Our recent “zip trip” to Seneca Lake included a visit to Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, a Mecca for lovers of Dry Riesling. The day was perfect” baby blue sky, wafting clouds, rippling lake waters and grapevines bursting forth everywhere. All that was needed was some great vino to complete the picture.
Hermann Wiemer is an iconic figure in Finger Lakes winemaking. He emigrated to the area in the 1960s bringing with him 300 years of family winemaking tradition from Germany’s Mosel Valley. German folk wisdom dictated that wine grapes would flourish where black cherry trees grew. Thus Hermann purchased 80 acres in Dundee, the site of the winery and the HJW Vineyard.
Today the Wiemer winery produces some of the top Riesling in America and regularly receives exemplary ratings from the wine press.
The winery building has a rustic barn façade with the retail shop and tasting room inside. The tasting bar is located in the tank room and looks out onto a sunny patio.
Green Dragon and I started the tasting with the 2009 Dry Riesling. This is considered their signature wine. One sip of this wine causes California Riesling to meekly slink away defeated with its tail between its legs. It’s the “real deal” and a beautiful wine. It has pronounced grapefruit flavors and beautiful balance and minerality. The wine is a blend of Wiemer’s three vineyards: Magdalena, Josef and HJW.
We next sampled the Frost Cuvee 2009. This is a blend of Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. It has a touch of sugar at 1.5% residual sugar. The bouquet was closed with almost no smell. There was some interesting minerality, but this was not a remarkable wine.
We ran through a trio of reds, the 2007 Pinot Noir, 2007 Field Cuvee and a young 2008 Cabernet Franc.
The Field Cuvee is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Lemberger and Pinot Noir. This is an enjoyable medium bodied wine that retails for $14. Field cuvees typically use a variety of different grapes that are grown in the same field and harvested together. Although this blend isn’t made this way, it is still an interesting wine.
Marissa Merwarth, wife of winemaker Fred, is part of the second generation of the Wiemer wine legacy. She stopped by to chat and answer question. “We’re proud of the history of this winery,” she said. “Our goal is to take it to the next level.” Part of that involves the production of single vineyard wines. The Magdalena, Joseph and HJW vineyards each have different, expressive terroir. The retail store features a display of soil samples from each of the sites.
The Dry Riesling Reserve 2009 is made from select grapes from each of the three vineyards. Although this wasn’t available for sampling, it has garnered many awards. Single vineyard Rieslings from each of the sites are also produced.
We sampled the Magdalena Vineyard Dry Riesling 2009 and it is one of the finest Dry Rieslings we have ever enjoyed. It is juicy and fresh with trademark minerality and a smidge of sweetness (1% residual sugar). The Magdalena Vineyard is the northernmost vineyard and has some of the warmest temperatures in the Finger Lakes. It was planted in 2000 and first produced wine in 2003. This wine is spectacular and deserving of every accolade. It retails for $36 and is an amazing value at that price.
As we were purchasing our bottles we ran into Fred Merwarth, the winemaker who apprenticed with Hermann for eight years. It gave us a chance to compliment him for his artistry with grapes.
Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyards is a Riesling rock star.