Jeff Houck, winemaker at Lucas Vineyards in Interlaken, N.Y. in the Finger Lakes likes his 2011 Riesling.
But at a recent New York City tasting for the trade and media he confessed that he preferred his 2010 wines to the vintage just released as part of a 20-winery launch sponsored by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance, a trade group.
The newer wines are tighter and need more time in the bottle, said Houck, who brought four wines to the launch at Hearth Restaurant in the East Village: The Lucas 2011 Dry and Semi-Dry Rieslings as well as his 2010 vintages. To me, the 2011s were timid compared to the ripe and seemingly bigger 2010s. The lip-smacking, round and juicy 2010 dry recently was declared the state’s best dry Riesling at the New York Wine and Food Classic.
And while Houck said the Finger Lakes region enjoyed two great back-to-back vintages and likely will enjoy a third once the current harvest is completed, there’s good reason why the 2010s showed better.
The 2011 Finger Lakes vintage was a trying one by many accounts. After a normal winter with little or no fruiting bud damage to the vines (always a possibility during the region’s cold spells), growers encountered an extraordinarily wet spring. June and July were dry, but heavy rains showered the region from mid-August through harvest, causing some growers to pick early or to drop some fruit due to rot. Grapes came into the wineries with uneven ripening depending on the vineyard.
After tasting 40-plus wines at the launch event, it was clear that the winemakers behind these wines made good use of their their skills. Most were very good, some better.
Topping my list was the 2011 Dr. Konstantine Frank Wine Cellars Semi-Dry Riesling, a monster of a wine. No surprise that it was voted overall top wine for the Governor’s Cup at the recent Wine Classic. The 2012 Dr. Frank Dry Riesling, to be sure, was enjoyable too with its floral nose and slate palate.
Red Newt Cellars Winery & Bistro brought six Rieslings from the ’11 vintage, including four single-vineyard offerings, all bursting with juicy stone fruit and lime flavors: Dry Riesling, Bullhorn Creek Vineyard, Sawmill Creek Vineyard, Semi-Dry Riesling, Tango Oaks Vineyard, Lahoma Vineyards. The latter two tended to the sweet side with hints of honey, but all showed fine acidity. Top wine in the group, at least for me, was the lush, crisp, juicy semi-dry.
The Fox Run Vineyards 2011 Reserve Riesling, an off-dry rendition, meanwhile, offered bracing acidity with a knockout punch of lime.
The Fulkerson Winery’s 2010 Dry Riesling closely resembled a German trocken with a finish that wouldn’t quit.
The vibrant Ravines Wine Cellars’ 2011 Dry Riesling also was quite dry with floral aroma and notes of apple, pears and citrus.
Though I had barely a snapshot of each wine, it’s quite clear that Finger Lakes producers are smart in showcasing their signature grape. In America, nobody does Riesling better.