A couple days after Christmas, I went out to visit my fiance's family in Rochester...which was, well, cold. Growing up in Seattle, you'd think that I'd have a natural, built in resistance to the cold (or at least the rain), but I seem to have lost it all living in Los Angeles for close to five years. There was a time when I thought that anything over about 60 degrees was "shorts weather." Not so now. Anyways, it was miserably cold--not even getting above freezing except for the last day there.
I was pretty stoked despite the cold weather to get out to the Finger Lakes and visit a few wineries, and Sarah's sister and brother in law were nice enough to drive us out there. I'm not going to name names, but out of the three wineries that we visited, two of them had pretty bad wines. Let's just say that I'm not a big fan of American grape clones or vitis lambrusca just in general...all that talk about the grapes being "foxy" isn't in a good way. The Finger Lakes were fun to visit though--the Finger Lakes are beautiful. I like how rural they are. All sorts of barns, farm houses and wide open spaces. The one winery that we went to that was awesome was Hermann J. Wiemer. This happens to be the only New York Winery that I was able to track down wine from in California easily. I would imagine this is because they are the one New York winery that seems to be critically acclaimed, with a Riesling making the Wine Spectator Top 100 this year.
The winery is in an old barn; the winery itself had its' first vintage in 1979. We went towards the end of the day, so they were starting to be out of some wines to taste. That means that they just switched to the reserve wines instead. I probably would have tasted those anyways though...unlike other wine regions I've been to, tastes are generally $2 for five wines. In other words, cheap. In Napa, you might get to taste 3 wines for $15...The Rieslings are the star here, although I did enjoy their Gewurztraminer for how floral it was. My favorite Riesling happened to not be the single vineyard Clos Magdalena, but the cheaper Dry Riesling Reserve. They told me that this wine is actually 85% from the Magdalena vineyard, but whatever else they blended in made it just a little bit more interesting. It had more punch, more acidity, and a lot more presence. The Semi-Dry Riesling was also pretty good, although let's face it, 5.4% residual sugar is a lot...clearly this is a wine meant to be consumed with something absurdly rich like foie gras.
We also tasted the Pinot Noir, and the Pinot Noir Reserve both of which were green and stemmy. The reserve was preferable, although you can certainly get much better deals if you're going to spend $30 on a bottle of Pinot from somewhere else. Perhaps the climate is a little bit too cold for Pinot? That would be my thought. The Cab Francs fared better. The 08 Cab Franc Reserve was rich and ripe, and seemed to be occupying it's own stylistic territory. It was riper than Chinon or Bourgueil, but it wasn't as slick and lush as a Bordeaux style blend. The 08 Reserve needs some time to come into its' own as it was obviously quite primary and hiding its' structure behind almost jammy smoky berries. A bit on the pricey side at around $30 (you can get two bottles of awesome Chinon for that price), but worth it once or twice for the unique expression of the grape. Id' like to see what it ages like.
The last wines that we tasted were their sparkling wines; specifically the 06 Brut and the 03 Blanc des Noirs. These were okay, with lots of toasty notes. Personally, I think there are some better more interesting values out there in the sparkling wine category.
For sure, the strength of Hermann Wiemer are their Rieslings and Cab Franc...definitely worth checking out if you get a chance to go there. I would say that it's worth a trip. I'm glad that we went--it was a fun day.