The following is a guest post from Bob Madill, owner of Sheldrake Point Vineyards and Chair of the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance, who recently attended Copia's RieslingFest 2008.
Nothing like picking a few Finger Lakes rieslings to showcase in Napa, California at Copia. What a novel idea. A Riesling festival in the heart of Cab land. So on behalf of the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance (FLWA) country mouse traveled to Napa lugging cases of wine to pour at RieslingFest on October 19, 2008. Ten dry Rieslings from 2007 and all awarded a Wine Spectator score of 84+.
Copia, the "non-profit discovery center whose mission is to
explore, celebrate and share the many pleasures and benefits of wine, its
relationship with food and its significance to our culture," held a one-day
festival dedicated to riesling and by golly the Finger Lakes was going to be
there. And Copia and staff did a great
job. Terrific organization and the
tasting included some tasty morsels to accompany the wines.
The day started at 10:30 a.m. with a panel discussion about riesling in today’s market. Very encouragingly, rather than turning over in bed, 50+ participants turned out to engage in a discussion about the growth in riesling (the fastest growing white varietal in the United States) and the challenge in buying the right style given it’s range of sweetness. Imagine buying peanut butter and having to guess chunky vs. smooth. Jim Trezise of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation introduced the new ‘Riesling Taste Scale’ developed by the International Riesling Foundation (IRF). This graphic, which is meant to be included on a wine's label, includes a scale from "Dry" to "Sweet" to be marked appropriately by the producer. Now doesn’t that just spoil all the fun in guessing? The audience was very well versed in riesling speak and several mentioned their passion for dry and frustration with unknown sweetness levels.
Then for the tasting. There were 20+ producers from 15+ regions showing 60+ wines. Most were from California but New Zealand, Germany, Washington, Michigan, Oregon and mais qui, the Finger Lakes were also represented. Under the moniker ‘The Other White Wine’ an enthusiastic 110+ tasters enjoyed riesling in all it’s forms including bone dry to Ice Wine (I did sneak in our 2007 just for fun) with artisan foods ranging from sausage to sushi.
These were true Riesling fans. The quality of their interest was exceptional. The Finger Lakes wines were arranged from the driest of the dry to the not so dry of the dry. Tierce at one end and the Lucas at the other with at least two wines from each lake. And for the most part all of the tasters worked through all of the wines... to great acclaim.
They liked our dry wines. Quel surprise! Not. The Finger Lakes was the least known region but attracted the spotlight based on the quality (and value) of the wines.
My overall conclusion was that Finger Lakes dry riesling wines have a terrific opportunity out in Cab land. Maybe more so than in oh-so-sophisticated New York City. Our challenge has to do with the nature of the three-tier distribution system and the logistics involved.
Stay tuned riesling aficionados. We are working on it.