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April 02, 2010

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Thanks for the post, Evan.

They have an interesting perspective on terroir, certainly.

I think that some terroirists would argue that the ML (a manipulation even if it CAN and does happen naturally) is masking that site's terroir -- which includes that high acidity they are trying to deal with.

I've always thought that some of those folks ignore the human part of the terroir equation though. It's important to remember that aspect.

Looking forward to trying these 2009s...including the ML one. Sounds unique for sure. And kudos to Paul and Josh for the experimentation.

Lenn - I think you raise the central question about the Round Rock Riesling: While the human hand is part of a wine's sense of place, can a consumer discern true site differences when one wine is partially ML fermented and the others are not? In other words, that's a significant variable. It's fascinating stuff, and Paul and Josh are immensely thoughtful on the issue - I hope they'll add their thoughts here if they see fit.

Pretty fascinating article, Evan. This is definitely something that I have never heard of, but would be very curious to try. Given the dairy notes that may come across in the nose, I immediately start thinking about cheese pairings and the potential flavor combination with different styles and varieties. It would make for an interesting experiment to compare with 2 or 3 different Rieslings, several styles of cheese with varied milk variety, and then note the successes and/or clashes as a result.

Right. Not that anyone should expect all of their single-vineyard rieslings to be handled the same exact way (that would be IGNORING their differences) I think the winemaker's hand needs to be at least similar to get a true sense of the various vineyards' differences.

ML goes beyond "at least similar". Still interesting and I'll be curious to see if the ML is a success and if they do it consistently with that vineyard.

Did they offer any indication as to why the riesling was so much higher in that location?

Aaron - Awesome idea. In fact, the LL team is already envisioning future events / dinners in which the wines are compared. That setting is perfect for careful food pairing.

Perfect... Having a controlled setting with focused pairings would definitely provide the best exploration and results. Really interesting concept.

Hey,

Did Paul say how he got the ML to go? I've tried ML on Rieslings before, and found that when I wanted to do ML (high acid), the pH was generally so low (below 3.0, often below 2.90) that ML wouldn't go nicely or at all. Those bacteria generally like the pH to be over 3.2 or 3.3.

Dave

Good question Dave, I have trouble with Chardonnay in some years, especially when the pH is below 3.4. With less nutrients than are present in reds, white wines are already a challenge to get trhu ml.

Maybe it's just me (and the fact that I haven't had my second cup of coffee yet this morning), but did anybody else misread Lenn's comment to be referring to "terrorists" and not "terroirists"?

Anyhoodle, this sounds interesting. The thought of six different rieslings interests me a lot. Keep us posted on this!

The other comment I would make, and I'd be interested in people's reactions to this, regards terroir. I believe that terroir needs to be thought of and spoken about in a different way for young vineyards (e.g., all of the Finger Lakes) then for older vineyards. For young vineyards, you need to think of terroir as a three-part combination of place and grape and winery personnel; for an older vineyard, you can maybe speak of it as a two-part combination of place and grape.

It seems pretty obvious that you can speak of terroir only for a particular grape in a particular place, and not for the place alone--if Sheldrake ripped out all its Riesling and planted Catawaba, could you really say that the wines evince the same terroir? It's possible, I suppose, but it doesn't seem likely.

Similarly for the inclusion of the "personnel" element for younger vineyards--if I did a really bad job with Riesling and it was oxidized one year, Bretty the next, wildly out of balance the third, could you recognize the same terroir? And even if I did a good job every year, someone else might be able to come in and do an equally good but very different job, and the terroir would be expressed differently.

For an older vineyard, if you can taste decades worth of wines and find similar expressions of terroir over many changes of personnel, then you could reduce the three-part terroir to just that of grape and place.

Those are my thoughts. Clearly, I have too much time on my hands.

Dave

I had the chance to taste the Round Rock Riesling recently and to me, the ML was very understated. In fact, I did not pick it out until Paul told me the wine was partial ML and then I had to really look for it. To me, the ML played out as tropical notes, almost like what you would expect from Riesling in a ripe year.

The first Finger Lakes Riesling I heard of that had partial ML was the 2005 Seventy-Seven Days, a Constellation Wines product made from Seneca Lake grapes at Widmer's Brickston Cellars. They have since abandoned the brand.

Evan:

Great story. Thanks for the plug.

Those who would claim that ML is a manipulation usually pick on the fact that the ML is inoculated (in spite of the fact that natural ML bacteria can be less reliable and can contribute to higher biogenic amine production...)

Maybe he used some ML nutrients? ML bacteria can also be very sensitive to rehydration conditions. OR maybe it was simultaneously inoculated? There is a bunch of research going on at Cornell regarding the benefits of simultaneous alcoholic and malolactic fermentation.

Good story Evan, Maybe 8 or 9 years ago Cornell had a German enologist speak at a workshop. He brought some Riesling that had gone thru ml. It was from a cool wet year and the acidity was quite high. As I remember the wine was very well received by the group. It was dry in style and quite tasty. I remember thinking to myself that day that somebody is going to try this here. Oh well, it has taken awhile. It may be a tool that can be used in certain situations with Riesling.

Neat idea to try the ML. I like high acid white wines but I don't think many consumers do. I'd like to hear feedback on that.

Which reminds me I should pop my 2008 Lamoreaux Red Oak soon to see how it's doing!

This is actually not a totally new idea although kudos to LL for bringing it back. Years ago - going back more than 40 years - many German winemakers allowed their wines to go through ML as a standard practice. It wasn't really until after WW2 that researchers saw the benefits and market appeal of refrigerated fermentation and inhibiting ML.
Since it was also common to ferment and age in old wooden casks (stainless steel being rare and too expensive for many producers) there was a good size population of bacteria available to do its job. Some of these barrels are still used today and can be well over 100 years old.
I think the use of very old wood, indigenous yeasts and warmer ferments are techniques that should also be explored for Riesling in NY.

Thanks Evan. To clarify the "dairy" characteristic of this wine, it is nearly a background aspect that comes from the ML fermentation that we had in one of the several lots of Round Rock Riesling. This wine is dominated by fruit characteristics. All I can suggest is to taste it and see. I fully encourage people to describe any wine as they taste it and I like Evan's "salted ballpark penuts" descriptor.

Ok, so it was not just high acid, as we had that across all of our Rieslings. As some have envisioned here we had the proper high pH (>3.0) for successful ML only in the Round Rock Vineyard. All of our other vineyards were below the pH requirement for successful ML fermentation. We did everything neccessary for a clean and complete ML fermentation under the circumstances.

Dave, you do have too much time on your hands. I agree, messing a wine up is not necessarily terroir. We were fully ready to not include the ML lot in the single vineyard Round Rock bottling, but felt it was part of what was possible with the grapes from that vineyard. If we deamed it a negative aspect, it would have been blended elsewhere as not to impact the flavor. As already discussed, ML was not possible in our other vineyards. The decisions we make in house are entirely part of the terrior of our wines.

We are not trying to be maverics, just trying to make the best wines that our circumstances allow. Sometimes that means trying old tricks. I anticipate all winemakers are doing the same.

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