By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Editor
The Finger Lakes ain't the Mosel.
This weekend, several dozen writers will make their first journey to the Finger Lakes. And this month, several tens of thousands of people will make their first journey of 2010 to the region. It is reasonable for everyone to ask what they should expect from Finger Lakes wine.
May is a little thing called Riesling Month around here, but let's be honest: In the Finger Lakes, every month is Riesling Month. Sure, you could squeeze in a month for pinot noir or cab franc or gewurztraminer, but there is a reason that Finger Lakes producers will showcase their riesling this weekend.
In the weeks to come, we're going to write more about the top producers of riesling and what a Finger Lakes regional profile now looks like. But I'm holding off on that, because I don't want to sway the views of incoming writers. There is already enough confirmation bias in the world of wine.
But I do want to preempt any discussion -- any consternation -- that Finger Lakes riesling does not closely match its cousin from Germany, or Alsace or elsewhere. Just recently we saw a well-publicized wine writer lament that his first taste of Finger Lakes riesling wasn't a dead ringer for a German bottling he liked.
Hey, even the German winemakers in the Finger Lakes understand that our terroir is different.
And yet, there most certainly is an emerging style to go with a prominent sense of place in the wines. We've conducted large blind tastings with riesling from around the world. It's remarkable how riesling reflects its home, and picking out the Finger Lakes is no less challenging than finding a German product. Any variety of grape will bring similarities, but perhaps more than any other, riesling adds the layers of place so effectively.
Even a Finger Lakes cab franc stands apart from, say, a Loire version (and certainly one from California). Now, I would argue that a Finger Lakes cab sauv stands out as well, but not for reasons of place or terroir. Not every planting decision is a perfect one in every region.
To those who argue that a worldwide benchmark is the best way to compare wines, I say: There's a compelling point there. Burgundy will always be the zenith of pinot noir. But comparing a Russian River pinot or a Finger Lakes pinot to a Burgundian pinot will only take you so far. Accounting for terroir is essential.
Cheers to what will be a fascinating weekend, month, and ongoing conversation. Let's let Mosel be Mosel, Alsace be Alsace, and the Finger Lakes be the Finger Lakes. And let's be open to the strengths and weaknesses of all.