I'm a big fan of New York wines. Riesling from the Finger Lakes seems to get better every year, especially as winemakers continue to carve out a distinctive style that speaks of the region's terroir. Are they particularly German? Well, maybe not, though some definitely have that mineral oil quality (many wine lovers call it petrol or diesel, but I think mineral oil seems more positive a reference). The ones that send me over the top when I taste them have bracing acidity and an almost unbearable lightness of being, an ephemeral characteristic that leaves flavors flitting across your palate with surprising complexity, even if the initial impression may not carry depth. If I had to point to a German region and insist on making the comparison, I'd say Finger Lakes Rieslings (at least the ones that excite me the most) remind me of the delicate wines from the Mittelrhein, which admittedly is not Germany's most revered wine region. (Though I love that delicacy!) So perhaps it's best just to say that New York is carving out its own identity with the grape.
Of course, I have a soft spot for Seneca Lake, which is the middle finger. (Ba-da-boom!)
Some of my favorites? Hermann J. Wiemer and Dr. Konstantin Frank are the most classic. The ones that I find especially enticing come from Fox Run, Anthony Road and Red Newt. Chateau Lafayette Reneau had a wonderful Riesling that won Best in Show at the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition once, and at this year's judging I flipped for what turned out to be the 2009 Dry Riesling from Glenora.
New York is not limited to the Finger Lakes, of course. Long Island is making some delicious reds, and this region is also establishing its own style and character - the better wineries are no longer trying to make Pomerol, they're just happy making the best damn Long Island merlot they can.
And more and more New York wines are now reaching the D.C. area market, which means they are making enough to distribute wines outside the state. This was the topic of my Washington Post column last week. This column was particularly gratifying because it engendered considerably more response than I usually get, through e-mails and phone calls. Most of them said something like, "Nice column, but you didn't mention my favorite ... " That means readers are aware of New York wines and looking out for them, whether on their travels up north or now on their local retail shelves.
For more information about New York's wineries, go to uncorknewyork.com, the website of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, or to Lenn Thompson's New York Cork Report. Don't forget Regional Wine Week coming up Oct. 10-16 on DrinkLocalWine.com!