Finger Lakes First Thoughts

Finger Lakes First Thoughts

We’re back from our weekend in the Finger Lakes, and I’m pulling together my pictures, videos, and impressions, many of which I’ll be sharing in the coming days. A few preliminary thoughts:

1. Not to be the master of the obvious here, but there are some truly excellent Rieslings made in the Finger Lakes. This was my first chance to taste so many Finger Lakes Rieslings at a single go, and it was great to try so many successful — and distinctive — interpretations of this variety. A lot of these wines also represent terrific value, which isn’t something that you can always say about Alsatian or German Rieslings.

2. It’s hard for me not to make comparisons to Long Island, the New York wine region I’m most familiar with, and in many ways, the Finger Lakes come off favorably. Some Long Island wineries succumb to the pressures of the nearby New York City marketplace, issuing luxury cuvées in ostentatious bottles when they’d be better off sticking to the basics of making good wines. I saw little of this during my time in the down-to-earth Finger Lakes. Compare some of the vanity Bordeaux-style bottlings of Long Island to one of the priciest wines I tasted in the Finger Lakes, a $75 bottle of late-harvest wine made from the deeply unfashionable (and in this case, deeply delicious) Vignoles variety – hardly a wine for the status-seeker.

3. A few producers I spoke to mentioned experimenting with different white varieties like Petit Manseng and Gruner Veltliner. I look forward to seeing how these grapes will progress in the Finger Lakes. I’m less excited, frankly, about the future of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Pinot Noir in the Finger Lakes, I get. Cabernet Franc too. This weekend, and in previous tastings, I’ve had some good, expressive examples of these varieties, which do well in cooler climes. But none of the Syrahs or Cabernet Sauvignons (and granted, there are only a few) I had this weekend have me convinced that these grapes have a particularly bright future in the Finger Lakes. I could be wrong — it wouldn’t be the first time — but I just don’t see it.

4. Like any other wine region, the Finger Lakes has its share of characters. My favorite character of the weekend by far was Sam Argetsinger. More on Sam, and all of the above, in the days ahead. (FYI, the picture here is a view of Seneca Lake from the Argetsinger Vineyard.)

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