For two years running, New York’s Finger Lakes wine region has pulled off a spectacular achievement. It has won USA Today’s 10Best Readers Choice award for best wine region in the United States.
The award called this spot “stiff competition” for California: “New York’s picturesque Finger Lakes region is home to three distinct American Viticultural Areas (AVAs): Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake. Visitors to the area will find more than 130 wineries, many specializing in Riesling.”
Full disclosure: I’m on the nominating panel for the award, but ultimately the readers make the final choice. And for two years it’s been the Finger Lakes!
This is down to a combination of hospitality, quality, natural beauty, and a keen sense of terroir from skilled growers and vintners. I had the chance to taste through a few new releases recently and every bottle was truly delicious. Most, if not all, were estate grown and sustainably produced by family wineries. There is nothing lacking when it comes to quality and, ultimately, value, in the Finger Lakes. In fact, after my tasting I made plans with my mom (a Riesling lover) because I had to share them with her. These wines are the ideal pairing for a range of summer meals, from outdoor grilling to in-the-air-conditioning sautées.
Lakewood Vineyards has seven decades and three generations of heritage in the region, now producing 15 varieties on 85 acres, including Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. I sampled Lakewood Vineyard’s 2018 Dry Riesling, with elegant orchard perfume and a stony finish, and 2018 Riesling, with sweetness in the middling range, a succulent balance of acidity and white fruit flavors.
These two wines are good lighthouses when it comes to the waters of New York Finger Lakes. Riesling was commercially planted in the region starting around the 1950s. It is a signature for the growing area, and is produced in a range of sweetness. In fact, every bottle of Riesling that I sampled included a sweetness scale on the back label, and the glass color is also an indicator:
For many drinkers, sweetness level is a useful tool in deciding what appeals to ones general preference, but when it comes to Riesling in particular, I find that it’s best to enjoy the range, regardless of ones preconceived ideas.
Sugar is also what makes Riesling such a perfect pairing partner for so many foods. A touch of sweetness is a dream with spicy Asian food, and dry versions are perfect for seafood and veggies. And while food-friendliness is key to Riesling’s plus side, these wines do quite well on their own as a cocktail or a summer sipper. Some Rieslings, when given the time, age so well that their complexity is nearly indescribable.
In other words: even if you don’t like sweet wines, give an off-dry (slightly sweet) Riesling a try. A bit of sugar on the tongue brings out a balance of fruit and acidity that can’t be beat. You are honestly missing out if you stick to one style, particularly when it comes to the bounty in cool-climate Finger Lakes region.
I also had the opportunity to try Lamoreaux Landing‘s 2018 Dry Riesling with its mineral build and citrus pop and 2018 Round Rock Vineyard Riesling, which had a touch of smokiness on the nose, like chipped flint, with a thread of acidity that presents as freshness. Of the four wines, this last is the only one that will put you back more than $15, a steal at $24.
I discovered Lamoreaux Landing’s 90+ rated six-pack, available online, for less than $100. This is a seriously high-quality steal. No, I’m not paid to say this (I should add here that I am never compensated, paid or monetized for anything you read on L’Occasion, though I frequently write about media samples) but this is a purchase I’d recommend.
Rounding out the Riesling flight was 2019 Zero Degree Dry Estate Riesling from Three Brothers Wineries & Estates. This wine had tip-top acid, zesty in the true tone of the word, with a slice of stone. Super refreshing. I love the bottle’s artistic look and the useful “4 Degrees of Riesling” slider scale on the back label. Also cool: the Three Brothers family includes a brewery and coffee company. For some of us, that’s all we need in life.
I also had the opportunity to sample two bottles of rosé, both made with gorgeous Cabernet Franc in a dry style. Again, “dry” was indicated on the label by both. These wines are widely versatile and fresh, perfect for roasted chicken with an herbal sauce such as chimichurri. Also: grilled veggies, fresh salad and my favorite rosé pairing, salted almonds.
Wagner Vineyards has a impressive range, and 2019 Dry Rosé of Cabernet Franc is the first and only wine I’ve sampled from it’s portfolio. Available for $15, (so many of the wines I tasted were right at that price point) this wine is an excellent value. One swirl of my glass and the red fruit florals jumped out. Like all of my favorite rosés from around the world, this one balances acidity nicely.
Next up, was the 2019 Dry Rosé from Lamoreaux Landing (mentioned above). This Cabernet Franc blusher offers herbal notes (something in stony vein, not quite garrigue) and red fruit flavors that hit on the finish with pop of tart freshness. Available for $17.
I’m not alone in my quest to cover Finger Lakes Wines. Our Wine Pairing Weekend group have joined together to write about, pair with and chat over #FLXWine. Join us on Saturday, June 13th, 2020 at 10am central time. We’ll be on Twitter and you are invited with the hashtag #WinePW.
Here’s what has happened behind the scenes:
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm is Exploring the Wines of New York’s Finger Lakes Region.
- Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla pairs Bibimbap with Garden Banchan + Forge Cellars Classique Riesling 2017.
- Lori at Dracaena Wines is Delving Into the History of the Finger Lakes with John Wagner.
- David at Cooking Chat shares Finger Lakes Wine Paired with Everyday Favorites.
- Cindy at Grape Experiences posts An Impressive New York Treasure: the Finger Lakes Wine Region.
- Teri at Our Good Life pairs Zero Degree Riesling with Pan Seared Scallops over Cheesy Grits.
- Jeff at Food Wine Click! writes New York Finger Lakes – I Hope You Like Riesling!
- Jill at L’OCCASION gives us New York Finger Lakes: Wine For Summer Pairings.
- Pinny at Chinese Food and Wine Pairings matches New York Finger Lakes Wines – Lonesome Stony Rose and Fox Run Rieslings Paired with Quick-Prepped Seafood.
- Jane at Always Ravenous posts Picnic Fare Paired with Finger Lake Wines.
- Rupal at Syrah Queen discusses The Charm Of New York Finger Lakes Rieslings and showcases Three Finger Lakes Rosés For Summer Sipping.
- Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles pairs Finger Lake Riesling and Alsatian Salmon.
- Gwendolyn at Wine Predator offers two posts: Two Riesling from the Finger Lakes Paired with a Potluck and #RoseAllDay for #RoseDay:3 from New York’s Finger Lakes.
- Susannah at Avvinare examines Delightful Wines from the Finger Lakes.
- Jennifer at Vino Travels looks at Wines from Around Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes Wine Region.
- Nicole at Somm’s Table hosts Bo Ssäm and a Comparative Riesling Party!
- Finally, Linda at My Full Wine Glass is sharing two posts: Three Takes on Finger Lakes NY Cabernet Franc Rosé and Two Pair of NY Finger Lakes Riesling – a Winning Hand.