A Tasty Wine Review by Kate E. O’Hara
What better way to kick off this autumn season then to celebrate Riesling wines from the Finger Lakes Region? Finger Lakes Region you ask? Yep, the Finger Lakes give Riesling from Germany and the French region of Alsace a run for their money, er um, wine.
I was able to learn about, and taste, these incredible Finger Lake wines at a recent event held at the Brooklyn Wine Exchange. The Brooklyn Wine Exchange is a terrific find for any wine enthusiast. Their shelves are stocked with small production wines from family-owned wineries. They also “boasts one of the largest local wine sections in the city, and an entire wall devoted to the ever-increasing selection of natural, organic and biodynamic wines.” Getting a feel for it? Well, it gets better. They also have a “Learning Center” which is a 50-seat space that houses free wine classes, chef demonstrations, and winemakers many times per month. The Learning Center was where my friend Joanne and I were introduced to New York’s Finger Lakes region; an area that is considered the United State’s premier cool climate wine region. So cool in fact, that they produce a Riesling Ice Wine from Seneca Lake. But, I’m getting ahead of myself…
Joanne and I arrived a tad late to the tasting. And, as luck would have it, our two seats were in the waaaaay back of the room. In true latecomer style, we squeezed our way between the rows of tasters, and amidst our apologies, inevitably bumped a few along the way, before arriving at our stools, which we attempted to pull from the table without scraping the metal of the legs on the slick concrete floor. Mission accomplished—sort of. I fell short of a silent chair pull; I graced everyone with a quick sharp screech as they tasted their first wine of the first flight. But, any break in the ambiance was over in a flash, as we took a sip of our 2005 Methode Champenoise from Seneca Lake, Glenora Wine Cellars. It was a wonderful way to begin the evening; a Brut sparkling wine that was light with a delicate apple flavor. Next, we tried a dry Riesling and a Rkasiteli from the Dr. Konstantin Frank line of wines, Keuka Lake. For the dry Riesling, in was interesting to learn that it, “speaks of the dirt it’s in” noting the soil’s mineral shale that enhances the lemon, apple and floral notes. I don’t recall ever drinking a Rkatsiteli, or knowing of its origins, but I learned it is the “oldest wine grape known to man with origins in the Republic of Georgia.” It was complex with hints of fresh basil, lime, peach and of course, a smooth mineral undertone. The suggestion was a pairing with sushi or Thai food, and I’m looking forward to doing just that.
Our second flight consisted of a Boundary Breaks Vineyard, Seneca Lake dry Riesling, and both a dry Riesling, and Riesling from Sheldrake Winery, Cayuga Lake.
The Boundary Breaks dry Riesling, with 92 points from Wine Enthusiast, was produced in 2014 which was an exceptional year. It was explained that year’s autumn was very warm and dry, which allowed the fruit to be kept out longer than typical. By doing so, it allowed the fruit to achieve a clean, ripe stage that is rarely seen. That all translated for me to a crisp wine with luscious flavors—perfect alone, or with a food pairing. The Sheldrake wines were equally pleasant. The dry Riesling had classic aromatics of lemon, orange, with the signature Riesling acidity. The Riesling, of medium sweetness, had aromatics of peach and tropical fruit with hints of lime and lemon. Both were smooth on the palate, paring well with either your appetizer or your dessert.
For our third and final flight, we left the world of Riesling for a Cabernet Franc from Villa Bellangelo, Seneca Lake. I love reds, so the subtleness of cherry, raspberry, blackberry, with soft tannins was just perfect—and although the suggestion was to pair with steak, chicken, or even white fish, I am more than happy to drink a bottle all on its own.
Our night ended by returning to the attributes of the Finger Lakes, the source of world-class cool climate wines, and the tasting of a Seneca Lake, Riesling Ice Wine from Boundary Breaks Vineyard. Ice wine is made by harvesting the fruit directly from the vine when the temperature is below 15 degrees Fahrenheit. At the low temperature, the moisture in the berry is frozen, and when the fruit is pressed only the concentrated heart of the Riesling fruit is extracted. For me the Riesling Ice Wine was of rich texture, and a clean finish –an ideal ending to an insightful, enjoyable evening.
The wines I tried throughout the evening may just inspire a road-trip to the Finger Lakes Region with their vineyards and glaciated lakes. But in the meantime, think Riesling at Brooklyn Wine Exchange. Go pick up a bottle or two. Or, better yet take a class or attend a tasting. You never know, you just might meet me and Joanne there—and we’ll be happy to join you.