Finger Lakes Rieslings 2012 Vintage Launch

We recently participated in an online tasting of 2012 Finger Lakes Rieslings. It was an informative conversation with the winemakers/owners who talked about the vintage and the production of their Rieslings. We were sent five 2012 Rieslings to taste as we listened to the winemakers and Tweeted our thoughts and questions. It was a fun and informative format.You can listen to the conversation here.

During the month of September, the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance has been celebrating the 2012 Vintage Riesling Launch. A number of events have taken place to highlight the current vintage.

2012 Finger Lakes Riesling Tasting
The 2012 growing season was a winemaker’s delight. Though there is weather variation within the Finger Lakes area, farms only a few miles apart can see dramatic variation in rainfall, the weather was warm with a good amount of rain at the right time. In general the east side of the lakes are a bit warmer than the west side. In a particularly warm year vineyards on the west side of the lakes can maintain better acidity.

Finger Lakes Win Region Map

Early bud break created a long growing season, giving winemakers the choice of harvesting earlier to preserve acidity and fruit flavors in warmer areas. Rain late in the season was not a problem. Though Riesling is not particularly susceptible to splitting, rain in August and September can cause fruit to split due to the uptake of moisture by the vines.

Following-up on the topic of rainfall in the Finger Lakes AVA, mostly normal rainfall is sufficient to sustain the vineyards. Most are not irrigated.

We learned that Scott Henry trellising, is commonly used in these Riesling vineyards. Some vineyards are pruned to a modification of Scott Henry, but either way, this trellising system allowing good air circulation keeping grape clusters as dry as possible. Canopy management via leaf thinning takes place as needed thought out the growing season. Vineyard managers like to have some sunlight on grape clusters to promote ripening, but need enough shade to prevent “sunburn”.

Many growers began trellising Riesling much like they had labrusca varieties, with Vertical Shoot Positioning (VSP), but have transitioned to Scott Henry over time. Many growers have found that Scott Henry trellising produces riper, cleaner fruit.

Use of wild versus commercial yeast is currently a topic of discussion among some wine enthusiasts. For those of you who are interested, all wines we tasted are made with commercial yeast. None of these winemakers chose to deal with the unpredictability of fermentation with wild yeast. Most winemakers experiment with commercial yeasts until they find one that produces the style they prefer.

Steve DiFrancisco, winemaker for both Knapp Winery and Glenora Wine Cellars did make a Riesling using native yeast in 2011 at Glenora. He allowed fermentation on one batch to proceed without inoculation and liked the result. It was bottled as “Wild Yeast Riesling”.

The five Rieslings we tasted were arranged into two flights using the International Riesling Foundation Scale (IRF scale). This voluntary scale was developed using a technical chart based on sugar, acid and pH which helps determine the taste profile of a particular wine. It is intended to help consumers choose a Riesling which matches the flavors they like because Rieslings are made in such a variety of styles from dry to sweet.

IRF scale

Flight 1

2012 Knapp Dry Riesling KV Estate2012 Knapp Winery Dry Riesling KV Estate $18.95 Flavors are slightly tropical, citrusy and steely. The finish is crisp and clean with great acidity. It is light in the mouth and cries out for a fatty food. Dry on the IRF scale.

This vineyard-designate is produced from grapes originating from Block 11, only 1.5 acres in size and 7 years old. The Finger Lakes region experienced a very hard freeze in 2004-2005 that killed some older vineyards. Only 182 cases produced.


2012 Lakewood Dry Riesling

2012 Lakewood Vineyards Dry Riesling $12.99 This wine has a delicate nose, a bit of oily diesel, perhaps some tropical notes. Pithy citrus flavors and juicy acidity provide a moderately long finish. Dry on the IRF scale.

Lakewood Vineyards grows 10 acres of Riesling, planted in six separate blocks. The oldest block is 20 years old. Each block is fermented and held separately until blending in January. Fruit for this Riesling came from three separate blocks.


Flight 2

2012 Lamoreaux Landing Red Oak Riesling2012 Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars Red Oak Vineyard Riesling $19.99 Lychee and tropical fruit scents are followed by peach flavors, citrus and juicy acidity. This wine has a bit more texture and weight in the mouth. Medium Dry on the IRF scale.

Each of Lamoreaux Landing’s five Riesling blocks is planted with the same clone and is managed similarly. Soil is variable by location, and within a block, with different categories of gravelly loam and variable sub-soils. This allows the unique flavors due to soil variation to be expressed.

2012 Lucas Vineyards Semi Dry Riesling2012 Lucas Vineyards Semi-Dry Riesling $13.99 The subtleties of the nose are not reflected in the complex flavors of this wine. Ripe stone fruit and pear flavors combine with crisp acidity and a bit of perceived sweetness. The finish is clean and moderately long. Medium Sweet on the IRF scale.

The Lucas Vineyards Riesling is produced from 3 blocks of Riesling planted over 5 acres (total vineyard acreage is only 32). All have unique soil composition on the west side of Cayuga Lake. Botrytis was present, in small amounts, in the 2012 Riesling fruit and may be influencing the complexity in flavors of this wine.

2012 Glenora Riesling2012 Glenora Wine Cellars Riesling $13.99 This wine has the most obvious nose of the group, showing citrus blossom and a bit of apricot. Flavors follow the nose with citrus blossom, apricot and minerals. Residual sugar is perceivable, but good acidity gives this wine a clean finish. Medium Sweet on the IRF scale.

The Riesling fruit was sourced from two vineyards. Glenora Farm, located on the west side of Seneca Lake, is comprised of 8 blocks dating back to the 1970s. Winemaker, Steve DiFrancisco, believes these vineyards contribute tangerine flavors to the wine. Ryan William Farm, planted with Clone 239, is on the east side of Seneca Lake and  contributes apricot flavors.

This group of Rieslings offered a great comparison of styles. The Dry Rieslings were citrusy, crisp and juicy wines. As the wines proceed to Medium Sweet the texture becomes a bit more noticeable and flavors more tropical and sweeter. None was lacking in acidity. All had a clean finish.

These wines are available from the wineries via the Internet, wherever they can be legally shipped, and within the state of New York. Some wineries do have distribution to surrounding states.

Initially we tasted all of these wines without the benefit of food pairing. After the tasting we sampled them again with our dinner, prepared with Riesling in mind. We thought Sautéed German Sausages with Bacon and Apple Sauerkraut and German potato salad would do nicely, and it did. The Dry Rieslings both were stellar companions for the rich, fatty Bratwurst. The Medium Dry Riesling also paired well.

For dessert I made a Strawberry Galette. The strawberries were very ripe and did not require any additional sugar. The crust of the galette was buttery but not overly sweet. Both of the Medium Sweet Rieslings tasted very good with the galette.

As always, we sampled these wines again the next day. None suffered any significant loss or change of flavor overnight. All were capped and refrigerated. We allowed all wines to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before tasting them, just as we had when we tasted them initially.

Once again the Finger Lakes winemakers did not disappoint us. This group of Rieslings is flavorful, well made and very affordable. There is a style for every taste, and with the IRF scale on the bottle, choosing that style is simplified.

Thank you to each winery and to the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance for providing the sample wines. It was a great opportunity to learn about these wines and the vintage.


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