Aside from generally enjoying each other’s collective company, our get-together had another purpose, which was to (finally, yes, finally) sample some of the wines sent to us via fellow wine-geek and wine-blogger (and fellow currently-suffering-Steelers-fan) Lenn Thompson as part of the Taste NY program. On deck were six NY Finger Lakes Rieslings, all from different producers, to be evaluated in the only real way that Rieslings can be truly evaluated – in the company of excellent food. The wines:
- Fox Run Vineyards Riesling 2008 (most surprising value of the night)
- Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling 2007 (worst wine of the night)
- Hermann J. Wiemer Dry Riesling 2007 (best wine of the night)
- Red Newt Cellars Riesling "Reserve" 2006
- Sheldrake Point Vineyard Riesling "Reserve" 2006
- Heron Hill Winery Riesling "Old Vines" 2005
David consistently offers up amazing tasting notes and wine evaluations on his blog, and this event was no exception – earlier this week he posted his thoughts on the six sample bottles that we tasted. His notes are lucid and entertaining, and he nailed our collective perceptions of the wines that night (the only change I’d make to his observations would be in my personal order of preference, which would have put the Dr. Frank dead last because I’ve had previous vintages of this wine that were excellent, and thus my disappointment level on tasting the `07 was quite high).
What David didn’t mention in his write-up was that he’d kindly brought along a different Riesling for comparison. Not from the Finger Lakes, at $18 that mystery wine was priced at the lower end of he spectrum of the NY wines on our evaluation list that evening, and it had me rethinking the entire QPR proposition of FLX Rieslings…
The mystery wine was an entry-level offering from Keller, the venerable Rheinhessen producer. It was clearly a young wine, but with potential to age due to its strong acidity structure, and it positively exploded from the glass with elegant floral characteristics that the Finger Lakes wines lacked. On the palate, it deftly – almost ‘hand-held’ – guided me through its quince, citrus and acid qualities into a finish that lasted nearly 30 seconds. In comparison, it made the palate profiles of even the better FLX offerings on the table seem like clumsy grocery clerks spilling their entire grocery bags full of flavors all over the floor of your tongue.
What surprised me the most was how much my ‘QPR meter’ was reset after tasting the Keller. It’s not that the FLX wines were bad, thought they were certainly different. But, as David hinted in his recap, it underscored the need for balance. If you’re going to offer a Riesling wine that is $10 more expensive than that Keller, then you need to deliver the goods.
I’m not questioning the general price-points of Finger Lakes wines, as many of them are of small enough production (taking place under difficult conditions) that a certain price points are needed just to remain viable. But there is a marked difference between being able to see wine at those prices within the walls of a tasting room, and being able to play competitively in a wider market.
While I was – and remain – genuinely impressed by the continued quality and potential of FLX wines, in my opinion they’re not-quite-there-yet when it comes to offering competitive Riesling alternatives on wine store shelves nationwide. Whether or not they can do that remains to be seen – but they’re clearly heading in the right direction.