Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Boundary Breaks Masters Finger Lakes Riesling

Boundary Breaks owner Bruce Murray
The best Riesling in the US? In our minds, it is unquestionably from the Finger Lakes. We visited Boundary Breaks to learn the secret of their Riesling success.

Sprouting Success

Boundary Breaks Wines co-owner Bruce Murray is frank when discussing the rapid ascendancy of his Finger Lakes winery. Boundary Breaks, founded with co-owner and wife Diana Lyttle, released its first vintage in 2013. In this short span of years, their Riesling has collected top scores from Wine Enthusiast, Robert Parker and glowing reviews from the Wall Street Journal.

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“This is a challenging climate,” said Murray during our recent visit to the Seneca Lake tasting room. “You win or lose in the vineyard.” He notes that the ideal site for his vineyard is the true key to success.

The vines are planted close to glacier-sculpted Seneca Lake. The location on the eastern side along with a favorable slope provides extra sunlight for slow ripening of the grapes. Riesling grapes that ripen too quickly are flabby, while the longer hangtime favors acidity – a key to developing balance and complexity.

Bruce and Diana have relied on business savvy in addition to a fortunate vineyard selection. Unlike many wineries, they started without a tasting room. Distributors were acquired and that allowed income to be stable. Boundary Breaks currently produces 10,000 cases and is distributed in around 25 states and a couple of foreign countries. “We’re not just relying on people walking through the door,” said Murray.

Those who do walk into the tasting room are impressed. In just three years, Boundary Breaks has grown its wine club to 1,300 members. While business strategy certainly has been key, Murray knows that good fortune is all about their high-quality Riesling grapes.

A Hyper-Focus

“In California, there is a lot more room for error, but not here,” explains Murray. “We focus exclusively on Riesling. It’s easier for us to figure out.”

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Murray considers Riesling the world’s finest white wine. He fell in love while having a Thai meal in a Las Vegas restaurant when he randomly picked a German Riesling off the wine list.

Boundary Breaks offers no less than six Riesling, including a sparkling Riesling and a Riesling ice wine. The Riesling that put them on the map, is the #239 Dry Riesling. Wine Enthusiast has twice named #239 (which refers to the clone number) to its list of the World’s Top 100 Wines. The 2018 vintage has the perfect balance of fruit and acidity. Lime notes mingle with a delightful minerality. It has a trace of residual sugar at 0.7% which adds to its freshness. SRP is $22.95.

Those preferring an even drier wine can opt for the #90 Extra Dry Riesling with a bright and clean flavor profile. I found the 2017 Ovid Line North Riesling to be outstanding. This is a medium-dry Riesling at about 2% residual sugar. Its balance is splendid and it will appeal to wine lovers of all kinds.

The Reserve Riesling has a slightly sweet finish with a low alcohol of 8%. A true delicacy is the 2018 Riesling Ice Wine, with grapes picked from the vine when temperatures fall below 15oF. It tips the scales at 18.4% sugar and has a $69.95 SRP.

Finger Lakes Moving Forward

While Boundary Breaks is hyper-focused on the vineyard and the Riesling variety, they produce some pretty darn good reds too. Cabernet Franc has cold tolerance and is the best-performing Finger Lakes red.

After reviewing a Cornell University study on Cabernet Franc, Murray decided to change the vineyard procedures to maximize leaf exposure. Through cluster thinning the sun exposure is increased, which reduces pyrazines in the grapes. Pyrazines contribute to an unpleasant green pepper flavor. The 2017 Cabernet Franc vintage is the first for Boundary Breaks.

Currently, there are only two acres of Gamay in the Finger Lakes, but Murray sees this as a growth area and one he may explore. “You can sell all the Gamay you can make,” he said.

The region is changing. Unlike some proprietors who bemoan craft breweries and distilleries siphoning away tasting room customers, Murray sees it like a mall, where people go to a destination and may make several different stops.

“The Finger Lakes is going through a change,” said Murray. “The pioneer owners are reaching an age where they are selling or turning it over to a new generation. I think we are also learning what we are good at and what makes us successful.”

Boundary Breaks has a focus on quality winemaking and the results are delicious. Look for their Riesling in quality wine shops, or make a trek to the Finger Lakes.

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