On Aging New York Rieslings


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Can Riesling age? Of course! you say. Anyone who has tasted an old
spatlese from the Mosel or trockenbeerenauslese from the Rheingau knows
that Riesling can age spectacularly. But what if I directed your
attention away from Germany to a younger wine region that is building a
modest name for itself with the grape — say, perhaps, the Finger Lakes
in upstate New York? Would you be so quick to answer?

We tend to think of white wines as designed for early consumption,
when they are fresh and vibrant. And New York’s finest Rieslings are
delightful upon release, so most probably don’t linger in collectors’
cellars. But winemakers tend to be nerdy about such things, so when I
visited the Finger Lakes earlier this year, I had the pleasure of
experiencing two vertical tastings of several vintages with the
winemakers.

The first was Peter Bell, the talented winemaker at Fox Run Vineyards
in Penn Yan, on the northwestern side of Seneca Lake. Bell poured nine
wines. Five were dry — starting with the 2008 Reserve and going back
through dry Rieslings from 2007, 2006, 2003 and 2001. The 2008 Reserve
was rich and focused, showing the lime flavor and bracing acidity that
is increasingly defining the Finger Lakes signature for Riesling. The
2007, from a hot year, seemed more advanced and petrolly, a
characteristic Deutchophiles would appreciate. The 2001 had turned
tropical, exhibiting mango, orange and pineapple flavors.

Bell’s second flight featured four sweeter wines, including the
delicious Fox Run Riesling 2008, which I recommended in yesterday’s
column. This was followed by the 2006 Reserve and the 2004 and 2001
Rieslings. (Like most Finger Lakes wineries, Fox Run makes several
Rieslings with varying levels of sweetness. Fortunately, Fox Run and
many others have begun indicating the sweetness levels on the label.) The sugar helped these wines age; my favorite was the exotic 2004, while the ’01 had taken on an appealing nutty character.

The second tasting occurred a few days later over dinner at Red Newt Cellars,
a winery and bistro combination located in Hector, on Seneca Lake’s
east side. Red Newt is the creation of the talented husband-and-wife
team of David and Debra Whiting — he makes the wine, while she helms
the bistro with fresh, locally sourced food. (Debra made her reputation
with cheesecake, so save room for dessert.)

Over dinner for about two dozen paying guests, David Whiting served
three vintages of his Reserve Riesling, 2008, 2006 and 2003. “These were
the best three vintages of the last 10 years, and also the coolest,” he
said. Of those vintages, 2008 was slightly warmer and produced a
softer, more supple wine, while 2003, the coolest, yielded a more
austere wine. In true Goldilocks fashion, I preferred the ’06, which was
spicy, citrusy, fat and luscious.

So if you find some older New York Rieslings in your cellar, don’t despair. They might be settling in for the long haul.

(Originally posted on The Washington Post’s All We Can Eat blog on Sept. 30.)

This entry was posted in DrinkLocalWine.com, Eastern US, Food and Drink, Local Wine, New York, Regional Wine Week, Restaurants, Riesling, Washington Post, Wine. Bookmark the permalink.

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