meal beyond its already delicious status in a way the Chard or Sauv Blanc would not have.  Thanks, Al.

Next time I'll try the Riesling.


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Monday, June 5, 2017

Oregon's Orange Riesling

From southern Oregon's Applegate Valley, Troon Vineyards has released a Riesling to contemplate. The 2016 Troon Riesling Whole Grape Ferment doesn't look like a Riesling. It has a faint burnished orange color, like apple cider. It's not made like most Rieslings, either. I’ll let General Manager Craig Camp tell you about that. He came to Troon from Napa Valley last year, and this incredible wine is one that "fully reflects" his winemaking goals.

In this wine, as in all from the 2016 vintage, Camp says it was all about "native yeast ferments, no additives (enzymes, acids, sugar) and no new oak barrels."  He says the orange Riesling was "produced essentially the same way" as the winery's red wines. The grapes were "first crushed by foot, destemmed, then it was transferred to one-ton fermenters. The native yeast fermentation started after 48 hours and completed in ten days. The fermenters were punched down by hand once a day. It was then pressed into neutral French Oak barrels for three months. That's it." And that's enough.

The wine staff made the decision to bottle earlier than planned to maintain freshness, and it is a fresh wine. Camp says the wine "should be consumed young and fresh, but as this is the first time we've made it we really don't know how it will age, I'll be keeping some bottles around to see how it develops." I wish I had that kind of patience.

He likes the Troon Riesling Whole Grape Ferment with tapas, but its freshness and structure would allow a pairing with a wide variety of dishes. This Riesling offers alcohol at only 12% abv and retails for $20.

The wine’s orange color is immediately interesting. The nose is beautiful - orange blossoms, peaches and pears, oh my. On the palate it drinks like a red wine, full and flavorful. There even seems to be tannic structure. The fruitiness I expected revealed itself instead as savory. Salinity drapes the apple flavors beautifully. I should mention, it's dry, by the way. And the acidity is fresh and lively.

Camp tells me that Troon will continue the "orange wine" program this year with a second vintage of the Riesling and a Vermentino done the same way. 


Monday, January 30, 2017

Santa Barbara County Riesling - Why Not?

Pierre Lafond started the first winery in Santa Barbara County since Prohibition. He did that in 1962, and the second one wouldn't come for another decade. So, Lafond is a big name in Santa Barbara County wine. It's always worth a visit when the car is anywhere near Buellton.

The 2013 Lafond SRH is a lively Riesling, from a land known more for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This Sta. Rita Hills Riesling comes from the cool part of Santa Barbara County, so Riesling should figure bigger here than it does, I've always thought.

The grapes were grown in the western end of the Santa Ynez Valley, in the transverse valley that sucks in the cool Pacific air and shuttles it inland. The winery says the Sta. Rita Hills region is the southernmost cool-climate region in the northern hemisphere

If this one is any indication, a lot of winemakers are missing the boat.

The pale wine gives a beautiful apricot and peach aroma on the nose, with just a touch of gasoline coming on. I love that part of Riesling with a few years under its belt. The palate has stone fruit, too, and some truly edgy earth from the Lafond estate.


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Friday, February 12, 2016

Santa Ynez Valley Wine: Gainey Vineyard

Dan Gainey runs the wine business that was started by his father, grown grapes on land first farmed by his grandfather.  The Gainey Vineyard operation is located at their Home Ranch Vineyard in the eastern part of the Santa Ynez Valley.  They also farm the Evans Ranch and Rancho Esperanza vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills.

The Gainey land is farmed sustainably, using cover crops, compost, natural soil conditioning while eschewing pesticides and herbicides to protect their workers and the ground water.  Gainey winemaker Jeff Lebard and director of winemaking John Falcone together have four decades of experience in Napa Valley and the Central Coast.

Looking around the tasting room, it’s pretty and well stocked with wine and other related items. My wife commented on the great restroom, "literally nicest I've seen," she said. They say you can tell everything about a restaurant by the way the restroom looks. Maybe it holds true for tasting rooms, too. One of the more intriguing purchase options I noticed was the Zinfandel garlic salsa. It smells great. There’s plenty of garlic in there.

Once in the cave tasting room, we got down to the good stuff. Eric the pourer told me they are in the process of replacing the vineyards on the estate property. The Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling vines are being replanted.


The Wines

2014 Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc  $19 - About a 30/70 split on steel and barrel fermentation, with seven month of French oak aging. Alcohol is at 14.1% abv. The flavors are clean and fruity and the grapefruit note is soft while the mouth is full.

2013 Limited Selection Chardonnay $38 - This wine uses fruit from Rancho Esperanza and Evan’s Ranch Vineyard, the Santa Ynez winery’s Sta. Rita Hills property. It is nearly fully barrel fermented - only 2% in steel - and aged in French oak for nine months, 25% of which is new oak.  Alcohol hits 14.1% abv, and full malolactic and sur lie fermentation offer this wine a full and creamy feel in the mouth. It’s a big, fat chardonnay with lots of oak. coconut and tropical flavors.

2013 Limited Selection Pinot Noir  $55 - for wine club members only. It is 100% Pinot Noir from the Home Ranch Vineyard. Aged 17 months in 27% new French oak, the alcohol is a lofty 14.1% abv.  Pepper comes across very strongly on the nose, with a palate that is full of rich raspberry and cherry, not too tart. Very fruity, but the tea notes show well and the acidity is very fine.

2013 Limited Selection Syrah  $32 - 72% Home Ranch fruit and 28% Evan's Ranch. 14.1% abv with 16 months in 45% new oak (54% French, 23% American & 23% Hungarian.)  The nose on this one shows the funk for which the Rhône variety is known, stridently.  The palate is full of dark fruit in a savory mineral setting.

2012 Patrick’s Vineyard Selection $60 - 86 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 % Petit Verdot and 2 % Merlot, aged 22 months in 66% New French oak. At 14.5% abv, it’s a powerhouse. The wine is  named for the owner’s son, no doubt destined to take over the winery at some point.  Muted nose, sweet/tart red fruit.

2014 Limited Selection Riesling $15 - This wine sees no oak. It comes in at a moderate 13% abv and is off-dry, with less than 1% residual sugar. The grapes were taken in an early harvest from the Home Ranch vineyard.  The nose shows a nice petrol note while a slightly sweet sensation comes on the palate. The acidity is good, but not overpowering. It’s a great sipper, and would hit it off nicely with a salad.

After the wine tasting, we crossed Highway 246 for a stop at the Vineyard House for lunch, in the cute and rustic downtown area of Santa Ynez. It had come highly recommended by a friend, so we had to try. They have a great outdoor seating area, but plenty of room indoors if the weather’s not nice. My chicken and brie sandwich was fabulous. The venison chile verde was a little soupier than I had hoped it would be, but the tomato soup is delicious, even if it was served a little less than piping hot.


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Monday, May 25, 2015

Dinner Party Wine Surprise: Riesling

You've been there before. In unfamiliar territory for dinner - not in a restaurant, with a wine list and plenty of choices, but at a friend's mother's cousin's place - with no choices. "Don't bring anything - we have the wine." Hmm. Well, how bad could it be?

Well, it could be cheap Chardonnay. It could be cheap Cabernet. It could be Pinot Grigio of any price. It could be (gasp) White Zinfandel! And what do I say when an offense is offered? I don't like wine? They know I write about the stuff - they'll never buy it. I'm on antibiotics? Not even a sniffle. Religious objection? Riiight.

So it really is fantastic when it all works out. "A Riesling?” I gush. “Oh, by all means, open the Riesling!" Who would have expected that some previous dinner guest had left a Riesling behind? We're spared from all that Pinot Grigio that must surely have been hiding behind it in the refrigerator. Spared from having to knock back half a glass to be polite, then dumping the rest in a planter when no one is looking.

It wasn't even an expensive Riesling, either. Santa Barbara Landing 2013 Riesling sells for about five bucks at Trader Joe's, from the Bronco Wine Company. Say what you will about the heritage, but the wine is actually pretty good.

The pale color is no surprise, like the herbal/floral scent it gives off. But wait, is that a hint of petrol in there? A little whiff of gasoline? Surely not, in such a young Riesling. But I will swear it was there. On the palate, pears rule, and the full mouth is juxtaposed against a wonderful acidity. At 13% abv, it is fairly relaxed, too. I would have this again anytime, particularly chilled on a hot summer day.

We were also treated to a bottle of La Granja 360 Verdejo/Viura 2013. From Spain’s Castilla y León region, I had high hopes for this one. Unfortunately, I do not have too much to say about it. Grapefruity and a little tart, it was not as memorable as I had hoped it would be. The acidity was pretty fantastic, though.


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Friday, February 13, 2015

Sweet Finger Lakes Wines For Your Sweetie

With Valentine’s Day upon us, it’s a good time to pop open a dessert wine or two - sweets for your sweetie.

Fresh from receiving accolades as the top wine region of 2014 from Wine Enthusiast magazine, the wineries of New York’s Finger Lakes held a virtual tasting event featuring some of their notable dessert wines.  You can read about the bubbly by clicking here, and below is a listing of the dessert wines featured in the event, staged by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance with samples provided to me for the purpose of participating.


Goose Watch Winery Classic Cream Sherry

Goose Watch Winery is owned and operated by Dave Peterson’s family, stewards of the vineyard since 1997.  They also own Swedish Hill Winery, so they keep pretty busy in the winemaking biz.  Goose Watch overlooks Cayuga Lake, providing a scenic backdrop for vineyard manager Rick Waite and winemaker Derek Wilber while they work.

The Goose Watch menu includes Viognier, Pinot Grigio, and Merlot with some unusual varieties like Aromella, Traminette, Melody, Diamond and Lemberger thrown into the cool-climate mix.

Classic Cream Sherry by Goose Watch is made using both red and white grapes, and plenty of them.  Native American, hybrid and vitis vinifera varieties are included - everything from Chardonnay to Cabernet Franc to Cayuga White and Catawba contribute to this wine.

It is produced using a solera process.  New barrel-aged vintages of the sherry components are introduced each year, so the blend grows by a year each vintage.  It's the aging that gives the wine its incredible flavor.  New additions are warmed, then oxygen-injected over six weeks or so, which "gooses" the aging process.  In the barrel, the wine is exposed to extreme temperatures - both hot and cold - to further stimulate the aging.  Most of the barrels used in this process are old and well worn, to avoid imparting too much oak influence to the wine.

Alcohol is hefty, at 18% abv, while the 12% residual sugar more than justifies the wine's categorization as a dessert type.  At $16 for the half bottle, it's one of the better dessert wine buys you are likely to find.

The Goose Watch Winery Classic Cream Sherry looks fabulous.  The deep amber-brown color is even darker than bourbon.  The high alcohol content is noticeable on the nose, but so is a strong whiff of raisins, caramel and burnt brown sugar.  The mouthfeel is full and lush, with a very soft essence that plays counterpoint to the heat of the alcohol.  Raisins, caramel, baked apples, mocha and a splash of lime decorate the palate, with the fruitier aspects lasting into the finish.  The moderate acidity feels a little lively on the tongue, but the softness isn't spoiled.



Boundary Breaks 2012 Late Harvest Riesling #90

The east side of Seneca Lake offers somewhat milder weather in New York's Finger Lakes region due to the depth of the lake and the prevailing winds.  The extremely deep, glacier-cut lake features a churning effect, in which the colder and warmer waters exchange levels and help moderate the temperatures in the vineyards.

Boundary Breaks Winery resides on that eastern shore.  Established by Bruce and David Murray in 2007 - on a farm that never had a vineyard on it - the winery specializes exclusively in Riesling, in five different styles.

Vineyard manager Kees Stapel assists several moonlighting winemakers at Boundary Breaks:  Peter Bell of Fox Run, Kelby Russell of Red Newt and Ian Barry of Barry Family Cellars.  All contribute to the various wines in Boundary Breaks' cellar, but Barry is the winemaker of record for this late harvest Riesling.

The Boundary Breaks 2012 Late Harvest Riesling #90 is named - er, numbered - for the Riesling clone from which it comes: Neustadt #90.  The wine underwent a slow fermentation in stainless steel tanks and reports an alcohol level of 14.2% abv and a whopping 12.7% residual sugar number.  The winery's website comments on the mid-December harvest for these grapes: "At this time of the year, the fruit has become a bronze color and many berries have de-hydrated and wrinkled into raisins. This produces a dense Riesling nectar that retains its acidity alongside its flowing richness."  An apt description.  It retails for $30 per half bottle.

A light golden color, the wine smells a bit like pears and a bit like apricots, with a lovely, light note of honeyed petrol coming through.  The taste is gorgeous, as befits a dessert wine.  The sweetness is not cloying, thanks to a nice acidity - not razor-sharp, but noticeable.  It is, to be sure, dessert.  It also fits well with salty almonds.


Standing Stone Vineyards 2013 Riesling Ice Wine

Standing Stone Vineyards has an old school look about it - farmhouse and all - but Marti and Tom  Macinski founded the business in 1991. Marti is the winemaker, assisted by Jess Johnson.

The vineyards were planted in the early 1970s, and a notable block features a planting of Saperavi, an old vinifera grape that makes a dark red wine.

The 2013 Riesling Ice Wine is one of four dessert wines they make - they also sweeten up Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Vidal grapes.  They are not true ice wines, in that the grapes are not harvested frozen but frozen after picking late in the season.

Production is limited, at just 198 cases.  The retail sticker shows $25 for the half bottle.  The wine has an incredible 20% residual sugar and shows 12.4% abv on the alcohol side.

This is one beautiful wine, the color of a very rich apple juice or bourbon.  The aromas are just as beautiful, with apricots, pears and tart apples bursting from the glass.  The palate follows suit, with the apple flavor showing a little stronger and some peaches thrown into the mix.  The acidity is delightfully zippy, but the mouthfeel is oily and viscous.  This wine is fresh and clean and makes a great, light dessert.


Wagner Vineyards 2013 Riesling Ice Wine

Winemaker Ann Raffetto has been with Wagner Vineyards for three decades, but that only qualifies her for newby status there.  As one of the oldest Finger Lakes wineries - and the first on Seneca Lake's eastern shore - There have been five generations of grape growers toiling in the 200-acres of vineyard-with-a-view, a quarter of which is planted to Riesling grapes.

The grapes for the Wagner 2013 Riesling Ice Wine were not taken while frozen, but picked after traditional harvest and frozen after picking.  They say this process helps the grapes retain their natural acidity.  At 24% residual sugar, this wine is super-sweet and with alcohol at 12.1% abv, it is very near the same content as a table wine from this area. 1400 cases were produced, and the half-bottle sells for $25.

The Wagner Ice Wine shows pale gold in the glass, with a nose of dried apricots and a beautiful floral aspect.  Alcohol also hits the nose a bit stronger than I would imagine, at just 12.1%.  The palate has a lovely layer of the earth filtering the sweetness of the peach and tropical fruit flavors.  The wine is rather viscous and sports a great acidity.  Pair it with an apple pie or drizzle it on vanilla ice cream. Or both.



Knapp Winery and Vineyard 2013 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine

Knapp Winery is located close to Seneca Falls, on the shores of Cayuga Lake.  It opened for business in 1984, and winemaker Steve DiFrancesco, vineyard manager Chris King, and cellar master Richard Iddings combine to make wines that showcase the great terroir of the Finger Lakes.

The Vidal grapes for this sweetie were picked in late November, when the temperature was 14 degrees Fahrenheit.  They were pressed while frozen, which results in more concentrated aromas and flavors.  This is the sweetest of the wines featured here, with residual sugar at 24.7%.  Alcohol is slightly reduced, at 11.36% abv.  Only 54 cases were produced and the half-bottles retail for $25.

The Knapp wines I have experienced really show a great earthy quality, and the Vidal Ice is no exception.  The earthiness does sit a bit farther behind the fruit in this dessert wine, though.  There is plenty of fruit on the nose - pineapple, pear and peach are draped in honey - while a beautiful floral aspect leads the way.  Extremely viscous in the mouth, the Vidal does not disappoint in sweetness.  It's a beautiful and delicious wine, with flavors of pear, peach and tropical fruit.  The finish lets a bit of the earthiness linger with the sweet for an amazing counterpoint.

The winery says you can enjoy the Knapp Vidal Blanc Ice Wine on its own or with a ripe cheese.  Any kind of savory tidbit - salty pretzels, almonds - will be set off beautifully against the counterpoint of the sugar found in this wine.


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Monday, January 19, 2015

Finger Lakes Dry Riesling: Knapp Winery

The Finger Lakes Wine Alliance recently celebrated the launch of the 2013 vintage of Finger Lakes Rieslings with a virtual tasting event on Twitter.  This was shortly before the state of New York was announced as a certain wine publication's recipient of their Wine Region of the Year award.  The state is understandably proud of the Rieslings of the Finger Lakes - the calling-card wine of the area - but they also make some extremely interesting reds, a mean sparkling wine and some pretty heavenly dessert wines there.  Let's get our eyes back on the Riesling, now.  This one is from Knapp Winery and Vineyard.

Close to Seneca Falls and easily accessible from "the New York State Thru-Way, man" - as Arlo Guthrie might say when properly motivated while visiting upstate New York - Knapp makes a Riesling that I have been tasted on for several vintages now, and it always impresses.

There is no reason why it should not.  Knapp Winemaker Steve DiFransesco has brought in 33 harvests in the FLX.  Vineyard manager Chris King has 15 years experience among the vines.  They work together well to produce a good bottle of wine each year.  It's what they do.  Knapp has grown Riesling grapes since 1983.

For the 2013 Dry Riesling, the crushed grapes remain in contact with the skins overnight to enrich the aromas.  The alcohol content is only 12% abv and 302 cases were produced.  Hitting just over one percent residual sugar, it clocks in on the Riesling Scale at "dry."

During the virtual tasting event on Twitter, @WineHarlots tweeted that “The Knapp Winery Dry Riesling 2013 is exquisite. Subtle and nuanced, it is wine that whispers instead of screams.”  And so, lean in a little closer - let me tell you what I think in as quiet a voice as I can manage.

The golden straw tint is fairly light, while the nose is not so shy.  Crisp peach, apricot and nectarine aromas are up front, with notes of flowers, then lemon, then minerals appearing in descending order.  There is almost none of the distinct earthy quality I have noticed in other Knapp Rieslings, but the fruit plays its lead role well.  On the palate, the lemon aspect comes in larger than on the nose.  It's not a zestiness, but a sweet lemon flavor that takes the spotlight.  It is dry, as advertised on the label, and the acidity is better than moderate.  It's one of the more sippable Rieslings I have had in a while - but it fares well in pairing with lighter dishes.  I had mine with a Thai curry that was somewhat spicy and it fit just fine.


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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bonny Doon's Heart Has Its Rieslings

The wines of Randall Grahm are so good,you may wonder why he feels the needs to funny them up with eye-catching iconic images and puns.  To sell them, of course, is the answer.  Any wine producer will tell you how hard it is to get the attention of the wine-buying general public, and they'll tell you this with lots of hand-wringing and brow-mopping included.  


Grahm - Bonny Doon Vineyard's winemaker and President For Life - gets written up a lot as the rodeo clown of the wine world, and that is unfair. What he is, is a world-class winemaker who happens to know a little about marketing that product.  To hear him tell it, a little is all he knows.  He's a quiet and reserved guy when it comes to self-promotion - but when it comes to extolling the virtues of his wines, and presenting them in an appealing, attention-getting manner, he is Barnum and Bailey rolled into one wine-soaked ball of "Step right up!"  He's the Mad Men of the grape world.  He knows how to get it out there.

He also knows that no matter how good the wine is, if it doesn't catch the eye of the casual shopper, it won't jump off the shelf on its own.

So, we get great label art, we get great notes - he's an acclaimed writer - and we get puns.  Now, I'm not sure how well puns sell anything.  I remember a Halloween party I attended, dressed in a full black cape with a plastic fish head strapped over my nose.  All night long I got, "What the hell are you supposed to be?"  My answer - "Cape Cod!" - didn't exactly win me any new friends.  It may have even cost me some old ones.  Never dress as a pun for Halloween - it simply isn't appreciated.

On the wine bottle, things may be different.  If kittens, toilet plungers and a bear in a rowboat sell wine, why not a pun - and a pretty good one, at that - with some great label art and a cool back-label paragraph thrown in for good measure.

The Heart Has Its Rieslings gets it out there.  It's a name that pulls in the wine shopper, and is paired with art that is good to look at as well.  Will it sell?  We'll see.  If it doesn't, it's a shame - but Grahm will have a cellar full of great Riesling aging away doon under the house.

This Riesling is a 2013 cuvèe of grapes from two spots - Ventana Vineyard in Monterey County and Wirz Vineyard in San Benito County.  It comes in at a super-low 9.5% abv and has residual sugar measuring three percent.  

The nose is just about dead-on perfect, with slightly honeyed pear graced with an earthy measure and just a little touch of petrol.  It's really a beautiful sniff.  On the palate, just a hint of sweetness lies on the beautiful peach, pear and apple flavors with a strident streak of acidity running through it.  The wine finishes earthy, sweet and luscious.

Fans of Riesling that pushes the needle to the sweet side of the meter will love this.  Grahm states on the label the wine is made from "every so botrytised grapes" and should "reward a long-term commitment to cellaring."  Good luck making that commitment.  Buy extra bottles.


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Monday, November 10, 2014

Finger Lakes Riesling: Boundary Breaks Dry #239

The Finger Lakes Wine Alliance recently celebrated the launch of the 2013 vintage of Finger Lakes Rieslings.  The group claims as their own the title of, "North America's premier cool-climate wine growing region."  

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.


Bruce and David Murray purchased their farm in 2007 and two years later planted grapevines where none had grown before.  The Boundary Breaks estate sits in the area along the eastern shore of Seneca Lake, an area known as the Banana Belt, due to the milder weather resulting from the depth of the lake and the prevailing winds.  Under the name of Boundary Breaks, the Murray's produce only Riesling grapes and wines.

Winemaker Peter Bell - from Fox Run, and Dr Frank's before that - works with vineyard manager Kees Stapel - who came from Sheldrake Point - to make five styles of Riesling, from dry to late harvest.

The 2013 Boundary Breaks Dry Riesling #239 utilizes the Geisenheim #239 clone of the Riesling grape, estate-grown on the east side of Seneca Lake and picked first in the season for higher acidity.  It has been collecting accolades since the first vintage was released last year.  Steel fermentation is the norm in the Finger Lakes.  This wine shows "dry" on the IRF scale, with a scant 0.9% residual sugar and a low alcohol level of only 11.9%.

The wine is pale in the glass, with just a hint of green.  Its nose is bursting with fruit and earth.  Apricots and peaches are heavily influenced by the sense of wet rocks and the fragrance of the soil.  Flavors hold the line in the same way, with apricot, quince and peach acting as a serving platter for those earthy mineral notes.

On the Twitter stream, during a virtual tasting event, @ArtPredator was looking to put this Riesling with some food: “notes of stone fruit pair well with cranberry pecan chicken salad pita n beach breaks” while @WineHarlots tweeted, “Boundary issues? You'll be laying down the law to get your share of @BndryBrx Riesling.”  You won't need a surveyor to find the flavor inside the bottle, either.


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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.




Monday, October 20, 2014

Finger Lakes Riesling: Sheldrake Point

Few wine regions know how to get a Twitter conversation going like New York's Finger Lakes AVA.  The Finger Lakes Wine Alliance recently took to social media to celebrate the launch of the 2013 vintage of Finger Lakes Rieslings.  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.

I always like to point out that the International Riesling Foundation has developed a scale, the IRF "Riesling Taste Profile," to help consumers determine which of the many different styles of Riesling is in the bottle.  It is a methodology that Syrah producers would be wise to employ.  You will find the Riesling Taste Profile on most bottles of Riesling produced in the Finger Lakes.  I thought it was on all FLX bottlings, but through Twitter, @50StatesOfWine and @SandyWasserman pointed out to me that their bottles did not feature the scale.

Sheldrake Point 2013 Dry Riesling

Sheldrake Point Vineyards has been producing wine for over 15 years using grapes grown on their 44-acre vineyard on Cayuga Lake.  The site benefits from low elevation and a lakeside location.  Cayuga Lake is 600 feet deep and never freezes.  The warm and cool waters circulate to provide a tempering influence on the microclimate.  This makes the vineyard about 10 degrees warmer in the winter and slightly cooler in summer than other locations.

Every winery likes a good back story, and this one is blessed with a good one.  It was an abandoned dairy farm when discovered and pressed into a much nobler service, delivering much more interesting beverages.

Winemaker Dave Breeden and vineyard manager  Dave Weimann are the milkmen here, delivering a Riesling that tips the Ries-O-Meter to "dry."  It has only 0.7% residual sugar and hits a low 11.4% abv, so it's a pretty lean machine.  1,292 cases were produced.

The '13 Sheldrake Point Dry Riesling  has a pale greenish tint in the glass and gives a fruity nose.  A little peach, a little apricot, a little pineapple, and the aromas are pleasing.  Taking a sip, the mouthfeel is lush.  The flavors of peach and apple are laced with a gorgeous tinge of lemon zest and earth.  Acidity comes in on the mid-palate and stays for the long finish.  Minerals shoot through it all and give a crisp and refreshing experience.

Pairing suggestions came from @WineHarlots, "Enjoying @SheldrakePoint Dry Riesling. The bright citrus notes make me long to pair it with ceviche," and @ArtPredator thought it was, "a perfect match for Indian summer sunset picnic. Pairs well with ocean air!"  @WineCompass liked the "soft peach and lemon aroma, leads to citrus cream, minerals, and nice acids."  I liked the tropical notes, and I was not alone.  @dallaswinechick and @GrapeBelt tweeted, "Those tropical notes are rising as the wine warms and opens a bit."




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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Finger Lakes Rieslings To Be Celebrated

The group in charge of marketing New York’s Finger Lakes wine region - the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance - will host a virtual tasting event on Twitter this month.  The event - not that they need an excuse, they’ll talk about wine at the drop of a corkscrew - is the launch of the 2013 vintage of Finger Lakes Rieslings. The #FLXRiesling Hour is coming up on Saturday September 27, 2014, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. ET.

Wine writers are receiving samples and will hop online to tweet up the '13 Rieslings with Finger Lakes winemakers and fans. You can also check in through the Ustream video channel. All of September, by the way, is dedicated to the Finger Lakes Riesling Launch.


To take part, just get a Finger Lakes Riesling or two and jump in with your tasting notes. Even if you don't have a bottle handy, it's a fun way to connect with other Riesling fans. During the event, use the hashtag #FLXWineVT or direct comments to the FLWA at @FLXWine.


The FLWA bills the Finger Lakes 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.
Finger Lakes winemakers say that young Finger Lakes Rieslings show lots of fruit, while more complex notes appear over 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 that doesn’t happen.
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 from cool and warm climate designations.  It’s a great way to help consumers know what to expect in the bottle.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Virtual Wine Tasting: Finger Lakes Riesling

The Finger Lakes Wine Region recently hosted another in a series of live virtual tasting events featuring participation via Twitter.  The virtual tasting event is a great way to gain exposure to a new wine or winery, and it’s a great way to mingle with folks who are as inquisitive about wine as you are.  Like many wine regions, the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance uses the social aspect of virtual tastings to their great advantage.

In May 2014, the FLWA staged a virtual event featuring a large variety of wines, not just one or two.  Participants sipped at home and joined in during a four-hour marathon. (Most virtual tasting events only run an hour or so.)  I was supplied with several white wines to sample, and today I’ll focus on the Wagner Vineyards Caywood East Vineyards Riesling Dry 2012

Wagner Vineyards is one of oldest wineries in New York's Finger Lakes region.  Located on the slopes of the east side of Lake Seneca, the winery is in the Banana Belt, where the climate is several degrees warmer than areas to the north and south.  Winemaker Ann Raffetto has been with Wagner for over 25 years, and she makes her mark on the wines made from estate-grown fruit.

This dry Riesling is made from Riesling grapes grown in the Caywood East Vineyard, south of the winery on a steep slope overlooking the middle part of Seneca Lake.  Grapes have been grown here for 90 years, so they predate the advent of vinifera grapes in the 1950s.  The vineyard was replanted to Riesling in 2005 and is comprised of three Riesling clones: 90, 110, and 239.  If the clone numbers mean anything at all to you, consider yourself a true wine nerd.

With a residual sugar of just one-half of one percent, the wine is marked as dry on the IRF scale, used by all the wineries in the Finger Lakes region.  It clocks in at 13.2% abv in alcohol.  While very restrained, it is actually a little stiffer drink than one normally finds in the Finger Lakes.  1,045 cases were produced and the wine retails for $15.  This Riesling has won gold medals at wine competitions in the east, west, and points in between.

Wagner Vineyards Caywood East Vineyard Riesling Dry 2012 has a very pale tint in the glass, with a nose of flowers, peaches and minerals.  The palate shows clean flavors dominated by minerality, with peach, pear and Meyer lemon and a beautiful acidity joined by a great citrus mineral finish.

The folks at Wagner suggest pairing the wine with fish, seafood, chicken, pork and mild cheeses. They say you should try it in place of Champagne at your next brunch, and that's a pretty good idea.


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