Riesling: Finger Lakes versus Germany

The Finger Lakes Wine Alliance provided me with 6 new releases, all Riesling, from the Finger Lakes region in New York State. I complemented the Finger Lakes Riesling wines with 6 German Rieslings from my cellar, which I thought would fit in terms of quality level and price point. We tasted the wines blind during a dinner at our house in McLean, Virginia, with a group of wine friends. I asked all participants to rank the 12 wines and then aggregated the ranking. Here is the aggregated ranking:

1 Lakewood Vineyards 2012 Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes, USA
1 Standing Stone Vineyards 2012 Riesling, Finger Lakes, USA
3 August Kesseler 2011 Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau, D
4 Glenora Wine Cellars 2012 Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes, USA
4 Kuehling-Gillot 2010 Qvintera Riesling trocken, Rheinhessen, D
6 Clemens Busch 2009 “vom roten schiefer” Riesling, Mosel, D
7 Dr. Loosen 2011 Riesling Dry Red Slate, Mosel, D
8 Swedish Hill Winery 2011 Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes, USA
9 Winzergenossenschaft Bornich 2009 Loreley Riesling trocken, Mittelrhein, D
10 Red Newt Cellars 2011 Sawmill Creek Vineyards Riesling, Finger Lakes, USA
11 Balthasar Ress 2011 Riesling “Von Unserm”, Rheingau, D
12 Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars 2012 Red Oak Vineyard Riesling, Finger Lakes, USA


Was there any discussion around differences/similarities between the Finger Lakes and Germany in a general sense or was it hard to pinpoint in that way?

Not surprised that the Standing Stone showed well. I have generally avoided wine from US regions other than the West Coast but a good friend and client in the Finger Lakes has convinced me that my views are quite parochial, particularly with respect to Finger Lakes Riesling. I’m quite sure that the $15-$25 dollar offerings from the Finger Lakes compare and compete quite well with their German counterparts and Standing Stone and Fox Run are particular standouts. The flavor profiles, in my view, are quite similar perhaps with a touch more apple and a touch less minerality in the Finger Lakes, but certainly not in all cases.

Hermann Wiemer and Barbara Frank have been making excellent Rieslings in that region for years.

Strongly agree except that Hermann’s last vintage was 2006. Fred Merwarth is the owner and winemaker since the 2007 vintage and the wines are at least as good as they were before.

Very interesting question.

To the OP: A very interesting theme for a tasting. I would love to do something similar. Maybe even include something from Alsace. I am not surprised that Standing Stone showed best among that list of FL Riesling. Were there some in the group that ranked mostly German higher or mostly FL higher?

Annette Schiller is in process of preparing tasting notes, which I will publish here.

You need to get a hold of a Ravines Argetsinger Riesling. That wine will give you all the minerality you want and more.

We did a very similar sort of blind tasting in November 2008. At that event a Dry Riesling from Herman J. Wiemer stood toe to toe with a Trocken from Donnhoff and a Halbtrocken from Selbach-Oster in leading a pack of 14 mixed German and Finger Lakes wines.

There are some Finger Lakes wines that compete at the upper levels. Our tasting also showed there was some pretty dismal stuff, even from well regarded wineries. And just to round it out - one of my worst wines at that event was a GG from Schlossgut Diel.

I like anthony road AR selection every bit as much as I like some of my Prums

I haven’t tasted a huge range of Finger Lakes Riesling but this is by far my favorite of what I’ve tasted.

Third the rec of the Ravines Artgetsinger. One of my favorite U.S wines . . . period.

Also, I have noticed a decline in Weimer since the winemaker change . . . was at a tasting with a few (admittedly good) NY producers and I thought the Weimers were pretty clearly the least impressive.

fantastic thread–thanks all.
Now I need to find these wines…
All FL wines here are sold at Total(ly crappy) Wine

Only one of those I’ve had is the Busch ( but the '06) which I liked.

David-when was the winemaker change at Wiemer?


Thanks. Missed that. Tasting in 2008 I thought the wines were excellent. That included 2006 and 2007s.

Are all of the NY wines dry? And it looks like the German ones are a mixture of dry and sweet?

Was it discernable blind which rieslings were (technically) dry versus sweet?

Not all finger lakes rieslings are dry. They use varying RS levels but the predominant style seems to be Dry to semi-dry, although several do make sweeter versions.

Producers such as Ravines, Hermann Wiemer, Lamoreaux Landing, and Red Knewt are really taking things to a whole new level IMHO. They have been exploring single vineyard, site specific bottlings that really give you a sense of just how unique the FL region is. The difference between sites just a mile or so away from each other is clear and the lakes/slope/soil/etc all create very distinct micro climates. My personal favorite is the Ravines Argetsinger but Red Knewt has some very distinct bottlings as well as Hermann Wiemer…the Magdelena is a personal favorite as well. The best part of all is that most of the wines can be found in the sub-$30 range and the regular bottlings in the teens. It suspect this wont last long as people like NY Times writer Eric Asimov. James Molesworth from WS, and Evan Dawson are drawing deserved attention to this region.

Also, just thought I would throw it out there for those of you looking to get some FL Riesling that there is a place in Rochester NY that has free shipping on mix and match 6-pack Finger Lakes wines through the end of May. I just grabbed a 6 pack of the 2012 Ravines Dry Riesling at $13.99 per bottle. Its a really great example of FL Riesling and an awesome summer drinker for that price.

BTW…no affiliation with the store/winery


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Thanks to everyone for some great FL info. We were supposed to be there this past week but illness prevented it. We changed reservations to mid-June and continue to look forward to it.