Finger Lakes Riesling Festival

Cool, rainy weather might have kept patrons away from the farmers market and arts and crafts booths at the 2010 Finger Lakes Riesling Festival, Sunday August 15, but it didn’t keep wine lovers from visiting the wine garden where over two dozen Finger Lakes wineries featured their best Rieslings. I can imagine that the crowd was heavier the day before, when the weather was picture perfect, but this probably meant longer waiting times to sample wines.

When Katy and I arrived in Canandaigua, a light rain was falling and there was a thick blanket of fog over the lake. I stopped at the city pier to take a couple of photographs and get my bearings on where to find the wine garden. It wasn’t clear where to park or which direction to go. We drove around a bit and found an attendant who directed us to parking and the wine tent. The rain picked up as we walked by vendors trying to stay dry and struggling to keep their small tents from blowing away. Katy was struggling with the umbrella and I was trying to grin and bear it. When we reached the ticket booth and thought I had found some shelter from the rain, a stream of water poured off the roof of the tent an went straight down my back. I stepped back a foot and relented to the rain as the stream poured on top of my head. Now I didn’t have to worry about getting wet anymore.

With so many wineries present, I thought we should pick our top six to visit first and then make a second round if time and our palettes permitted. We decided to target wineries we haven’t been to recently. Heron Hill Winery was first on the list since we missed them at the Cortland Arts and Wine Festival a few weeks earlier. Anthony Road Wine Company is a favorite of mine, as is Dr. Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars, so they were definitely on the list. Katy and I had a good experience at Damiani Wine Cellars and Standing Stone Vineyards a few years ago while touring Seneca Lake as well as Imagine Moore Winery last year at the Wine and Chocolate Festival in Rochester.

With our list in hand, we headed for Heron Hill. Heron Hill offered their 2007 Ingle Vineyard Riesling, their 2008 Dry Riesling, and their 2008 Semi-dry Riesling. The Ingle Vineyard Riesling was a dry, medium bodied wine. It was well balanced with plenty of fruit and a crisp, lemon note. The Dry Riesling had grapefruit characteristics which I find common in dry Rieslings. It was not as crisp and refreshing as the Ingle Vineyard Riesling. The Semi-dry Riesling was more fruit forward than the Dry Riesling but otherwise had similar flavors and characteristics as the dry. The Ingle Vineyard Riesling definitely stood out as our favorite of the three.

Anthony Road offered their 2009 Dry Riesling, their 2009 Semi-dry Riesling, and their 2009 Semi-sweet Riesling. The Dry Riesling had floral hints while the Semi-dry had a distinctive peach flavor up front. Both were full bodied with a lot of structure which showed itself in mouth feel and taste. The Semi-dry was slippery on the tongue as well. Katy preferred the Dry Riesling. It was a toss-up for me. Both were very interesting and different than many of the Rieslings I’ve had recently. The Semi-sweet Riesling was very good with plenty of fruit but it didn’t compare in body and flavor to the other two wines from Anthony Road.

By time we arrived at Damiani Wine Cellar’s booth, the rain was coming down full force and water was filling up the ground under the tent. Within a few minutes we were ankle deep in water. Katy grimaced as she sloshed through the mud and water. I already admitted defeat and drugged through the slop. Damiani offered one white, their 2009 Semi-dry Riesling. This was full bodied with the slippery mouth feel we experienced with Anthony Road’s Semi-dry. Amy, the winery representative, said she believes the slippery feel is due to the fining agent used. She said glycerin based fining agents are more viscous than other agents which accounts for the feel. This makes sense to me. Amy offered us a taste of their 2008 Meritage as well. This was a surprise for a Riesling festival, but I wasn’t going to be rude and turn her down. I know, what a guy. The Meritage had a deep red color with a smokey, nutty flavor. It had wonderful aromas and body that you would expect from this style of red. What a treat.

We deviated from our list a bit as we passed King Ferry Winery. They lured us in with their 2008 Dry Riesling, 2008 Semi-dry Riesling, and their 2008 EIS Late Harvest Riesling. The Dry Riesling was light in body and fruit and was clean and crisp. The Semi dry was light and fruitful and a bit bubbly. The EIS was super sweet, like Riesling candy in a glass. I would love it over ice cream, but not to drink, since my residual sugar limit is around 3.5% to 3.8%. The EIS is well above that.

Standing Stone offered a 2008 Dry Riesling that had distinctive mineral characteristics with hints of apple. Their 2009 Riesling was a semi-dry wine with classic Riesling body and fruit flavors. It was perfectly balanced as well. This wine scored 88 in Wine Spectator. I can’t say I know how to interpret that number since some of the other wines I tasted so far didn’t have a Wine Spectator score were as good or better. I wonder what their scores would be. Standing Stone’s 2008 Ice Riesling was very sweet as expected but stood out with butterscotch and toffee flavors. I bet it’s great on pancakes.

Imagine Moore had their 2009 Semi-dry Riesling that had peach fruit up front with a light, sweet finish. We also sampled their 2008 Traminette which was light and spicy.

We couldn’t pass by Zugibe Vineyards without stopping for a taste of their wines. Katy and I have grown very fond of this winery. Their 2008 Dry Riesling had earthy, mineral characteristics. The 2007 Riesling had wonderful pear and vanilla notes and was perfectly balanced. The 2008 Semi-dry Riesling had classic grapefruit flavors often found in Rieslings without the bitterness that sometimes follows. We enjoyed all three wines but particularly enjoyed the 2007 Riesling which was another favorite of the day.

Finally, we finished our rounds at Dr. Frank’s where we sampled the 2009 Dry Riesling, the 2009 Salmon Run Riesling, and the 2009 Semi-dry Riesling. The ’09 Dry was full bodied on the mouth and light on fruit. The Salmon Run was sweeter which brought out the fruit flavors. By time I tasted the Semi-dry, my taste buds were saturated so it was difficult for me to pick up the subtle flavors but I can say it tasted excellent. I’ll have to put Dr. Frank’s at the top of the list next time so my palette will be fresh.

We tasted a few other wines after Dr. Frank’s but didn’t take notes because by this time my palette had enough.  I suppose we could have tried one wine at each booth rather than several wines at a few, but I think our strategy worked out just fine.

Our soggy feet needed to dry so Katy I walked along the lake to take in the view. The weather had cleared so it was an enjoyable walk. Afterwords we grabbed a bite to eat at MacGregors’ Grill and Tap Room then topped that off with ice cream at Scoops.

One thing about living in the Finger Lakes is that you can’t let the weather get in the way of having a good time and enjoying the day, especially in the summer. We have our share of beautiful weather but there are times when it just doesn’t cooperate the way you would like. This certainly proved to be true this day. The rain dampened the air but not the spirit of the festival.

Canandaigua is a beautiful city with wonderful lake views, plenty of shops and restaurants, and is home of the New York Wine and Culinary Center. Put it on your list of must see places in the Finger Lakes.

Our favorite wines of the day include Heron Hill’s 2007 Ingle Vineyard Riesling, Anthony Road’s 2009 Dry and Semi Dry Rieslings, Standing Stone’s 2009 Riesling, Zugibe’s 2007 Riesling, and Dr. Frank’s 2009 Salmon Run Riesling. What were your favorites?

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About fingerlakeswineguy

I have a passion for the Finger Lakes, wine, food, and photography and want to share this passion through social media on the web.
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