Mark Aselstine
September 12, 2013 | Mark Aselstine

9/11/13 #Winechat Finger Lakes Riesling

I can’t help but take a moment before talking about our #winechat last night which involved a series of sample bottles provided by Finger Lakes wineries to address the 12th anniversary of 9/11.  So much has been written already by so many places I can’t add anything new to the discussion other than to simply say that here at Uncorked Ventures we hope that all of those who serve as first responders continue to stay safe and those who lost someone special on that horrific day find as much peace as humanly possible. 

Thank you for all your sacrifices.

Ok, so on to wine chat for this September 11th.

A group of bloggers were sent a series of sample bottles of Riesling from the Finger Lakes wine region in New York State. To start with the most basic, the Finger Lakes is a region of wineries centered in western New York State.  Ok, so maybe they’re technically central, but it all depends on the person you’re asking is from the City in which case anything 1 mile west of Manhattan is western, or from Buffalo.  Since I was actually born in Buffalo and have plenty of family living on both sides of the great divide of New York State, that is the city vs upstate (ie everyone else) I feel confident in my ability to point that out without making anyone too upset.

Finger Lakes New York MapAnyway if you look at the map of New York State you’ll find out a few things almost immediately.  First the Finger Lakes are aptly named since they’re long and they all run in parallel to each other in a north-south plane.  Seriously, they really do look like fingers.

Secondly, they’re well positioned as an area to take advantage of much of what New York State has to offer.  Yes, the city is a way’s off, but the Thruway is easily accessible (it’s still hard to type that after driving a Freeway my entire life in Southern California and no, I still can’t believe they charge tolls as often as they do) and offers relatively easy access into America’s largest and most important market.  Secondary cities in New York State also offer their own unique and interesting mixes of food and wine culture as well as growing markets for Finger Lakes vintners.  Buffalo was decimated in the same way as Pittsburgh by the end of the American steel industry, but has been staging a comeback of sorts as America’s insurance home.  Albany is the state capital to one of the largest states in the country, in fact the one which holds the world’s financial center.  Syracuse is a diverse, urban and often gritty college town which is still one of my favorite places to see a basketball game anywhere in the world.  Rochester has one of the most diverse economies in the region, in fact one that we’d be proud to call our own here in California, even after Kodak virtually went belly up taking many jobs with it.  All of this is to say, there’s a market for local wine, it’s big and it’s growing.  Additionally, the location also offers relatively easy over land access to other major market’s both on the east coast as well as in the Midwest, after all Philadelphia is barely any further away than is New York City.  This is equivalent to Napa Valley vintners selling their wine in Los Angeles here in California, a day’s trip isn’t anything to worry about.

Of more interest perhaps for our readers is the focus of the Finger Lakes.  The climate and the influence from the lake’s ensure that the region is often thought of in the same terms as the Rhine region of Germany.  Much like the Rhine, the Finger Lakes focuses on Riesling.

Riesling on the VineRiesling, as we know given the amazing work of the faculty and researchers at UC Davis to document the genetic past of wine grapes across the world, was actually born in the Rhine Valley of Germany, likely in the 14th or 15th century.  Generally speaking most wine consumers know this grape as its slightly sweet version, although dry versions are created on a yearly basis as well.  One of my favorite moments during this week’s #winechat was hearing from a few of the New York wineries about how they chose to have a dry wine, or a sweet wine.  I enjoyed the fact that most produce some of both from different blocks in the vineyard, after all I do agree that both versions of the wine have an attainable market.

Really what you need to know about Riesling lies in it’s percentages. It is both the 20th most planted wine grape in the world, but likely the 3rd most important white wine grape and certainly among the top 10 overall. That is simply to say that finding good growing conditions for the grape can be easier said than done, but if you find them the results can truly be both memorable as well as superb.

More on the wines as well as our community tasting notes tomorrow-



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