Thunderstorms? No real threat. Blistering heat? Didn’t scare us. Hearty Central New Yorkers came in droves to the Finger Lakes Riesling Festival to sample, mingle and have a great time by Canadaigua Lake. The industrial fans were no match for the sauna-like heat under the tents, but that didn’t stop any of us. My girlies and I bravely stepped up to the challenge of trying to fight the crowd and getting our hands on some Riesling, all the while feeling a little like we were in an incubator.
An absolutely idyllic setting, the Riesling Festival was the perfect atmosphere for sampling the “king of grapes.” One look out to Canadaigua Lake, you forgot about the crowds, the heat; it was just you and the wine. From late harvest dessert Riesling to crisp, dry Riesling, the Finger Lakes offered something for everyone. After every sip I took, I looked out towards the water and smiled. Not just because there was great scenery but also because there was exceptional wine tickling my palate.
Among the lineup were Three Brothers Winery and Estates, Anthony Road Wine Company, Standing Stone Vineyards, Swedish Hill Winery, Glenora Wine Cellars and Thousand Island Winery (which gets an honorable mention for its Gewurztraminer-rose petals with a little spice-perfect). Noticeably missing from the Festival were Dr. Frank Konstantin and Hermann J. Weimer. I was a bit disappointed but I know what those wines taste like and have them in Bauer. I would have been happy to see them there nonetheless.
Among the memorable wines I had on Saturday afternoon, two stood out the most: Hosmer Winery Dry Riesling ($13) and Damiani Wine Cellars Dry Riesling ($24). These two wines had everything I look for in this varietal- crisp, clean with bright acidity. The Hosmer, in particular, had this Granny Smith green apple bite with some hints of pear and lime. All I could say was wow. Thanks to Tracey on Facebook who asked if we would have Hosmer at Bauer’s FLX Riesling tasting last week. I may not have immediately sought out this winery if she hadn’t suggested it. Hosmer is located on Cayuga Lake and has been winning awards for their Dry Riesling since 2001 and has been written about by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Boston Magazine and Wine Spectator. This is a winery to keep your eye on because what they are producing is nothing short of spectacular.
Damiani Wine Cellars, on Seneca Lake, is owned by two native sons of the Finger Lakes. They craft their wines in the old-world style and know that the terroir of Seneca Lake will give us only wines of exceptional quality. The Dry Riesling was clean, perfectly crisp with green apple again but this one had starfruit in the background. Not what I would expect from a NY Riesling but it worked. It was juicy and round with just the right amount of acidity. They were unfortunately stuck in a corner next to Hazlitt and probably didn’t get the amount of traffic they deserved. If I was running the show, this is a winery that would have been put front and center. “Nobody puts baby in a corner…”
Wine wasn’t the only offering at the Riesling fest. There was also a tent for beer. Craft beer made in New York State to be specific. Once we had our fill of Riesling, my girlies and I decided we should make our way over to the beer tent for some samples. That was a big mistake. The beer tent was a quarter of the size of the wine tent and tried to hold just as many people. I hear that Three Bros, Dundee, Saranac, Ommegang breweries were there, but we never made it past Brooklyn Brewery. We decided after the one sample we got, it wasn’t worth trying to fight the crowds for more. Everyone was shoulder -to-shoulder and worse, once people received their sample, they were allowed to continue standing in front of the taps so no one behind them could get in. But, that’s just par for the course at a tasting so I couldn’t really be surprised or upset by it.
Overall, it was a great day with the girls, a great day for Riesling and a great day for the Finger Lakes. Now if we can just find Hosmer and Damiani distribution in MA so I can enjoy their wines all the time….