Thursday, September 22, 2011

Finger Lakes – Other Whites

In my previous post on the Finger Lakes I focused solely onRiesling. While Riesling is the star of the show in the region in my opinion, I enjoyed several other whites; some of which that are likewise not to be missed. As I did in the Riesling post I will review the highlights of the 25+ non-Riesling whites I tasted.  There was a bit more variability in the non-Riesling white wines and not all producers had other white wines that were as attention-worthy as the Rieslings they poured.

Singling Out Gewurztraminer

My wine drinking friends know I love an ebullient and aromatic Gewurz so I was hoping to give it as much attention as I could on the trip. I tasted it in as many places as I could, and was not disappointed.

Dr Frank 2009 Reserve Gewurztraminer – this was my favorite Gewurz on the trip. Why? Balance. The wine is semi-dry so in order for it to be enjoyable it has to have the right amount of acidity to buffer the sugar. And it does. Add the huge floral nose and you’ve got a winner! The fruit in the mouth follows through all they along the moderate to long finish, extending the enjoyment.

Rooster Hill 2010 Estate Gewurztraminer – This wine was very simply assembled. Moderate nose with some minerality, peach & bit of exotic fruits and a tart finish. Understatement can be an asset .

Red Newt 2007 Sawmill Creek Gewurztraminer – The refinement offered by this wine started with the nose. Flowers and spices rose from the glass. It smells sweet, but drinks dry. It tasted like spicy oranges.

Damiani 2009 Gewurztraminer – this was the first one I tried where I could pick up the lychee flavor that is often spoken of with Gewurz. It had a bit of spice and a nice long finish.

Hermann Wiemer 2010 Gewurztraminer – The abundant flowers in the nose and peach in the mouth made this wine a great sip. It is a bit sweet, but in balance and well worth the time.

Chardonnay Does Well Too

Before I hit ground in the region I was educated enough to know that Riesling and Gewurztraminer were going to get my attention, but I hadn’t looked deep enough to know what to expect from Chardonnay. From the few I had it is clear that the winemakers with a strong passion for making quality Rieslings are equally capable of producing a quality Chardonnay as well. There were both oaked and un-oaked styles that are worth mention.

Ravines 2008 Chardonnay – This was my favorite of the Chardonnay’s I tasted. Twenty percent of the grapes were dehydrated using the appassimento method, some amount of MLF was executed and part of it saw oak. This resulted in a nice blend of melon, peach, fig, citrus, baking spices and warm toasty oak. The body was moderate to full with a nice long finish. This wine is very elegant and enveloping.

Heron Hill Ingle Vineyard 2009 Chardonnay – this wine is un-oaked with a moderate nose. It is very clean and crisp, with flavors of tart apple, citrus. It is dry, but not bone dry so the perception of a bit of body is there.

Lamoreaux Landing 2008 Chardonnay – for an oaked Chardonnay it comes off much lighter than you might expect, but not to its detriment. The combination of spices, buttered toast, fresh herbs and the lime finish was very interesting.

Hermann Wiemer 2010 Chardonnay – this wine had the most complex palate of all the Chards I tasted. It wasn’t the best, the balance wasn’t as good, but being young I was left to wonder what it would taste like in a year. Take note of that for your next visit. Un-oaked.

Best from the Hybrid Grapes

Keuka Lake Vineyards 2010 Gently Dry Vignoles – From my experience in New England Vignoles comes medium-sweet or sweet and while the wines like that I’ve had were good, I always wondered if a dry style would perform. This one does. The nose is full of fruit and flowers, there is pineapple and orange in the mouth with a dry, citrus driven finish. You could easily mistake (not a bad thing) this wine for other aromatic wines like Riesling or Gewurztraminer. KLV was also pouring the 2010 Turkey Run Vignoles which was much more subtle on the nose, but otherwise quite similar.

Six Mile Creek 2010 Seyval Blanc – this wine was notable for because of the huge fruity nose and healthy acidity. It was crisp, focused and clean with a nice hit of citrus on the way out. Seyval shows up quite a bit in New England where I think it is done well. This wine wasn’t quite the performer as my favorite from Jewell Town in South Hampton, NH, but we weren’t in NH, were we?

Other Notable Wines

Keuka Lake Vineyards 2010 White – This is the first year for a white blend from KLV and when presented as a straightforward socializing wine at a good price, I had to mention it. Made from 2/3 Riesling and 1/3 Vignoles, there was enough complexity in both the nose and mouth for me to savor it a bit. Margot said it had a “candle scent” type nose because of how forward it was.

Dr Frank 2010 Gruner – I mention this wine because it was a surprise. I hadn’t heard much about experimentation with Gruner in the Finger Lakes and didn’t see it anywhere else I went. I picked up lime and melon in the mouth and some of that signature white pepper the style can be known for.

Red Newt 2007 Pinot Gris – This wine was vexing and pleasing all at the same time. The combination of peach and spices in the nose led to an unusual substance in the body and a spicy flavor that followed through on the finish. I need to return to this wine to study it more.

Hermann Wiemer Late Harvest Chardonnay – Using Chard for a late harvest wine isn’t the norm, so I had to try it. I found it to be restrained with an exceptional balance. At 9.8% RS it has plenty of sugar, but it also has the acidity to tame it to a manageable place. This wine is nuanced, but not aggressive. Bought some!

Rooster Hill 2009 Late Harvest Vignoles – This dessert wine really brings it home. Fig, honey and caramel in liquid form! There was something in the nose I couldn’t define and that elusiveness added to the enjoyment.

What Does it Mean?

Clearly there is a great range of white wines made in the Finger Lakes. Those winemakers who are committed to making high-quality wines are clearly adept at making them from a variety of grapes and in different styles. There is something there for everyone.

Next time I will share my thoughts on the red wines I tasted. There was great Pinot, an exceptional Merlot and several distinctive Cabernent Francs.



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