Sheldrake Point 2013 Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes) — I can’t quite decide if this is flat or blocky. I guess the utterly boring formlessness means it’s flat. Finishes…well, “stale” is the best word for it. I sense the effort towards power, but nothing’s achieved.
Ravines 2010 Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes) – Starts clean, finishes jumbled. Direct apple mainlining becomes feathery, a sense of minerals bound to acidity turns alternately puckery and sweet. It’s not bad, but it tastes of effort. (5/12)
Ellicottville Brewing Company Winter Witte (New York) – By-the-numbers white ale, with a little bit of prettified orange blossom going on in the background. Nice enough. (12/11)
Ommegang “Aphrodite” Belgian-Style Ale (New York) – Fermented with grains of paradise, though I can’t say that I notice anything peppery about it. Mostly it’s just big, weighty, built to impress, but for all that effort sort of pointless and formless. In that it’s like most of Ommegang’s ales, which are routinely disappointing for my palate. (12/11)
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2008 Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes) – Underripe, awkward, and trying too hard. It certainly gives the impression of minor sweetness, whatever the residual datum. Not very interesting, and thus its extreme shortness is somewhat of a blessing. (9/11)
Hermann J. Wiemer 2009 Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes) – Anyone who tastes wine “seriously” (whether for professional or personal reasons) has to find a way to deal with their biases and preconceptions. Simple-minded harpies screech their “blind tasting” mantra as if it’s Genesis 1:1 in 16-point bold print, but no one who actually understands wine fails to see the extreme limitations of that format; there’s just too much that can’t be properly understood without having some sort of context for one’s responses. That said, there are infinite ways in which a label or the wine itself can invite ancillary judgments that don’t accurately reflect what the taster is experiencing.
So it is with Finger Lakes rieslings, which are constantly being promoted to riesling-loving tasters via blind tastings and brown bags and “ringer”-style trickery. I understand the impulse, but it’s ultimately pointless; one way or another, the wines are going to have to be able to stand or fall on their own merits, without resorting to contests in which the peer group is purely arbitrary and with which the terroirs of the Finger Lakes shouldn’t have anything in common to begin with.
…which is a long-winded way of saying that I engaged in a mighty personal struggle with this wine, wanting both to grant it extra care as a representative of an underappreciated region and wanting to work hard to demonstrate its specific failings in relation to its international peers. I have no idea how that ridiculously fraught environment in which I examined the wine (with and without dinner) affected my response, except to say that I tried really hard to express what was wrong with it, and in the end really couldn’t come up with much. It’s a good wine that starts out a little awkward and reductive, gets a lot better with sufficient oxygenation, and fends off disintegration for at least as long as the two hours I spent with it. It’s quite Teutonic in its austere solemnity, it’s very clearly riesling, and the picture in my mind while drinking it is that of a slightly unpolished metal sphere within a cube. It’s not an integrated wine, at least not yet (I have no experience with aging it, which is stupid as I’ve had plenty of opportunities), but there’s certainly potential; think young Austrian more than anything else, though it’s not that dense nor weighty. Is it good? Yes, it’s good. But it does need air. (9/11)
Red Newt Cellars 2007 Dry Riesling “Reserve” (Finger Lakes) – The petroleum factory called. They’d like their tank back. I want to like this, because the structure is so nervy and vibrant, but the wine is just buried in gasoline. A shame. (5/11)
Red Newt Cellars 2009 Riesling (Finger Lakes) – There’s data on the back label! Let’s see what it says: 3.4% residual sugar, 8.7 g/l total/titratable acidity, pH 3.1, mking the wine medium-sweet on their helpful scale. Since sarcasm could easily be considered my baseline tone, let me issue a corrective: I kind of love this level of information, and wish that more wines with definitionally ambiguous sweetness levels would provide this or similar information. Alsace, I’m looking at you, with a sideways glance at Vouvray, certain Sancerrois…and we could keep going along these lines for a while.
Unfortunately, in this case I think information outpaces quality. There’s a froth-textured and dilute salinity that is, for me, characteristic of riesling that’s not developed enough…I use that word rather than “ripe” on purpose…to bring the grape’s natural precision to the fore. Thus, the sweetness doesn’t soften the impact of a sharp edge, as it does in better rieslings, it just hangs about in bored indifference. By the second glass, I’m equally bored. (5/11)
Paumanok 2009 Sauvignon Blanc (North Fork) – Pretty fair, though as with so many of this area’s wines I don’t know about the value proposition. Ripe sauvignon, a little pushed (the fruit is a touch over-concentrated and there’s a slight bite of tannin), but well within the boundaries. I couldn’t possibly say if this is representing terroir or not without a lot more experience. But it’s nice enough. (11/10)
Ommegang “Cup O Kyndnes” Scotch Ale (New York) – Heavy, as befits the category, but I’ve never had a domestic version of this style that I thought really captured the balanced weight of the original, and this is no exception. Sweet metal and armored stone fruit with a sandy finish. And, in case it needs stressing, quite boozy. (9/10)