Monday, August 3, 2015

Finger Lakes Continues To Set The Standard for US Riesling

Yes, we admit it. We love the Finger Lakes with their glacier-sculpted landscapes, scenic wineries and fresh, vibrant wines. We’re rubbing our palms in anticipation of this month’s Wine Bloggers Conference in Corning.

At the apex of Finger Lakes wines is their world-class Riesling. More than 220,000 cases are produced there annually from 848 acres of Riesling. Our TWAV tasting team had the opportunity to sample a selection of 2013 and 2014 Riesling to explore the latest efforts of the “FLX” winemakers.

Green Dragon was out of town, so I was scrambling with the arrangements, although I was added by daughter Rachel, who is cooking professionally for the past couple years. My contribution to the food was picking up a bag of frozen pizza rolls at the grocery store. Meanwhile Rachel had prepared homemade hummus and a cashew lemon tartlet.

On the wine list for the evening’s virtual tasting, which was conducted by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance and featured makes of the wines, were:
  • Hector Wine Company 2013 Dry Riesling
  • Billsboro 2013 Dry Riesling
  • Boundary Breaks 2014 #239 Dry Riesling
  • Chateau Lafayette Reneau 2014 Dry Riesling
  • Wagner Vineyards 2013 Fathom 107 (Riesling Gewürztraminer blend)
  • Red Newt Wine Cellars 2013 “Circle” Riesling

As the winemakers tasted with us (on our big screen TV) we uncorked the first chilled bottle of Riesling, the Hector 2013 Dry Riesling. The grapes come from Sawmill Creek and are finished in stainless steel. The wine sat on the lees, which added a nice depth to the wine. A real crowd pleaser!
Next up was the Billsboro 2013 Dry Riesling.

Billsboro is one of the few wineries in FLX to make Syrah, but they are no slouch with Riesling for sure. The wine is light and crisp with apple notes and moderate acidity.

Boundary Breaks 2014 #239 Dry Riesling was in the glass to mark the midway point. They are a relative newcomer, but have been creative a stir with their Riesling-only focus that has produced some amazingly good wines. The #239 (named for the Geisenheim #239 clone) delivers a fruit forward taste and a dry finish. It has a soft mouthfeel.

Chateau Lafayette Reneau has a long winemaking tradition in the Finger Lakes and the 2014 CLR Dry Riesling delivers moderate minerality and a dry straightforward finish.

The only blend in the lineup was the Wagner 2013 Fathom 107, a blend of 65% Riesling and 35% Gewürztraminer. Wagner is located on the east shore of Seneca Lake, directly each of the deepest point in all the Finger Lakes. You guessed it, the depth is 107 fathoms (or 640 feet). Fathom is summer coolness in a glass, with fresh aromatics and smooth body.

“Rounding” out the lineup was the 2013 Red Newt Circle Riesling. We love Red Newt and their bistro and the Circle Riesling regularly hauls in a boatload of honors. This was the sweetest of the wines tasted, but it still falls in the medium dry to medium sweet range at 3.3% residual sugar. This is a smooth, lush and silky wine with an explosion of juicy flavors. We paired this with our cashew lemon tart dessert and it was a hit.

There wasn’t a clunker in the bunch, but there were some favorites. Three of our panelists chose Billsboro as their favorite. Two selected Boundary Breaks and one each selected Wagner and Red Newt.

Our conclusion, shared in a Twitter tsunami, is that the Finger Lakes produce the best Riesling in the US hands down. Washington, California and Michigan create some excellent bottles but the terroir of the Finger Lakes and rampant minerality elevate their amazing bottles above their rivals.

Full disclosure: We received these bottles as marketing samples.

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