Few things in life taste as sweet (figuratively, anyway) as serendipity.
For me, one of the simplest but most rewarding of life’s little pleasures is to reach randomly in the wine sample pool, and by lucky happenstance come up with something pleasantly surprising – which is exactly what happened to me late last week.
Last Friday, we whipped up an Indian dish, and I was fiddling around with my long-overdue foray into the ownership of a “proper” camera (modest attempts at lowish-light photog are inset here and below… be gentle, please!), when I was tasked with raiding the basement’s ever-expanding world of cardboard shipping boxes to come up with a suitable wine match.
And that’s how I first met Keuka Lake Vineyards. Which turned out to be pretty lucky for me.
In this case, serendipity tastes not sweet but bone-friggin-dry – and while the KLV selection did a fantastic job Tandoori Chicken, that’s not why it’s being featured here this week…
So what made me so happy about this random selection from the sample pool? This wine is one of the most complete Rieslings I’ve yet to taste coming out of the Finger Lakes.
That the Finger Lakes can produce excellent Riesling isn’t news to any budding wine geek, nor is it really even up for debate any longer in my view. But what I think is news-worthy about this wine is that it so cleanly evokes Germany’s steely and austere Rheingau Rieslings while also evoking a unique sense of place that is decidedly NY – all while providing the backdrop and structure to age well (potentially for decades, if you’re into that sort of thing).
2010 Keuka Lake Vineyards Dry Riesling Falling Man Vineyard (Finger Lakes)
At nearly 14% abv, this wine runs the risk of being too big for its own vinous britches, but it packs so much age-worthy acidity and pureness of fruit that it will take approximately one whiff of this to dispel any notion in your head of skipping out on this beauty just because you saw “Riesling” and “13.9%” printed on the same label.
If KLV’s aim was to pay homage to the crisp, austere, shiny-suit-of-armor-on-the-field-of-battle style of Riesling that’s more-or-less been perfected in the Rheingau, then this is “mission accomplished.” I don’t know if that was at all the goal for this wine, but I do know that the one-acre Falling Man vineyard is named after the tendency of any of its workers to become just that due to the steepness of its hillsides, and that the fruit was picked with a “touch of botrytis” (as the wine’s tech sheet put it) due to some early October rainfall, which sounds a bit more Mosel than Rheingau, but it’s hard to argue with what’s in the bottle.
The word “lovely” is fully-applicable to the aroma of this Riesling: limes and a sort of spiced Asian pear dominate, and their clarity and crispness cut through reliably on the palate. It’s downright gorgeous, and balanced – the only hint of anything being off-kilter is the bracing acidity that is a function of its youth; give it a few (or maybe even several?) years in the bottle and it will probably mellow right out.
Alas, only 103 cases made. But if you can find it, then you’ve found yourself a U.S. native that can stand toe-to-toe with some of the better Rheingaus – and that’s probably not just a lucky, happy accident (and if it is, I will tell you, since I plan on paying more attention to KLV in the future…).