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May 03, 2006


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I won't even comment on WS's scoring patterns; you handled it with diplomacy.

It's great that they have devoted so much real estate to NYS wines this issue...and to the rise of these regions in the East. But I have to think that your tireless efforts on the part of NY wines have had an effect, namely that of raising the awareness of outside journalists and consumers.

I think it is good news for NYS that the WS gave it some press. And Lenn, I think you are right, there is a bias since they know the region. I used to love to find those 90+ wines for under $10, now I strive for under $20 (some of my favorites are from the Rhone and Northern Italy). Long Island has a way to go. Unfortunately, they did not have have any wines break 90 (and I realize the WS rating need to be taken with a grain of salt), but LI also pushes the prices up over $25 for many of its reds. And did you see Wolffer pricing their reserve merlot @ $125...oh please come back to earth.

The WS play is great for NY wines. But I am also surprised by the lack of 90+ ratings, especially since WS gave two Finger Lakes Rieslings 90+ ratings when they focused on the grape earlier this year. (Or was that in The Wine Advocate?) Either way, the NY Rieslings that were highlighted in that article, Standing Stone (Seneca Lake) and Dr. Frank (Keuka Lake) are outstanding. I recently did a tasting of several German Rieslings side-by-side with several Finger Lakes Rieslings, and the Finger Lakes showed better every time. The German wines often times had a not-very-pleasant aroma of kerosene, where as the Finger Lakes wines, particularly the drier ones, were full of crisp citrus and sultry fruit.

I think that the WS coverage is a huge step for recognition which is long overdue. The editor's comments at the beginning of the issue, however, are almost apologetic for featuring New York, revealing the bias that exists. The fact that New York State wine coverage had to highlight the surprisingly few shops in New York City which actually sell New York wine further reveals how often this region is dismissed by wine snobs, I mean connoisseurs.

I know Finger Lakes wines far better than Hudson or Long Island. I do agree that the ratings were a little low. Not one riesling over 90? The 2004 Dr. Frank riesling, a celebrated and quickly sold-out wine, comes in at an 82 while the 2003 is given an 85? These scores are of course subjective, but they really do not match with WS's general claim that New York rieslings "are the best on this side of the Atlantic." A strange contradiction...

Speaking of Rieslings, what happened to Hermann Wiemer. When I tasted a few of the 2003s, I actually preferred it to Dr Frank. But it got no mention at all in the WS. Hmmm

To answer Jason, Wiemer still makes an excellent Riesling. Not sure why they were left out. Still, my pick are the Standing Stone Rieslings, located across Seneca Lake from Wiemer; then Dr. Frank. Wiemer, a fairly large producer for the Finger Lakes, I'd put right on Dr. Frank's heals, along with a few lesser known wineries such as McGregor(Keuka Lake); and Chateau LaFayette Reneau (East Side of Seneca Lake), which also happens to make the best Finger Lakes reds. It's really neat how the different lakes (Senenca, Keuka, Cayuga) are starting to produce very different tasting Rieslings, although this is somewhat obscured by the fact that most of the wineries own or buy from vineyards on more than one lake. ... Wondering if anyone knows anything about other producers of Rkatsiteli? (sp?) Dr. Frank has started making this wine, and it is delicious. Haven't seen it from other Finger Lakes wineries but would love to try more of it.

Great to see this discussion.

Greg: I think the 90+ scores were in WE, not WS, but your point still stands. How can they mention FL riesling as the best in the country and then not score one over 89? I'm sure I've seen one from the pacific northwest rated higher...do you recall?

Jason: I think the ratings really just go to show that everyone has a different palate and you can't follow these scores blindly. I do happen to agree with them about the Atwater riesling, however...It's the best one I've had recently, with Dr. Frank and Standing Stone coming next. There is so much great riesling in the region though...and it keeps getting better.

Ed: It's entirely possible that Wiemer rieslings didn't make the list because they weren't tasted. There are several Long Island wines that weren't tasted (Lenz, Lieb, etc.) that might have worked their way onto the list. If they didn't include all 38 LI producers, I'm sure they didn't get all of the FL wineries in there.

Still haven't tasted the Atwater, but I am goint to change that ASAP!

At the end of the day, ratings provide a loose guide as to what wines are worth trying. I try not to exclude any wine that scores above an 80, in the belief that the subjective nature of the system provides for a great deal of difference of opinion.

While I would not blindly maintain that some or many Finger Lakes rieslings must score above 90, it is difficult to reconcile why Wine Spectator makes references to FL rieslings being so wonderful and then seems to resist pushing some into the low 90 range. I have found, over the years, that many of the wines which are given 90-92 ratings are sometimes of questionable "superb" quality. In turn, I have had some 85-90 wines which blew my mind.

So, while I don't think 95+ is deserved by any means, it is difficult to understand how a large-scale comparison of the FL's best varietal failed to produce a handful of 90-92 ratings. If you sample many skilled attempts, one or two is bound to really shine.

That being said, I think the exposure given to the New York wine regions was wonderful. It really made these places seem beautiful and special, which will no doubt compel people to try the wines for themselves. All in all, a great thing was done by WS...more respect will come with time.

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