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January 31, 2012


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I'm anxious to try one of these and compare it to a stainless-age bottle. It'd be awesome to have a side-by-side with two from the same winery. Thanks for this article.

Thanks for this interesting article, Evan. I think both Ravines and Forge are going the right way. As Morten Hallgren points out, old oak will not affect the flavor of the wine. It will, however, give certain wines additional nuances. The huge old Fuder casks in the Mosel valley produce some of the freshest and crisp Rieslings.

The trend to less technicality can also be seen at Hermann J. Wiemer where Fred Merwarth did not use any cultured yeasts for his 2010 Rieslings - and neither does Bloomer Creek. All of this, in my opinion, is going to have a very positive effect on defining the character of Finger Lakes Riesling.

The invitation to taste the wines is open to anyone in the neighborhood that is interested in these kinds of things. Having the wines in barrel gives us a lot of room for experimentation. For example, it is interesting to see the effects of indigenous and cultured yeasts on the same vineyard, picked on the same day with the same sorting criteria. Good fun.

Nice article Evan. Thanks a bunch for sharing the Finger Lakes story.

Forge Cellars

The closest Fox Run ever came to this practice was when a vintage volunteer (we still don't know who) dumped a bag of oak chips into a tank of fermenting Riesling, without anyone noticing. Some weeks later, as we tasted from each tank, a major number of 'WTF??' comments were issued.

Old oak is a way better idea. Justin poured his wine for some of us a few weeks ago, and though I wouldn't say the oak aromas were neutral, we were all intrigued.

That's cool to hear that they are doing this. After TasteCamp - I can agree that the well made Rieslings of the region have laser like acidity (my teeth enamel agree)and think that balancing it with a minute amount of oxidation will be very pleasant. I can't wait to taste the outcome.

I'm sure what I'm about to say has been tried in the Finger Lakes with Riesling - but I wonder if aging them sur lees in the tank w/ a partial MLF might give the same effect?? Obviously stopping MLF before the buttery notes become present. Sur Lees would give the richer mouthfeel and the MLF would knock the acid back a bit.... Just thinking out loud - I'm not a winemaker! haha

Nice article EDAWG

I look forward to taking Rick up on his offer to taste some of these side by side.

Also, I don't want to de-rail the oak issue, but I have an off-topic question....

Are Finger Lakes winemakers worried about the 2012 vintage based on the recent temperature fluctuations? It's 53 in Canandaigua today, and it will be ~35 in a couple of days. Over the course of January, we have had other two-day swings in the daily high temperature such as 50-to-20, 29-to-55, 43-to-16, 16-to-47, 36-to-20, and 20-to-47. Are these big enough to cause concern?


The meteorological conditions that you describe present no worries for grape growers. Fluctuations themselves are not especially troublesome; it's a rapid shift from conditions which encourage sap flow (at least a few days above 50F or so, coupled with warm sunshine and little air flow) to conditions where sap (read: water) freezes in a very short time. That usually means temperatures in the mid teens F or below.

Water is an interesting molecule. Most substances have a solid state that is less dense than the liquid state, whereas water's solid state (ice) occupies more volume than its liquid state (water). Hence ice's propensity for bursting cell walls and causing tissue damage.

Thanks, Peter!

My wife and I are reading Evan's book right now, and we really enjoyed the chapters about you and Tricia.

People push past me to get face time with Tricia, and perhaps her autograph. She is the true superstar. I am not making this stuff up. She is a much nicer and more talented person.

But back to barrel-fermented Riesling.

I've wondered why Stainless Steel. I enjoy and promote Upstate and our Finger Lakes Wines to everyone I know.

I like a wine with some character/bite - and I found some of the Stainless fermented wines in my very nearby Estate Winery's "155" label to be too flat, as opposed to the oaks. I've told them. The American and French Oak Chardonnays had more character. I know I just referenced Chardonnay, and the topic here is Reislings.

I just finished reading "Summer in a Glass" and e-mailed Evan about it - he made me do something I never do - after getting to about p.147, I checked the reference index and jumped to the last chapter and STILL wasn't happy, so I started looking for answers - I thought I found it, but a certain other winery's most current event was from 2008, so I had to look further - until I finally found the answer to the gripping question in the first chapter AND the trailer I just saw. (I'm late to the party, but trying to make up for lost time. Congratulation, by the way! I hope you live here a very long time.)

A significant part of learning about all of you, being captivated by your stories and your commitment to the part of the country I call home, was filling in a lot of blanks in my local viticulture knowledge, including that Reisling was King in our region, and that the vinifera varietals had become as entrenched as they have - and that today's wines are so far removed from the wines of 30 years ago. I "knew", BUT . . .

Like many, as pointed out in the story, my palate has gone from the sweeter whites in my youth, toward Chardonnay and Cab-Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, today.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the character of the Reisling Ice Wine I bought this year - vs. the "regular" Vidal Ice Wine. They are sweet by definition but, while the Vidal is almost over the top for me, the Reisling, and it's older sibling in the Cabernet Franc Ice Wine, have more character, tooth to them, and the sweet is not overpowering.

All of this is a long way round the horn to say that I need to rediscover Reisling, particularly after reading about the variations in the micro-climates, growing and fermenting techniques. It's clear that, even though I support NY and our Finger Lakes growers, I haven't explored anywhere near enough.

And, I look forward to testing the Old Oak vs. the Stainless from the same Vineyards.

Thank you all for everything you have done for all of us on your life's journey. We are all the richer for it.

Evan, just in case you are interested. I believe Silver Thread Winery made good use of neutral oak barrels for some of it's Riesling in the 1990's. Having been there then, I am not surprised that this practice has recently been given a second look.

I think maybe even Dr. Frank may have done so as well. What is old is new again.

Great article and comments! I have been playing with barrel fermented and aged Riesling (very old barrels)that we brought down to Brooklyn Winery from Seneca Lake both in 2010 and 2011 and am very happy with the results. I allow full native MLF and haven't had buttery flavors. The difference between the stainless steel and barrel is amazing!Very fun to taste side by side.

Next time I'm in NYC for my "day job" I will try and sneak over and try some of your rieslings. We are not doing MLF but I have always been curious to see the results. Good for you for pushing a bit...best of luck.

Forge Cellars

Very interesting article. My wife loves the biting acidity... Me? A little less so. Hopefully we'll get an opportunity to try some when we're up in late March.


If anyone is interested in Riesling raised in newer oak, you should try the wines of the German producer, von Winning, imported by Theise. They have bottlings that see new oak (large cask), and you would never think it works, but it DOES. As long as you can open your mind and not scoff at the notion of oaked Riesling, you'll be able to wrap your head around them. The oak is not obnoxious at all, and the wines are reminiscent of drinking crisp white burg, as they only put their dry grosses Gewachs wines in them. Controversial wines for sure, but really intriguing stuff.

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