By Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor
"I'm not ready to give up riesling to our friends up north."
That's how Jim Silver, general manager at Peconic Bay Winery, kicked off a recent vertical tasting of ten Peconic Bay Rieslings for a group of 30 or so wine club members and a few press folks.
By "friends up north" Silver was, of course, referring to wineries in the Finger Lakes, where this country's best rieslings are born. Vineyard-wise, the Finger Lakes are still dominated by hybrids, and even natives like Concord, but most of the best wines there are made with riesling.
It's the future of the region and what will continue to build it's reputation in the wine world.
Here on Long Island, riesling is a bit player, a character actor that will never take center stage in any sort of meaningful way. It's warmer here -- good for merlot and other Bordeaux red varieties -- but not neccessarily good for riesling. Add elevated humidity of a maritime climate and you'll understand why riesling isn't more prevalent on Long Island.
That all said, there are some good rieslings being made locally and Greg Gove, winemaker at Peconic Bay Winery, consistently crafts one of the best. The wines change stylistically from year to year depending on the growing season, but Gove's dedication to riesling is apparent. Clearly, he enjoys working with it, despite the challenges.
As he led us through the ten vintages of riesling, from 2000 through the not-yet-released 2009 bottling, the beauty of riesling and vintage variation was on full display. That's one of the real treats about riesling -- it is so transparent, making it a clear looking glass into place and weather.
Each of the ten wines was a treat, but a few certainly stood out (I've marked those with a * below).
These are my notes, straight from my tasting notebook :
Peconic Bay Winery 2000 Riesling: Peach, honey and orange marmalade on the nose with an intense minty-herbal quality and petrol. Soft and tongue-coating on the palate with more orange marmalade, cotton candy and minty herbs. The acidity has faded, but the flavors remain.
Peconic Bay Winery 2001 Riesling: Less intensely minty with fresher, brighter fruit character - citrus, pear and peach. Still a nice bit of acid on the finish, along with understated minerality, petrol and honey.
Peconic Bay Winery 2002 Riesling: Maybe my least favorite of the group. Nose is a little muted. Mostly citrus, primarily grapefruit, with some blanched almond and petrol.
Peconic Bay Winery 2003 Riesling*: Honey and nuts lead the nose with intense lemon-lime citrus aromas. Bright and citrusy on a broad, mouth-filling palate with youthful acidity and lingering nuttiness.
Peconic Bay Winery 2004 Riesling*: Leaner, but more focused and extremely lively with peach, citrus and minerality. Long, dry finish and bright acid. Plenty of time left in the bottle.
Peconic Bay Winery 2005 Riesling: Another of my least favorite. Lots of petrol, orange, grapefruit and papaya with low acidity and a short finish.
Peconic Bay Winery 2006 Riesling*: Classic with great balance of fruit, residual sugar and acidity. Floral with great fruit intensity -- peach and sweet lime -- and still-fresh acidity.
Peconic Bay Winery 2007 Riesling: Ripe, Meyer lemon and grapefruit with a little peach. A little petrol too. Surprisingly balanced for the hot growing season. Something on the nose that I thought might be VA but Gove thought it was from sulfur at bottling.
Peconic Bay Winery 2008 Riesling: Citrus blossom, lime and white peach character wrapped up in great acidity with just a touch of residual sugar. Refreshing and clean, if a little austere.
Peconic Bay Winery 2009 Riesling**: Grapefruit, citrus blossom, and juicy peach on the nose. Snappy and tastes dry because of big acidity. Just bottled, but already showing that it could be Gove's best yet. Need to re-taste at release.
Driving home after the tasting, I couldn't help but feel lucky to have such diversity in our local wine industry. There truly is a wine for every occasion and palate here -- that can't be said about very many wine regions in the world. Expect a post about that soon.