While another “Summer of Riesling” has come and gone, a new crop of Rieslings arrived at Hearth Restaurant (which some might call Summer of Riesling HQ) in mid-September, heralding the 2012 vintage. The tasting event was co-hosted by Bob Madill, of Sheldrake Point, and Dave Whiting, owner of Red Newt.
In addition to having wines from these two wineries represented, the event featured the debut of Bellwether Wine Cellars and Kemmeter Wines. All told, there were 21 different Rieslings available for tasting, in what might be considered a vinous Black Jack. The wines ranged from bone dry (with almost no residual sugar remaining) and off-dry to quite sweet. However, even the sweeter styles were well balanced with vibrant acidity, preventing the wines from becoming cloying or heavy on the palate.
An established Finger Lakes producer, Red Newt Winery offered up a selection of small production Single Vineyard and Reserve wines. At an annual production of fewer than 250 cases each, the advantage to this small lot production was an exploration of different lakes (climatic factors), different vineyards (soils) and even different blocks within the same vineyard. The Red Newt Tango Oaks Vineyard stood out for its floral, honey, citrus, mineral and slight herbal characteristics.
However, Red Newt does produce a few larger volume production wines with its Dry Riesling (844 cases), Semi-Dry Riesling (1,196 cases) and Circle Riesling (5,700 cases). This latter wine was, not surprisingly, the least expensive of the line-up at $13.00 and more likely to be found at retail, with the 2011 seen on Wine Searcher at Columbus Wine & Spirits and Bottlerocket Wine & Spirits in Manhattan and DrinkUpNY and Heights Chateau in Brooklyn.
Another well known winery is Sheldrake Point, which featured both a Dry Riesling and a Reserve Riesling, in addition to the more unusual offering of a barrel-fermented Riesling, similar to what is done in Alsace. However, the large, older barrel added weight, depth and complexity to the wine, rather any direct oak influence, still displaying fresh citrus/lime fruit and minerality. It seems likely that Bob Madill will repeat this experiment. However, he did joke that, “It is hard to find old barrels, [but] not to find old white men.”
With its three single vineyard Rieslings, Bellwether Wine Cellars is a spinoff of Bellwether Hard Cider, co-owned by Cheryl and Bill Barton. Their son-in-law, Kris Matthewson, an assistant winemaker at Atwater Estate Vineyards, is responsible for the production of these wines. The range includes two wines from the A&D Vineyard, one of which was fermented using conventional yeast and the other produced from a wild ferment. This latter wine seemed to have a complex, yeasty quality to it likely given the production process, combined with citrus and pith.
Kemmeter Wines is the long-awaited solo venture from winemaker Johannes Reinhardt, who has been with Anthony Road Wine Company for many years and is expected to stay on there at least in the near future. Named after his maternal grandmother’s maiden name, Kemmeter single-vineyard wines hail from Reinhardt’s “Three Lake Riesling project.” With grapes sourced from vineyards on three different lakes in the region, they are intended to show the diversity that these microclimates bring to the variety. The Kemmeter Sheldrake Point Riesling ($24.00) was my favorite among the three with its notes of honey, lime, nectarine and wet stone, accompanied by high acidty, beautiful balance and long length.
Given the miniscule quantities produced, the majority of these wines will not be easy to come by outside the area, but the region is certainly worth a visit. And, with the number of New York City sommeliers present at the September tasting, you just might find them coming soon to a restaurant list near you.