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Posts Tagged ‘Riesling’

Seneca Lake Riesling Country

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Seneca Lake Riesling Country

Stunning Finger Lakes

Stunning Finger Lakes

New York’s Finger Lakes wine region is not as well known as other wine regions. However, its place in American wine history is secure. With grapes being planted as early 1800s, Finger Lakes is one of the country’s oldest wine regions.

During these early years, native grape varieties such as Concord and Niagara were used in winemaking. It wasn’t until the 1970s when two pioneers, Herman Wiemer and Charles Fournier transformed the region with the introduction of quality vinifera grape vines.

The Seneca Lake Wine Trail, the largest and most popular in the Finger Lakes region, was established in 1986. Today, approximately 34 wineries call this area home.


Experience Counts

There’s nothing like experience. Whether you are talking about a championship football team, a time-tested corporate manager or a been-around-the-block-a-few times winemaker, a hefty whack of experience often leads to successful ventures.  This is certainly the case with head winemakers Tim Miller of Chateau LaFayette Reneau and Steve DiFrancesco of Glenora Wine Cellars.

Miller has been worked for more than 30 wine harvests.  His impressive resume includes wine-making duties at two other Finger Lakes wineries, Glenora Wine Cellars for 14 years and Swedish Hill Winery.  Recently, this experience at LaFayette Reneau was rewarded with a “Best of the Show” by the New York Wine and Grape Foundation. The Governor’s Cup was awarded to Miller and his team for their 2013 Semi-dry Riesling. In addition, the wine won honors as the Best White Wine, Best Overall Riesling and Best Medium-dry Riesling.

When consumers find a wine they love, adding it to their list of favorites is a no-brainer. They keep coming back because of consistency. Due to changing weather patterns and bad vintage years, winemaking is more challenging and consistency becomes an issue. But, that is not the case at Glenora.

Steve DiFrancesco has been member of the Glenora team since the late 1980s, taking over the helm as Head Winemaker in 1995. His long tenure, along with his assistant Chris King gives Glenora’s Rieslings tried-and-true fruity aromatics, as well as refreshing acidity.


Chateau LaFayette Reneau
Fruit and Cheese Plate

Fruit and Cheese Plate

The 2013 Dry Riesling is very light in color but very strong in flavor. On the nose it gives lemon and lime, with the same citrus coming through on the palate.  This is a perfect wine to bring to a football party, especially for those of us on the West Coast were games start as early as 10 AM. The alcohol by volume is 12%, which isn’t extremely low; however, it allows for it to hold up to most foods. It really worked well with a hard and soft cheese plate mix.

When I tasted this wine with food, I knew it was a winner. I ate it with a grilled chicken breast and a cucumber salad. The charring from the grill, along with the vinegar from the salad held up nicely to the wine. I really enjoy a wine that you can continue drinking it long after the meal has been finished. This Chateau LaFayette Reneau wine fits that requirement.  This is one of my new favorite casual-drinking Rieslings. I also like the $15 price.



Glenora Wine Cellars

Established in 1977, Glenora Wine Cellars was the first winery on Seneca Lake. For the white wine lover, it is a must stop on the wine trail as it produces wine from 11 different white grape varieties. However, today is all about their Riesling.

The 2013 Dry Riesling has a slightly golden color along with honey and lemon on the nose. It’s a very balanced wine with bright acidity.

Glenora Dry Riesling

Glenora Dry Riesling

This is a great food wine. With it, I had a pork loin served with apples and caramelized onions with a salad of mixed greens, roasted beets, walnuts and goat cheese. Maybe this Riesling has a natural affinity with cheese and apples since both are grown in New York State. With food, there was an added perception of sweetness, although the residual sugar is locked in at 14 g/l.

I really like the tropical taste of this wine as it warms up. I get more guava and mango flavors when I drink it as a sipping wine. I also tasted this dry Riesling with a cheese plate. Again there is great balance between the wine’s the fruit flavors, the acidity and creaminess of the cheese.


Note: I received these bottles as samples as part of Finger Lakes Wine Month.

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How to Select A Riesling

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Riesling Sweetness Chart

Riesling Grapes

Sunkissed Riesling Grapes

It seems whenever I mention drinking Riesling, inevitably one or two people in the group will state they do not like sweet wines.  That’s when I go on my tirade stating all Rieslings are not sweet.

But it’s statements like “I don’t like sweet wines ” that make it difficult for Riesling wines to gain the esteemed reputation in the United States they so desire.  But I think the tide is turning. A new Riesling taste profile will give consumers an easy way to figure out how to select a Riesling based on their taste preferences.


Determining Sweetness Level

Thanks to the efforts of several Riesling wine makers and wine journalist Dan Berger, a sweetness guideline has been created for consumers to use when buying a Riesling.  The International Riesling Foundation has designed a system comprised of four categories, which depict a wine’s level of sweetness. And don’t worry. The system is simple, forgoing the usual complicated numerical rating system. Instead, Riesling bottles are labeled with a sliding descriptive-word scale as follows:

Dry    Medium Dry    Medium Sweet    Sweet

Riesling Sweetness Level Chart

Riesling Sweetness Level Chart

These type of initiatives have helped make Riesling the fastest-growing white wine in America. Chefs and sommeliers have been championing the virtues of Riesling for years. As more consumers drink Rieslings, they too will learn to appreciate its versatility. Are you looking for a wine for dinner, hanging out with friends or as a gift for a wine collector? A Riesling wine will satisfy all of these situations.

Rieslings pair beautifully with myriad foods.  They have great acidity and minerality. And contrary to popular belief the fruit flavors are not-to-syrupy sweet.


Here’s a guide on how to select a Riesling for any occasion.

  • Sweet – Trying serving with an after-dinner cheese course. The high acidity levels help tame the butter fat content.  This means diners will not be overpowered by either the wine or the cheese.  Dessert such as a pear tart or apple pie are other great options.
  • Medium Sweet – They are a great pairing partner with spicy foods like Thai, Szechuan and Indian dishes.  This natural sweetness gives balance to the heat. In addition, heat of the food brings down the sweetness levels in the wine.
  • Medium Dry – These Rieslings have a hint of sweetness, which due to their generally low alcohol levels allows the fruit flavors to shine through. However, it’s this delicate balance that makes these wines perfect for general, daytime drinking. You may also serve them alongside salty, snack foods or appetizers, making them ideal for game-day gatherings.
  • Dry – A dry Riesling can be served with dishes you’d serve at a dinner party such as chicken, pork, and even vegetarian fare, which can be challenging. The citrus flavor makes it a natural companion to sushi and seafood dishes.
Drink Something New

I think many people are opening up to the idea of drinking wines from outside their comfort zones. If you normally drink a California Zinfandel with pizza, next time try a medium dry Riesling.  If you love Sauvignon Blanc, then reach for a dry Riesling instead.

There’s a big wonderful world of wine just waiting for you to explore.  Still not sure what new wine to try?  Think Finger Lakes. There are more than 115 wineries from which to choose. Wines from this chilly region are produced in all four style categories. Do you enjoy a wine with a great sense of terroir; one with a pronounced taste fruit or perhaps one with brazen acidity?  The Finger Lakes region has something for everyone. You can’t go wrong.

Well, don’t just sit there. It’s time to go wine shopping! And now it’s easier than ever to select the right wine for your needs.

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Cayuga Lake Rieslings

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Cayuga Lake Rieslings

Swedish Hill & Hosmer Wines

Swedish Hill & Hosmer Wines

The vineyards of the Cayuga Lake region benefit from a micro-climate created by the 40-mile-long lake and its neighboring hillsides. Granted AVA status in 1988, currently 17 wineries are region members. Established in 1983, Cayuga Lake is credited as being America’s first organized wine trail.

There are some winemakers who produce wines using native grape varieties such as Niagara, Catwaba and Cayuga.  However, it’s the region’s cool-climate vinifera grape varieties that have brought it the most accolades. Two of the more popular stops along the trail are quality wine producers Swedish Hill Winery and Hosmer Winery.


Swedish Hill Winery

This pale, straw-colored wine has beautiful apricot and pear aromas that are mirrored in the flavor. On the first sip, there was a perception of sweetness, which was not present when I drank it later with food.  I love drinking wine with food, as both play off the other. I had this wine with Thai curry, grilled chicken and chicken spring rolls. Although the wine was a great accompaniment to each of these foods, its lush fruit flavors really paired exceptionally well with a cheese and fruit plate.  It’s a wine that has you wanting to take sip after sip.

Tropical Mango Flvaors

Tropical Mango Flvaors

This Riesling is the real deal. It’s a perfect wine for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. You can open a bottle when your guests arrive and continue drinking into dinner service. Then, as you are sitting around enjoying each other’s company, the wine remains pleasing on its own. This Swedish Hill is a dry wine; but because it has that hint of sweetness, it should satisfy a wide range of palates. As it warmed, I got more tropical flavors like mango.

The tasting room,  located in Romulus is open daily through December from 9 AM to 6 PM.


Hosmer Winery
Hosmer Winery Riesling

Hosmer Winery Riesling

There is a saying that old vines make great wines.  If that is true, then the 25-year-old-plus vines at Hosmer Winery should provide wine lovers with a special treat. The Riesling vines are more than 30 years old, thriving in high-lime Cavenovia loamy soil.

Winemaker Aaron Roisen should have plenty of frequent flyer miles. He hails from Minnesota but worked harvest in New Zealand on two separate occasions, prior to leading the wine-making efforts at Hosmer.



Grapefruit Flavor Profile

Grapefruit Flavor Profile

The Hosmer Riesling presented as the most dry Riesling of the four I tasted from the Finger Lakes region.  There was citrus, as well as pear aroma. Pear and acidity that came through as grapefruit on the taste.  The beautiful grapefruit flavors paired nicely with my cheese board. As the wine opened up, it became more lovely and smooth, with an almost honey like finish.

Through October, the tasting room is open Mon-Sat from 10:50 – 5:50, then closes at 5:00 in Nov. On Sundays, it’s open from Noon – 5:00.


Finger Lakes Riesling

I was pleasantly surprised these Finger Lake Rieslings were start-to-finish wines.  I only wish I had discovered them this summer because they would have been my afternoon go-to wines.  Until next then, I’ll just have to enjoy them with my fall and winter meals.

Note: The wines reviewed here were provided by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance as part of a Virtual Tasting. No promises were made regarding what I was to write only that I should post my reviews.


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Rieslings – They Aren’t ALL Sweet

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Try Dry Riesling

Riesling Grapes

Ripening Riesling Grapes

Within the last five years, I have become a big-time Riesling fan. I’ve found them to be excellent dining companions, as well as satisfying sipping wines. But, I’m as lonesome as the Maytag repairman.  It’s hard to find like-minded drinking buddies.  What many people don’t realize is Rieslings are some of the most esteemed wines in the world.  However, it seems Riesling are like a professional athlete involved in a sex scandal.  They have an image problem and need a major PR blitz.

Most wine drinkers started with a simple, white wine such as white zinfandel or Chardonnay. However, once their palettes delivered, they moved on to red wine.  We were all told that what “real” wine drinkers drink right? And after trying reds, some people never go back; shunning all white wines for their lack of sophistication.

But most red wine drinkers will, on occasion drink a white; but typically they’ll stick to the tried-and-true choices of Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. I’d like to convince more wine lovers to try Riesling. And before you say it, “I don’t like sweet wines.” I’d like to tell you that not all Rieslings are sweet. They are produced in sweet, semi-sweet, off dry and dry styles.


Rieslings are Exceptional Wines

Riesling is like an impressionable teenager. It is easily swayed by its environment.   Rieslings will follow along blindly, easily adapting to its soil and growing surroundings, taking on the characteristics of the terroir.  But in this case, it’s a good thing.

Summertime Fruit Flavors

Summertime Fruit Flavors

Some of the best attributes of Riesling terroir include:

o   Blue slate – Gives it more minerality on the taste, as well as crisp, green apple.

o   Volcanic soil – Produces tropical flavors such as mango and guava

o   Sand loam – Creates a mix of tropical pineapple and peppery spice

o   Red Slate – Provides summertime flavors like peach and pear


Premier Riesling Regions

The best Rieslings hail from cool climates. Several countries throughout the wine-making world make Rieslings; but the top Riesling producing appellations include:

  • Mosel, Germany – Wines from this popular region lean toward off dry and have a medium level of acidity. (You may also see  this spelled Mozel – but most US imports will have the “s” labeling as a nod to the British)
    Mosel Riesling

    Mosel Vineyard Riesling


o   Top producers include Dr. Loosen & Selbach-Oster

  • Alsace, France – Majority of wines are dry and full bodied. Although bordering Germany, Alsatian wines are higher in alcohol, due to the warmer climate and have a decent amount of acidity, which improves age ability.

o   Top producers include Schlossberg and Zind Humbrecht

  • Columbia Valley, Washington – The US leader in Riesling production, leaning toward off-dry wines with peach and pear flavors.

    Riesling Vineyards Rheingau

    Riesling Vineyards Rheingau

o   Well-known producers include Hogue Cellars, Chateau St. Michelle, 14 Hands

  • Finger Lakes, New York – A perfect cool-climate region for light-bodied dry and off dry wines, as well as sweet Rieslings, including delicious ice wine.

o   Well-known producers include Dr. Konstantin & Hermann J. Wiemer

  • Rheingau, Germany – Wines from here are dry, full-bodied and have great acidity. These wines can be aged for decades, if you are more into owning wines than drinking them.

    o   Try wines from Schloss Johannisberg

  • Clare Valley, Australia – A mostly cool-climate region making citrus and marmalade tasting, high minerality wines with a honeyed finish and ageworthiness.

o   Seek out these top producers Grosset & Knappstein, which you may buy from retailer Wine Access 


With summer just around the corner, pick up a few Riesling wines and see if I can make you a Rieslings convert.

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