The defining moment in your vinous evolution has arrived. It is time to meet Riesling. All other grape varieties are merely a prelude to the wonder of this small, fine berry…Riesling is the world’s most important wine grape, and it creates the absolute best wines for food.
Perhaps the greatest frustration for those of us in the wine and food industry is the way that Riesling is utterly misunderstood. -Willie Gluckstern, The Wine Avenger
I read these words almost 2 years ago, at which time I began my own vinous journey that started in Germany, briefly passed through Austria, lingered in Alsace, and stopped over in Oregon on my way to the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York. That is were I am now, tonight, for the first time. In terms of wine tasting, I tend to put off trying new regions until I have the time to do a proper immersion, to give my full attention. With The Rhone absorbing much of our time this winter, what better a transition to make ,than to shift gears for the summer, and dive headfirst into the Finger Lakes, and specifically explore Upstate’s favorite child, Riesling.
At about the same time I was working my way through a book titled, The Great Wines of America, The Top Forty Vintners, Vineyards, and Vintages, by Paul Lukas. Dr. Constantine Frank of Dr. Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars from the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York , was featured for his cool climate Rieslings, recognized as both a regional pioneer and cutting edge winemaker.
Led by the example of a hardheaded Ukrainian immigrant, the Finger Lakes region of New York has emerged as the source of some of the country’s finest cold climate wines, with Riesling its flagship varietal.
Riesling still is not chic on these shores, but quality has become so high today that Finger lakes vintners profess to see the beginnings of a Riesling renaissance. Though production is small, demand for their wines is high, especially from restauranteurs, as consumers begin to exchange the old stereo type of American Riesling as sweet and sappy for a new image of it as energetic and exciting. More people certainly continue to buy woody. superripe (and alcoholic) white wines, but a growing minority is looking for crisp, clean, delicate flavors-precisely what Finger lakes Rieslings provide.
Dr. Konstantin’s second label, Salmon Run, is where I decided to start, and at only about $12 a bottle, it offers a very enticing alternative to German and Alsatian Rieslings.
Brief tasting notes:
- Clean and clear, showing washed out golden-yellow with the slightest grassy tones.
- Delicately sweet, with hints of apple, pear and mango.
- Stainless steel fermentation: neither oaky or buttery, the result is a steely coolness and pronounced minerality, completely eliminating the typical Chardonnay-like distortion between the preferred natural fruit flavors and the oak’s influence.
The next time you visit a good wine shop or restaurant, and are looking for a good white, give Riesling a try. Alsatian Rieslings are produced in the French style, and tend to be full bodied, dry (little or no residual sugar), and higher in alcohol (the lower the alcohol, the sweeter the wine). Germany is the largest source of the most varied Rieslings. Look for the “Kabinett” on the label, it is a ripeness designation, and indicates the driest of the German Rieslings, but perhaps is still sweeter than a typical Sauvignon Blanc.
Buy this book! The Wine Avenger, by Willie Gluckstern. 180 short pages of invaluable, b.s. free wine information.