The Finger Lakes has glacier-sculpted landscapes, ideal microclimates and gifted winegrowers that produce some of the world’s best Rieslings. The tasting team from Toledo Wines and Vines recently sampled several Finger Lakes Rieslings from the new 2012 vintage pairing them with an assortment of dishes and contrasting them again against Rieslings from Germany and Alsace.
Our tasting panel included Green Dragon, Wine Chick, Sax Man plus our friends Larry and Donna (they still have to earn their nicknames!).
The main event, of course, was the debut of the 2012 Finger Lakes Riesling vintage. Each was paired with a delicious dish. We also threw in Rieslings from Germany and Alsace to make this a true challenge. Here’s a capsule on each wine.
Louis Guntrum 2007 Rheinhessen Dry Riesling, Germany -- This arrival wine from the “competition” opened with some slight spritz. The temperature had gotten above 90 degrees, so this first Riesling was like a tropical breeze. The flavor was mild and elegance with the flavor of pears.
Swedish Hill Winery 2012 Dry Riesling – Pairing: Lime-infused coconut squash curry soup. This crisp wine is very dry (0.8 residual sugar) with a faint sweetness that quickly recedes. The wine paired well with the spice of the soup. Light minerality. Swedish Hill has grown to be one of the Finger Lakes largest producers. It is the only winery of the five tasted that we haven’t visited, so we are due.
Standing Stone Vineyards Old West Block 2012 Riesling – Pairing: Island Fish Salad. This wine was paired with a salad that had mango dressing and a warm, mild whitefish. The wine comes from an exceptional Riesling vineyard and it was a favorite with our tasters. There is an initial tartness then smoothes into a rich, almost buttery texture. This has 1.4% residual sugar, but tastes dry. It offers a kick of pepper. Only 129 cases – buy it now!
Red Newt Cellars 2012 Circle Riesling – Pairing: General Tsao’s Chicken. The Red Newt is almost in walking distance of the B&B we stay at on Seneca Lake. We frequent the Red Newt Bistro and are fans of all things Newt. Circle Riesling is one of the most awarded Rieslings in the Finger Lakes. This medium sweet Riesling is like a Swiss Army knife – good for almost any occasion. The spicy Chinese chicken was a great pairing. It offers bright flavors of apple and citrus. A slight bite on the finish.
Wagner Vineyards 2012 Riesling Select – Pairing: Shrimp with Sizzlin’ Sauce. The Wagner Riesling represented a jump in the sweetness scale. It has 4.2 residual sugar and is finished in a Germanic style. The earlier wines had ample acidity, but this one called out for some spicy food to balance the sweetness. It is a lush wine from Wagner’s oldest Riesling block.
Domaine Schlumberger 2008 Les Princes Abbés Riesling, Alsace, France. Time for another speed bump by injecting a Riesling from another top wine region: Alsace. This wine would have been better earlier in the tasting order, since it is much drier than the Wagner at 2.2% residual sugar. There was no minerality to speak of, but a some nice fresh fruit with an almost salty quality to the finish. A top wine, but it could not steal the show from the Finger Lakes.
Fulkerson Winery 2012 Riesling Iced Wine – Pairing: Apple Brown Betty. This is a delicious dessert wine at 19.7% residual sugar. The consistency is thick with aromas of wood and honey. We sampled with with a great Apple Brown Betty dessert. This pairing would not be out of place at a fine dining restaurant.
On the palate it offers a delicious apricot honey flavor. This is not a wine to take a big gulp, but small sips to savor with a sweet dessert. Due to forecast rain, Fulkerson decided to harvest the grapes at optimum ripeness and freeze them later, making it an “iced” wine. Traditional ice wines are harvested while the grapes are frozen.
First of all thanks to Green Dragon for preparing all the dishes (except for the Chinese, which was provided by Wine Chick and Sax Man). Cheers also to the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance who provided the Finger Lakes samples and coordinated the #winechat virtual tasting.
Our conclusion: There’s a wealth of Riesling in the Finger Lakes and the wine stands tall even when compared with some of the world’s greatest Riesling regions like Rheinhessen and Alsace. The 2012 vintage offers fresh, vibrant world-class Riesling from the Finger Lakes.