By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Correspondent
Photo by Morgan Dawson

I nearly sprinted down to my basement — ahem, cellar — when Lenn made a bit of a shocking announcement last week: His 2007 Ravines Argetsinger Riesling was closed with a synthetic cork. This is a very highly regarded wine (Lenn included it in his 2008 wines of the year) and it seems destined to improve with time. Wine Spectator gave it 89 points and advised readers to "drink now through 2009;" I found that assessment to be wholly misguided and actually wrote, in silver marker, the words "drink after 2020" on one of the Argetsinger bottles that we're holding. Ambitious, sure, but Finger Lakes Rieslings are building an impressive track record for ageability.

So I was relieved to discover that my Argetsinger Riesling was closed with natural cork. But how did Lenn get synthetic closures?

"Bottling line error," Ravines owner and winemaker Morten Hallgren explained. Hallgren said that after bottling his Keuka Village White with synthetic corks, the line should have shifted immediately to natural corks. Instead, it allowed a small amount of bottles — "No more than five cases," Hallgren says — to get the cheaper, synthetic corks. Having placed an early order, Lenn was the not-so-lucky winner of those mistakenly closed bottles.

"We'll absolutely replace the bottles for Lenn and for anyone who wants to hold them," Hallgren says. He recognizes that the vast majority of consumers of Finger Lakes wine drinks it within months, not years, of purchase. But Hallgren hopes that will change: "We believe very strongly in age-worthy wines, and there's none better for the Finger Lakes than Riesling."

Hallgren agrees with the wider consensus that any wine with aging potential needs a natural cork. Some producers, however, are turning more to synthetic corks for cost-saving reasons — synthetic corks generally cost a fraction of what natural corks cost. And so with Finger Lakes wineries dealing with more competition and a lagging economy, as well as a wine-drinking public that has little interest in aging wine, should synthetic corks be scorned?

For now I'll just say I'm glad that all of my best Finger Lakes bottles — including the Argetsinger Riesling — are closed with natural cork.