Rieslings from New York are among the best examples of the variety in the country, with those from the Finger Lakes region leading the charge. About 1,000 acres are planted to the grape in the area, making it a relatively small affair, yet what it lacks in quantity, it more than makes up for in quality and site expression.
Vineyards in the Finger Lakes are anything but homogenous. Due to the region’s geological history namely a wall of glaciers from ice ages in the past carving up the land—a mix of soil types and textures are exposed and planted to vines. Beyond that, sites also range in elevation, slope and proximity to the lakes, all of which influence the development of the grapes and contribute to the stylistic outcome of the final wine.
Much like the rest of the wine world, many Finger Lakes producers share the goal of creating wines with a “sense of place” and Riesling is the natural conduit in the region. Ever the pioneer, Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard has been bottling its well-regarded Magdalena Vineyard Riesling for over a decade. Located 10 miles from the winery on the northwest side of Seneca Lake, this silt loam site is one of the warmest in the area and consistently produces a richly fruited, earthy and textured dry expression.
Other bottlings, like Wagner’s Caywood East or Red Newt’s Tango Oaks, are more recent endeavors. The former is a racy, stony, streamlined wine sourced from a steep vineyard planted in 2005, while the latter is a perfumed and spicy yet pristinely fruity Riesling from a unique gravelly site caused by a catastrophic flood in 1935.
These are but a drop in the bucket for site-focused Rieslings which seem to have exploded in the past few years. But buyer beware: Quality and site specificity do not always go hand-in-hand, and of course the other half of the equation for the final bottled outcome happens in the cellar. Regardless, the persistent pursuit of understanding how Riesling performs across the region’s varied sites is important. This discovery only makes the Finger Lakes stronger and solidifies it as a world-class wine region.
Living Roots 2019 Shale Creek Bone-Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes); $26, 94 points. Sourced from a Keuka Lake vineyard, this rich dry Riesling offers dense tones of tangerine, lemon oil, pine and dry honeycomb on the nose. There’s immense breadth and body to the palate, where juicy shots of orange and apple push through the sultry texture. There’s a delicate earthiness to it all, with a crushed slate minerality zipping along on the lingering finish. Editors’ Choice.
Hermann J. Wiemer 2019 Magdalena Vineyard Riesling (Seneca Lake); $35, 93 points. Concentrated aromas of lemon oil, peach, pine and struck flint grace the nose of this single-vineyard Riesling. It’s rounded and full in feel on the palate, filled out by juicy orchard fruit flavors yet expertly honed by zesty acidity and a delicate grip of white tea. A lemon oil tone lingers on the finish, but with ample lift and length.
Standing Stone 2019 Timeline Dry Riesling (Seneca Lake); $25, 93 points. Sourced from vines planted in 1972, this striking dry Riesling delves into perfumed tones of peach, apple, jasmine and slate. There’s richness to the palate yet immense lift and drive, with lasting acidity and crushed-stone verve pushing it along. It lingers long on a resounding citrus finish. Editors’ Choice.
Wagner 2019 Caywood East Vineyard Estate Bottled Riesling (Finger Lakes); $20, 93 points. Intensely coiled aromas of fresh lime, crushed stone and peach blossom give this single vineyard wine a sense of vitality. Bright shots of lime, grapefruit and lemon are met with a juicy apple core on the dry palate, leading to a gently creamy texture on the lingering finish. Editors’ Choice.
Keuka Spring 2019 Humphreys Vineyard Riesling (Finger Lakes); $22, 92 points. Perfumed aromas of peach, apple and pink grapefruit show incredible zest and spunk on the nose. The medium-bodied palate is dry in style, with bright, zesty pome and tangerine flavors wrapped in a delicate floral undertone. There’s a creaminess to the feel that gives this great presence and length on the finish. Editors’ Choice.
Red Newt Cellars 2015 Tango Oaks Vineyard Riesling (Finger Lakes); $24, 92 points. Perfumed aromas of apple and Meyer lemon meld with a delicate oolong tone on the nose of this dry Riesling. There’s a rounded, pithy feel to the palate, where flavors of lemon, apple and apricot are wrapped in a mild grip of white tea tannins. This is a beautifully textured, pristine expression from a relatively young vineyard planted in 2007.
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2019 Margrit Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes); $35, 91 points. Sourced from a vineyard on Seneca Lake, this wine offers a stony, earthy core surrounded by citrus and apple tones on the nose. The palate is broad and juicy yet dry in style, with honed lemon, pome fruit and crushed stone elements zipping along.
Silver Thread 2019 Estate Vineyard Riesling (Finger Lakes); $26, 91 points. A delicate floral note rides above the juicy apple and peach core on the nose of this wine. While deft in feel, it shows rounded pome fruit flavors shot through with tangy white cherry. There’s ample perfume and lift to it all, with a lingering talc dust finish.
Buttonwood Grove 2019 Riemer Block Riesling (Finger Lakes); $20, 90 points. From a vineyard planted in 1999, this offers ripe apple and sugar-dusted flowers on the nose alongside candied citrus and ginger. The medium-dry palate boasts a rounded feel, with juicy orchard fruit flavors lifted by shots of grapefruit and tangerine. This shows nice lift and length.