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June 09, 2010


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Evan: Because of TasteCamp, some wines you've shared with me and also some others that I've tasted in the past, I've had the chance to taste several older Finger Lakes wines as well.

Many of my favorite rieslings are from 2006, so I'm with Peter Bell on that. The 06 Anthony Road and Tierce stood out for me at the Tierce/Red Newt Tasting last month.

I've had some delicious, maturing 2002 rieslings, including what I think was Morten's first at Ravines.

That 99 Wiemer was pretty spectacular though. I'm not sure that I've had a better Finger Lakes wine, period.

As for reds, I tend to prefer the 05s to the 07s, at least at this stage. The 05s just seemed/seem more integrated, more balanced -- showing ripeness but also the sort of balance and food-friendliness that is a bit more typical of the region.

Lenn - You bring up an interesting point. I've heard so many winemakers still hesitant to proclaim '07 as the best red vintage ever or even of the decade; it's so atypical that it almost looks like the strange vintage. Of course, if you offer them that weather again, I think most scoop it up. But yeah, '05 delivered such balance, ripeness without drought, elegance on all sides. It's probably the benchmark for red and white together.

In my opinion, Vintage is a good indicator of many things, but as far as age-ability, it is just not necessarily reliable. In any vintage, balance will determine a wine's capacity to age in the bottle. So long as there is sufficient acid, tannin, and fruit, any wine can age. That's not to say that a wine born flawed should be aged however.

And a wine with little complexity of fruit will not develop more complexity simply by aging - although a modicum of secondary aromas may form of course. Just being ripe, dense and full doesn't make an age-worthy wine.

Aging and Improving with Age, are two different things I think. The latter requires both complexity and balance in order to produce the magic we all seek by aging a wine long term. Short term aging seems to simply smooth out the angularity and roughness caused by youth and the bottling/filtering processes, and that's the very best reason to hold on to a bottle longer than the forty minutes it takes to drive home from the store.

Jim - Well said, as usual. Only the best wines improve with age, and I haven't seen many in the Finger Lakes that do (though I'm someone who loves the secondary and tertiary components). Certainly the '99 Wiemer Late Harvest is a stunner now, more interesting than in its youth, and that's a producer whose Rieslings tend to go that way.

I'm eager to fast forward 10 to 20 years and see what happens with the top current bottlings across NY state.

I have been collecting finger lakes wines since 1995 and have found a wide range between vintages and winemakers. I like to bring old bottles back to the winery to share with the winemakers and get their opinions on the difference between growing seasons. Overall I have found that 10 years is when most of the finger lakes wines reach their peak. Here is a list of what I drank over the past 6 months- Hazlitt 2000 Chardonnay, smooth and delicious. Leidenfrost 1999 Pinot Noir at it's peak full bodied and excellent. Sheldrake 2001 Meritage still developing. Swedish Hill 2001 Optimus wonderful. Lucas 2001 Cab Franc a great example of how well New York wines improve with some bottle aging. I agree that the 2005 have great potential but are still too young to judge. I look forward to seeing how they develop and compare to the 2007 & 2008 vintages.

Thanks for this article. A few years ago, I had the good fortune attending an older vintage Finger Lakes wine tasting. The wines were between 10 - 25 years old, and it was so exciting to see how so many of them had evolved gracefully.

In particular, the semi-dry Rieslings from nearly all producers were fantastic as were some mid-1990's ice wines from Standing Stone - petrol, honey, apricots and elegance in the glass.

This event confirmed our commitment to the library program that we implemented starting with our first vintage.

I recently opened a Ravines 2005 Meritage to celebrate the end of graduate school, and it was everything I hoped it would be. It remains my favorite FLX red.
Generally speaking, I preferred 2005 pinot to 2007, and 2007 cabernet franc to 2005. One 2007 wine that impressed me was McGregor's Black Russian. As a relatively young wine drinker, I've only tasted a limited number of vintages (six?), and the 2007 stood out to me from among all of them. (Regrettably, I have not tasted the 2001.)
I also had a couple questions about riesling. Comments and articles on this blog have convinced me that I really have to try cellaring some. Generally speaking, are semi-dry and late harvest the best candidates for cellaring? What characteristics indicate that a riesling would age well? Any advice that could be shared with the neophyte would be greatly appreciated.

Ryan -

You're hardly a neophyte - you have excellent insight into the vintages, and especially '05 and '07.

Regarding riesling, it's important to take your own preferences into account. If you like a very dry style, we're seeing that this evolves into a bit fleshier wine but also adds some interesting elements like smoke and white pepper. The sweeter rieslings bring a wide, wide range of flavors and aromas, and tend toward the more tropical / marmelade / sweet almond side of the scale. Any older riesling is reasonably likely to develop a petrol note.

Does a semi-dry or sweeter riesling age more successfully? All things being equal, the answer is probably yes. The sugar and acid provide structure. But that doesn't mean dry rieslings won't develop - the best certainly will. And when it comes to sweeter rieslings, obviously you want to aim for the best producers. I wouldn't grab just any bottle off the shelf and assume it will be an excellent long-term option.

Most of what I'm laying down now is semi-dry or late harvest, but I'm also laying down the bone-dry versions from Ravines and Fox Run. Red Newt is also in that category.

I hope to get a taste of Ravines 2005 Meritage...very curious on how it would go.

Thanks for the response, Evan--that was extremely helpful. I was figuring I would stock up on some Wiemer's riesling to lay down. I haven't had a chance to try any of their '08 yet, but the reviews from you guys have had me salivating.

Thanks for a very nice article. I like it so much. Vintage can be a beautiful. But sometimes the quality suffers.

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