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Rediscovering an Unexpected Riesling in New York's Finger Lakes

Sailing on Seneca LakeJoe Roberts

It took a blind tasting held in New York’s Finger Lakes region to remind that Riesling totally rocks. And while Riesling from the Finger Lakes is amazing, in this case we;re actually talking about the country that inspired it: Riesling from the Mosel, in Germany.

I was once asked to participate in a sensory analysis panel in Watkins Glen (Finger Lakes wine country, that is) related to a mobile wine app that was about to hit the market. Due to a non-disclosure agreement, there’s actually not much I can tell you specifically about the event apart from the fact that I was paid for my work, and the relatively large panel also included oenologists, other bloggers, a few Finger Lakes winemakers, and some heavy-hitters in the wine judging circuit who I’ve admired for some time (it was a real trip meeting those folks). Also, the weather was incredible, which helped since my toddler daughter insisted on climbing all over the rocks of the jetty behind the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel, which I think might have given me a few (mild) heart attacks.

The blind analysis did not include Finger Lakes wines, though I did manage to sneak in a (non-blind) tasting of some recent Fox Run Vineyards releases with winemaker Peter Bell. That was a trip highlight for me; their wines continue to improve at a dramatic rate, and they have some very interesting things going on in their Rieslings.

It’s a shame that there weren’t any New York wines in the lineup, because the wines that I tasted blind over the few days of that sensory eval were, on the whole, not-so-hot. I’d have welcomed a few Finger Lakes stalwarts in those glasses, believe me. And once I figured out that we were tasting the wine flights in duplicate, I started to cringe… “Oh no… this means I’m going to have to taste through that over-oaked, buttery Syrah flight again!” Let’s just say it was good I was getting paid, otherwise I’d have been tempted to skip out to the jetty with my daughter.

A few notable exceptions did crop up through those flights, and I noted one particular white wine that tasted familiar to me, and was clearly a full head-and-shoulders quality level above the rest of the pack of dozens and dozens of budget-priced wines that we tasted (and I’m talking Kevin-Garnett-standing-next-to-me sized head-and-shoulders height difference, here)…

It was a Riesling (ironically appropriate, being in the Finger Lakes), and when I smelled it I noted the coded blind tasting number code so I could find out what it was afterwards. “This is gotta be Mosel,” I thought, “it reminds me of the 2010 Dr. Loosen ‘Dr. L’ Riesling.”
Seneca Lake JettyJoe Roberts

And in one of those wow-I-was_actually-right moments (which come few and very far between in the humbling setting of blind tasting scenarios, my friends), turns out I was on the money– it was the Loosen “Dr. L.” Riesling.

At the risk of retreading over old ground, I wanted to highlight that wine, again – the one that, for me, stood out blind in a field of about 100 wines as being the best of the bunch (red or white)… and it’s still a crazy-good buy:

Dr. Loosen “Dr. L.” Riesling (Mosel)

This white is a perennial bargain, and it’s one of the best introductions to Mosel Riesling that you can get for the money. And in this case it’s about spices, white flowers, citrus, stone fruits, refreshment, a kiss of lemon-drop sweetness, and minerality that’s reminiscent of wet slate. I’ve yet to take a sailboat ride on Seneca Lake in the Summer, but given how refreshing this wine is, I’ll want it in the cooler on that boar if/when I ever get around to doing it. The acidity basically forgives any sins this wine might have, and if you’re looking at spicy Asian fare for dinner then this wine will become your best culinary friend until you empty the bottle. Fortunately, for the price you can really afford to buy several bottles.


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a.k.a. Joe Roberts. Dad, wine-writer-guy, wine critic, wine competition judge, author, bassist, free-thinker, & occasional hiney-shaker. Opening up highly-pressurized cans of whoop-a** on the wine industry since 2007. Joe is a Certified Specialist of Wine, and the author of Wine Taster’s Guide: Drink and Learn with 30 Wine Tastings.

Downingtown, PA

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