Updated: Oct 28
Riesling has been our wine region's calling card for several decades. It has finally broken into
the highest qualitative echelon.
Ukraine-born Dr. Konstantin Frank, an expert on cold weather viticulture, brought Riesling to upstate New York in the 1950's. German-born winemaker Hermann J. Wiemer established a new vineyard and winery around it on Seneca Lake in the 1970's. Finger Lakes wineries big and small, new and old, and on multiple lakes built and staked their reputations on it. Over the past decade I've found numerous decent examples of it, and yet, until very recently, none that came close to their German counterparts.
German wine labels offer volumes of technical information and are often delightfully ornate. Compared to other white wines, great German Riesling is typically skinny, brittle, and crackling with acid-driven energy. In its sweet versions, Riesling's residual sugar is brilliantly counterbalanced by the grape's natural, electricity-like acidity that allows it to carry sweetness more elegantly than any other grape. As a bone-dry wine, Riesling's bright and crystalline acidity is an aria, only faintly accompanied by whiffs of apples, wildflowers, and even diesel... or, more accurately, heating oil. (For our comparison of Riesling with the other great white wine varieties, click HERE.)
During an adulthood of professionally tasting great German Rieslings, I've developed a useful if merciless flavor template for evaluating Rieslings from elsewhere: I search for racy, clean, and sharp-edged acidity, shimmering and vibrant from start to finish as it carries aloft the aforementioned textbook aromas; and an overall sleekness and elegance of profile. It must be of ethereal lightness yet flavorful enough to keep my palate and brain busy as it seemingly evaporates, leaving my mouth feeling like it just awoke from a vivid dream. In short, I was searching for electric icicles... a tough standard to meet, one that surely sets me up for a lifetime of disappointment.
And disappointing it was as I tasted one Finger Lakes Riesling after another... not because they were bad, or even mediocre... but because they were good... infuriatingly close to the great Germans... and yet they just didn't have that undefinable magic something or other. Even some very highly-rated wines fell just short, often enough to half-convince me that Gewürztraminer– not exactly anyone's favorite grape– might just be the variety best suited to the Finger Lakes soil and climate rather than the noble Riesling.
But then Dear Reader, I found it... this bad boy right here:
Compared to its Teutonic counterparts, this label is as weirdly unexciting as
the album cover for Pet Sounds; the contents are similarly exquisite.
This is not only the finest American Riesling I've ever had... I would also go ahead and call it PERFECT. (For our recent musings on perfection, click HERE.) I'll leave it to the reader to explore detailed info on this gem of a wine HERE.
The wine.com site has a good price on this ($42; a more than fair fee for wine of this quality and cheaper than the price at the winery) and you can use the promo code SEPFS149 for free shipping on orders of $149+ through 09/24. Make sure that you purchase the "HJW" bottling; Danny's Table is NOT responsible for ordering errors, nor for your ultimate enjoyment of the wine.
(BTW, I made sure to order some before publishing this info... I'd hate to have the remaining stock bought out from under me by my own readers.)