Tuesday, October 6, 2009

TasteNY: Finger Lakes Rieslings

New York wines are seeing more and more promotion lately. One of the latest efforts is TasteNY, led by wine blogger Lenn of Lenndevours: The NY Cork Report. The basic idea is that quarterly, Lenn will select a set of New York-made wines, beers or spirits and send them out to a small group of bloggers. The bloggers are not obligated to write about the products, and if they choose to do so, can do so at any time. Lenn just hopes the bloggers will drink the wines with friends, and preferably paired with food.

For the first edition, Lenn chose to concentrate on Rieslings from the Finger Lakes region. I was one of the participating bloggers and received a case of 12 different Rieslings. I eventually arranged to taste the wines with some fellow bloggers and friends, including Dale of Drinks Are On Me, Bob of The Wellesley Wine Press, and Doris of Wines For All Reasons.

We decided to taste the wines over dinner at Kyotoya, a Japanese restaurant in Stoneham. They have a BYOB policy and do not even charge a corkage fee so it was a perfect place to bring the wines. Plus, I think the food is very good here, especially the compelling Unagi Sandwich. Everyone else, for whom it was their first visit here, seemed to enjoy the food as well. It is a very casual place, and was relatively quiet that night so it was almost as if we had our own private room.

I have a little experience with Finger Lakes wines, but am definitely interested in tasting more of their wines. From what I have previously tasted, I have enjoyed a number of their wines, also finding most of them to be very reasonably priced. So it was fun to get to try 12 of their Rieslings, to get a better view of a single grape.

It was also fascinating to hear all the different opinions about these wines from my fellow tasters. Though there was some general agreements over the best and the worst, there was plenty of individual preference as well. Some prefer a bit sweeter of a Riesling while others want them drier. Others don't mind a bit of petrol smell while others dislike it immensely.

These are the wines we sampled:
2005 Heron Hill Winery Old Vines Riesling
2006 Ravines Wine Cellars Riesling
2006 Red Newt Wine Cellars Reserve Riesling
2006 Sheldrake Point Reserve Riesling
2007 Atwater Vineyards Dry Riesling
2007 Wiemer Vineyards Dry Riesling
2007 Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling
2008 Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards Homestead Reserve Riesling
2008 Anthony Road Wine Company Semi-Dry Riesling
2008 Billsboro Winery Dry Riesling
2008 Fox Run Vineyards Riesling
2008 Lamoreaux Landing Red Oak Vineyard Riesling

My personal favorite, and which many others thought was excellent too, was the 2008 Lamoreaux Landing Red Oak Vineyard Riesling. Why did I prefer this wine? First, it was more of a dry style, which is my general preference for Riesling unless I am pairing it with a spicy dish. Two, it seemed to have the most character, that nebulous melange of flavor, body, finish, smell, and style. It just stood out to my palate. It was crisp, flavorful, complex and delicious. I probably tasted this wine around the middle of the group, so had already tasted five or six wines before this one.

Not far behind the Lamoreaux, I also very much enjoyed the 2006 Sheldrake Point Reserve Riesling, 2006 Ravines Wine Cellars Riesling, and the 2006 Red Newt Wine Cellars Reserve Riesling. They also tended to be dry Rieslings. Most of the other wines were good, with the exception of two.

The two wines which I really didn't enjoy were the 2005 Heron Hill Winery Old Vines Riesling and the 2008 Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards Homestead Reserve Riesling. The Heron Hill had too strong of a petrol smell for me. I know there are plenty of people who enjoy a petrol smell in their Rieslings, especially older ones, but I am not one of them. So it was more a matter of preference. As for the Hazlitt, it seemed to disappoint almost everyone. It just had a very offputting taste.

Overall, the Finger Lakes Rieslings showed well. Riesling is a grape that seems to do well in that region, and the producers make several different styles which should appeal to different preferences. The wines, which cost $14-$26, were generally reasonably priced. I recommend that you check out their wines and see for yourself.

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