When it comes to clean, crisp, exciting white wines, Finger Lakes is America’s premier viticultural region. Clustered around a series of deep, glacial lakes in central New York, the cool but tempered climate, diverse soils and different vineyard aspects result in some refreshing and unique wines.
The Finger Lakes region is home to more than 9,000 acres of vines and 130 wineries. Riesling is the region’s leading white, backed up (and sometimes blended with) other classic, cool-climate European grapes: Gewürztraminer, Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Gris. Not to mention some tangy reds, Pinot Noirs and Lembergers, for example.
|The Finger Lakes American Viticultural Area, outlined in pink, stretches from outside of Rochester to south of Syracuse. The region is made up of several sub-appellations, such as Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake. Image: Finger Lakes Wine Alliance|
I recently tasted through a few Finger Lakes wines (three Seneca Lake whites from the slightly wetter and cooler 2013 vintage, and a 2012 red made from Lemberger). These wines reminded me of the critical role Finger Lakes producers play in the overall puzzle of American viticulture.
The tasting was sponsored by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance’s Finger Lakes Wine Month promotion. People gathered at tastings in the Finger Lakes and from their homes, and we took to Twitter to share are thoughts and discuss the wines of this region. The tasting was timed to drum up support for the Wine Bloggers Conference, which is being hosted in the Finger Lakes during August. I won’t be attending the conference, but I desperately need a trip to the Finger Lakes with my wife and daughter. I love the wines and the area looks stunningly beautiful. I have so many places to visit, winemakers to speak to and stories to uncover.
Until then, here are my notes on some delicious Finger Lakes wines.
2013 Lakewood Vineyards Pinot Gris Gigliotti Vineyards - New York, Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake
Light apricot-golden color. The aromas are full of rocks and chalk, some dried pineapple and honey, but also a zesty, pithy wine, with grapefruit and lime. The sugar adds richness but the sweetness is covered by the wine’s zesty acid. Creamy peaches, kumquats, laced with grapefruit, lime and apricot. Long finish of chalk and minerals, hints of honeyed white tea. From Gigliotti Vineyards on the west side of Seneca Lake. 13.7% alcohol, 12.5 grams of residual sugar, the grapes are destemmed and given 24 hours of skin contact. (87 points)
If you love flowers and spice in your wine, and you’re skeptical of residual sugar, this Seneca Lake Gewürztraminer fits the bill perfectly.
2013 Villa Bellangelo Gewürztraminer 1866 Reserve - New York, Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake
Light gold color. Explosive aromatic display, really impressive: candied orange peel, fresh ginger, lime zest, peach nectar, also some sea brine and sour ale notes. Zesty on the palate, medium-light bodied and dry (11.5% alcohol, about 1% residual sugar). Pretty white peach, apricot, lime and kumquat, mixed with ginger, white pepper, ocean spray, chalk. Long finish, a complex wine, impressed by the concentration, length, minerality. I’d love to taste this in five or six years or mix in to an Alsace or Austrian wine tasting. Even more evocative on day two. (90 points)
From Wagner’s vineyards on the east side of Seneca Lake comes this interesting blend of 65% Riesling and 35% Gewürztraminer. Bone dry and refreshing, this Seneca take on an Alsace-style blended white would make a great ringer in a tasting of whites from Alsace or Germany.
2013 Wagner Fathom 107 - New York, Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake
Pale straw color. Peachy and bright on the nose, orange blossom, white peaches, drizzled with some honey, lime and white floral potpourri. Dry and brisk on the palate, a very tangy and crisp wine with chalk, river stones, quinine, The fruit underneath offers some juiciness to balance out the minerals. Orange, lime, grapefruit, some sliced green apple, quite pure and vibrant throughout. A deeply mineral-centric wine with refreshing bone dry appeal, hints of ginger, chalk, clover. Begs for oysters, clams. 12% alcohol, with no residual sugar. (89 points)
Lemberger is an Old World red grape common in Germany and Austria, but it’s found several homes in America, notably Washington State and the Finger Lakes. Goose Watch tweeted to me that they were the first to plant Lemberger in this region in 1992. “We love working with this grape,” they said. “It needs a bit of extra hang time or it just tastes like black pepper. Gains some more fruit and complexity with the extra vine time.”
2012 Goose Watch Lemberger - New York, Finger Lakes, Cayuga Lake$18
Medium ruby color. On the nose: forward cherries, wild raspberries, rhubarb pie, notes of cracked pepper, hint of savory broth and bay leaf notes. On the palate: tangy, bright, moderate-dusty tannins. Juicy black and red cherries, tart red cranberries. Dusty, earthy, cracked pepper elements. Wood shavings, rose petals and white pepper on the finish. An intriguing, food-friendly wine, lots of fun but showing complexity and intrigue. 12.8% alcohol. (88 points)