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March 25, 2008


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"I can't help but wonder what would happen if you put some of that 89-point Anthony Road riesling into a bottle featuring a German label."

I've not had many FL Rieslings, but still, are they so similar to German ones that they would fool someone into thinking it's a German wine? I've yet to have an American Gewürztraminer that was similar enough to an Alsace or Alto Adige one to fool someone. (I have had two NZs ones that do, though.)

Jack: That's a fair point, but I'm not really suggesting that Finger Lakes rieslings will fool anyone into thinking that they are from the Mosel (or Alsace or anywhere else). It's about letting the wines get a fair shake and not letting a regional bias negatively affect the scores they receive.

Of course they are influenced by those 'unblind' wine notes! I have been saying that for a while. Does it make any sense that a 90 pt. wine will sell 500 cases a year in a store and an 89 pointer(that could be the exact same wine!) will only sell 50 cases? All because of what 1 person thought and a little score tag 'callout' next to the wine? I would love to see the results of some kind of consumer study on this subject.

In the past, several wines from the Finger Lakes have received 90+ scores, though most were Ice wines. The 2002 Dr. Konstantin Frank Riesling though did receive a 90 score.

James Molesworth also addressed the issue of his scores for NY and other US states (non-CA, WA, OR) on his blog (http://www.winespectator.com/Wine/Blogs/Blog_Detail/0,4211,1607,00.html). And NY has fared better than those other US states in scores.

He states: "Within New York state, the Finger Lakes has quality Riesling in the palm of its hand, but seems intent on tinkering with a hodgepodge of varieties, including reds from Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir that rarely achieve good ripeness and varietal character in upstate New York. That lack of focus keeps holding the region back."

I wonder if WS does their dessert wine tastings the same way (by region) or if the Finger Lakes stuff is thrown in with other regions. Maybe we'll find out.

He's 100% right though...I wish the region would stop trying to grow cabernet sauvignon and do what it does best -- riesling and gewurztraminer.

Again, I'm not necessarily saying that these wines deserve 95-point scores, or even 90 (because I don't use that scoring system), but it's interesting that not one of these wines was deemed worthy of the magic 90 score.

Of course, the FL wineries are still thrilled with these 88s and 89s...but it's pretty well accepted that a 90 will sell your wine in shops.

Lenn - I wasn't quibbling with your main point; but it's hard for me to say how fair the scores are, as I just haven't tasted much from NY recently. Did you disagree with David Schildknecht's scores in the WA back in June of 2006?

I notice that neither you nor a commenter has named a wine that you felt deserved a score of 91+ and didn't get it.

Having spent the first 35 years of my life in the state of NY, I keep hoping the wines come up a big notch in quality. I agree that the state, as a whole, is not focused enough on what varietals work best.

I don't see any full page ads in wine spectator for FL Rieslings yet. Isn't that the way to break the glass ceiling? Just a thought.

Lenn, when are the wineries going to include your ratings on their shelf talkers? Just an idea.

Bold article for sure Lenn.
My family and I have conducted blind tastings, of a variety of beverages (even root beer once w/ my son and his friends- the cheapest stuff won) for decades now, long before I entered the industry. I am personally hesitant to criticize any magazine's staff for their techniques, as I know full well that I'm a neophyte in the complex world of libations judging. That said, however, I cannot agree strongly enough with your basic tenet. Seems to me that *any* publication (whether digital or analog) that literally, consistently, and persistently did purely blind tastings would be fully embraced by their readers. Time after time, studies have consistently shown that in aggregate pre-conceptions about a beverage can color one's opinion of that beverage. If a group of people think they're drinking a $60 bottle of wine, in aggregate they're going to award it a higher rating than the bottle they think only cost $6. This is not a slam of Spectator or anybody, merely a statement of statistical fact. Hopefully an enterprising nu-media fellow like yourself will grab the proverbial bull by the horns and we'll start seeing more and more truly blind tastings: the world, I suspect, will be happily surprised by the findings....

Of course, while we're on this timely topic, I'm obligated to remind your readers that our 3rd annual Golden Nose Award event in late May is done 100% blind. The ticketed Judges that participate in this event of course know that they're sampling all Finger Lakes wines, but that is all they know. Which is why I continue to genuinely believe that from a consumer's perspective those wines that receive double golds and best in class awards at this event are truly some of the very, very best wines this region has released in a given year. Shameless promoter that I am, however, I'll refrain from clogging your blog with links to the event site... ;-)

Keep up the good work!


There appears to certainly be a bit of discounting of the local Rieslings, unfortunately to be expected. The state and the region have got to do a better job of marketing the wonderful output from the Finger Lakes. There is some reverse snobbery at work here that needs to be overcome. Very much the same reason some people like certain German sports cars over a Corvette even though, dollar for dollar, the latter will blow the former's doors off. Anything made by my neighbors cannot possibly be as good as what is made by those exotic strangers. Yeah, I know, it is a bit of a stretch to think of Germans as exotic, but you know what I mean. In any case, for a fuller analysis on the subject of Finger Lakes Rieslings check out http://www.winesny.com.

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