Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bringing the Finger Lakes Home to Vancouver

Despite having to endure an unexpected overnight stay in Chicago - with no excitement to be had following our late arrival at the hotel we were put up in (hence no wine to add to The List from Chicago) - the trip home from the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference has me back home and looking to reach the heralded 2001st bottle and the "finish line" for this blog.

Although I would have loved to have done so, I wasn't able to bring much wine back with me from WBC15. Indeed, I was dinged for duty at Canadian Customs for the "extra" wine that I did bring back.  Turned out I paid duty on a bottle that didn't even make it back to Vancouver in tact. I'd packed a bottle of Fox Run's Hedonia in my luggage - wrapped in a couple of socks - only to find broken shards of glass and some rather wet clothes when I finally opened the bag.

Not that this comes remotely close to being a silver lining, but it was pointed out to me that Hedonia is a dessert wine and that my dirty socks had never smelled so sweet.

Luckily, the other bottles made it home safely and I figured it was only fair to open one of the Finger Lakes wines for Boo since he didn't partake in any of the excitement that was WBC15.

1981.  2014 Hermann J. Wiemer Dry Riesling (Seneca Lake AVA - Finger Lakes - New York)

Among the few things that I remotely knew of the Finger Lakes before departing for WBC15 were that its winemaking history as a region was rather similar to BC's own Okanagan Valley and that it was probably best known for its Rieslings. Being the Riesling fiend that I am, I was particularly looking forward to the chance to sample some of the higher praised Finger Lakes labels.

One night while dining out in Manhattan, Boo and I started chatting with the table next to us as we couldn't help but hear that the majority of their conversation related to wine. It turned out that all three of the diners were involved in the New York wine trade. So, naturally, I wanted to canvas their thoughts on New York Rieslings and ask for a few suggestions. All three of them recommended Hermann Wiemer as one to try. Coincidentally, the proprietor of the bottle shop just around the corner from our hotel made the same suggestion. So, the quest was set.

I never actually saw a wine shop near our Conference hotel but, luckily, I'd noted that Miss Selfie, The Suje and Gone Girl were cavorting amongst the vines on their way up to WBC15. So, I asked them to pick up a bottle of Hermann Wiemer if they happened across one. Naturally, Miss Selfie made it a priority to do just that - and Boo got to be an additional beneficiary.

According to their website, "Hermann J. Wiemer is regarded as one of the pioneers of the wine industry in the Finger Lakes." Coming from a family with 300 years of winemaking experience in Germany's Mosel Valley and relying on his own winemaking and viticultural studies, Mr. Wiemer emigrated to the Finger Lakes in the 1960's, long before anyone thought that the region could support vinifera grape vines. His own experiences led him to believe that the region could realistically grow and ripen Riesling and Chardonnay grapes and that the warming effect of Lake Seneca could help the vines survive the winter chills.

Relying on "German folk wisdom" that "Riesling grapevines would flourish where black cherry trees thrived," Mr. Wiemer purchased 80 acres of land which has since become the HJW Vineyard. His wines have been lauded by magazines and critics and the winery has been named one of the top Riesling producers in the U.S. on numerous occasions.

The winery currently boasts nine Rieslings in its portfolio - ranging from dry through single vineyard to dessert wines like the cherished TBA or Trockenbeerenauslese. Our bottle is the winery's classic, signature wine and, as you might expect, it had a definite Germanic profile.

Both Boo and I thought the praise was well deserved. More nuanced than most New World Rieslings (particularly if you're thinking Clare Valley or New Zealand), the acidity was well balanced with subdued citrus notes and minerality. We were singing Miss Selfie's praises loudly.

I only wish I had more Wiemer wines in order to do a little taste comparison with some of my favourite BC Rieslings. I'll have to see if I can make that happen over the next thousand wines or so. I think it'll be worth the effort.

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