Four From the Finger Lakes
Just when you’ve gotten used to Sunday as brunch day, I’m bringing back a post about wine. Except this time it’s not just any wine, it’s our wine.
A while back I went off on a rant that New York wines have earned their bad reputation. And for the most part, I stand by that sentiment. I did get an earful from Lenn Thompson at the New York Cork Report, and he and his people were incensed at my loose use of language.
It was fair, and I was glad to set the record straight. It’s not that I think all New York wine is bad; rather, a lot of bad wine is made in New York. Inarguably more bad wine is made in California by volume, but that mostly comes from a few bulk producers. The Empire State has a lot of small producers who probably should be making brandy, but instead are turning their fruit into wine.
Anyhow, I’m glad to say that Lenn and I are back on good Tweeting terms as he helped me out with this Thanksgiving tasting of four 2010 dry Rieslings from the Finger Lakes.
Part of the trick to finding good wines, regardless of where you are, is to identify the grapes that grow best in a certain climate and soil. In Napa that’s Cabernet Sauvignon, in Carneros that’s Pinot Noir, in Sonoma that’s Zinfandel, in the Anderson Valley that’s Gewürztraminer, in the Hudson Valley that’s Baco Noir, and in the Finger Lakes that’s Riesling.
Is there just one grape for each region? Nope. The above exercise is intended to be illustrative, not definitive.
Selecting these four bottles of Riesling was very simple. I paid a visit to the closest local wine store that I knew had a decent selection of New York wines. And there I bought all the 2010 dry Rieslings on the shelf. It turned out there were four. The staff at this wine store isn’t the best, so I had to go with the label. Other New York Rieslings may have been dry. But if it didn’t carry that designation, I passed it up. I also turned away from many good producers who only had a vintage older than 2010.
While on one hand I think it’s fun to eliminate as many variables as possible in a tasting, there was another reason for sticking to a single vintage. And it’s not because 2010 had an ideal amount of rainfall or sunshine or anything like that. Rather, I’ve found that the Finger Lakes Rieslings drink better when they are young.
I love their zippy and puckery acidity. And in the wines I’ve tried from the region, that aspect fades over time.
But I was quite pleased with the four I collected. In alphabetical order they were: Dr. Frank, Hosmer, Lamoreaux Landing, and Ravines Wine Cellars. These were intended to enjoy with a variety of meats, cheeses and snacks before dinner. I’m happy to say there wasn’t a stinker in the bunch, but they were all surprisingly different from each other.
Now granted, these weren’t tasted in a flight. More is the pity. It would have been a lot of fun to sit down with all of these bottles and compared them back-to-back. Instead we drank them progressively, and this is where Lenn came in to lend a hand. Figuring out the order to taste them in was no small feat.
Knowing little about the wines, my original thought was to put the bottles in order from the lowest to the highest ABV. Lenn suggested otherwise, but being we were having the discussion over Twitter, he didn’t have a lot of room to explain his rationale. I figured the rationale would reveal itself in the tasting, although I suspected it had something to do with residual sugar.
But I was wrong again.
The order for the tasting was Ravines, Lamoreaux, Dr. Frank than Hosmer. And what follows is my general impression of each wine.
The Ravines did not make my mouth pucker, and I was a little bit bummed. I was half expecting the first wine to be the driest and most acidic of the bunch. But trying it on its own terms, it was a lovely, dry and fruity wine. There are others who really love this wine, and I’m looking forward to trying it again with my expectations in check.
I opened the Lamoreaux a bit prematurely before it had time to warm up a bit after its stay in the refrigerator. As a result the first sips were unremarkable. However, as it came to temperature, the wine really began to charm me. I loved its balance of fruit and acidity, with just a little bit of a tingle around the edges of the tongue and mouth to keep you on your toes.
Dr. Frank was a showstopper. This was a zesty, spirited wine that made you sit up and pay attention. It said, “I’m a cold climate grape, dammit, and you will feel my tingle.” I could come up with synonyms for acidic all day. Snappy is a good one, though. I’ll go with snappy.
Given the progression up until this point, I thought Lenn was moving from least to the most acidic. Which made me kind of fearful of the Hosmer.
But I was wrong again.
Because oddly, even though the Hosmer site talks all about the fruit and acidity in their 2010 dry Riesling, I was struck by its minerality. And as it turns out, I’m not the only one. And above anything else, I’ll think of this wine as gravelly. But that’s a good thing too. I swear.
This was an exciting tasting, and these four different bottles would make for a delightful flight. Even in a casual evaluation, I was able to see their major differences. But it would be a pleasure to sit down with these wines and four glasses, and give them the attention they deserve.