Friday, September 23, 2011

Saying Goodbye to the 2011 Summer of Riesling

Final Summer of Riesling Thoughts & Link Roundup

My Summer of Riesling started right after my return from the Wine Bloggers Conference in Virginia in July. Once or twice a week I tasted, paired and shared Rieslings from all over. I tasted products from Europe, the US West Coast and several local/regional wines that came from Idaho, Ohio, Michigan, Connecticut, New York and New Hampshire.

I had hoped to finish up this week with an Ice Wine from Inniskillin but the box contained the wrong product, an Ice Wine made from Vidal instead! Not to worry, I slotted in the last bottle of a Riesling Ice Wine style wine I made in 2009. It has been a year since I had had some and it was improved once again. Intensely sweet with good acid to balance, the concentrated fruit flavors are wrapped with something I have always said was a little wild. I’m sad to see it gone, but it did make for a sweet finish.

I didn’t complete my regional quest either, and did not source Rieslings from VT, ME, RI and MA. I’ll get back to this eventually.

A few wine tasting notes never made it into any of the posts included:

Trimbach 2007 Riesling – I found this wine to be a bit too dry, maybe losing something with age. It still tasted good flavor-wise, but was more dry than I had recalled from prior tastings.

Chamard 2011 Riesling – the fruit was sourced from the Finger Lakes in 2010 for their first ever Riesling. It had the signature minerality in the nose with peach, green apple and citrus in the nose and mouth. It was refreshing but might have suffered from a lack of acid. From Connecticut.

Here is a link round-up of all of my Summer of Riesling posts:
Riesling Hour Tasting Notes

Last night I participated in the Riesling Hour event to usher in the 2010 Rieslings from the Finger Lakes region. I received a selection of six wines from the 30 participating wineries. One of the most interesting things that came out of my participation in the event was the sharing of thoughts on wines with others who received something different. I think it enhanced the conversation. I opened 4 of the bottles, leaving two I had on my recent trip in the cellar for another day. Two were dry, one was semi-dry and one was medium-sweet.

Anthony Road 2010 Dry – I ran out of time on my trip and didn’t end up getting to Anthony Road so I was very excited to get this bottle for the Twitter tasting. I found intense minerality in the nose with some wet stone & citrus on the palate. I also got hints of green apple and melon rind. I didn’t find this wine to be as good others I recently tried and was left wondering if the 2010 vintage was a bad first taste. I’ll be returning to the region soon and Anthony Road is on my list to visit.

Swedish Hill 2010 Dry – Orange and wet stone aromas. Hints of sweetness in the nose, although it drinks dry. Peach with a bit of tropicality on the palate. The acidity was pretty healthy and made me think of some of the 2009’s recently tasted. This was my favorite of the night.

Atwater Semi-Dry 2010 – The nose on this wine was the most pronounced of the four I tasted. Peaches and tropical fruits were clear and big. The flavors were consistent. This wine drinks sweet, but the finish has a drying quality to it that buffered the sweetness very well. At 10.8% ABV this wine could be a dangerous casual drinker!

Lakewood Medium-Sweet2010 – Saving the sweetest for last my palate was primed for something with a bit more sugar. I picked up pear and citrus both in nose and mouth. The wine is sweet, but again has enough acidity to prevent it from tasting flat or too sweet.

Digging Deeper into the Finger Lakes Riesling Story

During the Riesling Hour TweetChat Richard Auffrey, aka thePassionate Foodie (@RichardPF), asked a characteristically probing question, and one that got me thinking. The question was:

"What does #FLXWine Riesling offer, if anything, that you cannot find in Alsatian/German Rieslings? #RieslingHour"

There was a bit of protest about the comparison being made in the question, and I get that. The Finger Lakes isn’t Germany. But what if the question isn’t meant in a punitive or negative way? I defend the question with the idea that digging a little deeper is the hallmark of best writers in this business. Richard consistently demonstrates this, giving me and others something to aspire to.

Austria, France and Germany are the gold standard for Riesling in the world and have a long history backing up their wines. Most winemakers of Riesling know this and inevitably use the examples from these countries as guide, consciously or not.

This is not an easy question to answer because most of the assertions I came up with are of subjective value. There is no discrete answer.

Here’s my opinion on what the Finger Lakes Rieslings offer and why we should pay attention:
  1. For a young winemaking region a lot has been accomplished in 50 years. The quality presented today is at a premium to the time required to get there, and is only increasing. More time equals more quality, and the best producers are rising to the top.
  2. The very best Rieslings from the Finger Lakes rival the quality of some of the foreign competition. I said some, and the low quality stuff is easy to beat. This isn’t apples to apples so this comparison breaks down easily. But give it time.
  3. It is a domestic product so we get to wave the stars and stripes when we drink it. Some people don’t care about this, but I do. In my experience the Rieslings from the Finger Lakes are better than all of the cheap, high-volume domestic offerings I’ve tasted so we’ve got a gem here to promote.
  4. It’s a local/regional product for many consumers whose patronage supports small American businesses. Being local can also mean it is greener because it has to travel shorter distances to get to a happy consumer. Because of the increasing quality there is the two-for-one benefit of supporting the small businesses AND getting a great drink! I try to drink local in New England and with greater diversity in quality it isn’t as easy for me to get that same benefit. I felt it firsthand on a recent trip to the Finger Lakes and it got me jazzed up!
I look forward to other opinions on this topic, I am sure I will learn something!

Recent Finger Lakes Posts from Blogging Friends

The 2010 Finger Lakes Rieslings Have Been Released – LifeOfVines blog by Marie Payton

Riesling Hour – 2010 Finger Lakes Rieslings – WiningWays blog by Lorie Perrone

What to Know About 2010 Finger Lakes Rieslings – New York Cork Report by Evan Dawson

Welcoming the New Season

With summer behind us Riesling won’t be as frequent of a friend in my blog as it has been, but only because there is room here for everyone!

Upcoming highlights include two Harvest & Pumpkin beer shootouts, an all New England wine tasting and food & wine pairings befitting the cooler weather.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Jason:
Thanks for taking the time to answer my question from last night. I wanted to learn what was unique about FLX Riesling, and how it differed from the classic standards of Austria & Germany. Too many times I have heard US winemakers say their wines are like Burgundy or Bordeaux. I want to know how they are different instead.

Your own speculations and answers seem to have much validity to me. Despite the youth of US winemaking, great strides have been made. And the locally made issue is compelling as well. I hope others lend their own speculations and answers here too.

Jason Phelps said...


I too often wonder what is really meant with such statements about how wines made on one place resemble those made in another, and often where the classic version comes from.

I heard a little of that in the Finger Lakes, but it wasn't at the level of Virginia and nowhere near Cali.

There was a lot of talk about what the place offers the grape grower and winemaker and not so much trying to channel somewhere where.

Thanks for dropping in!