By Jason Feulner, Finger Lakes Correspondent
Last year, at the 2008 Riesling Rendevouz event at the beautiful New York Wine and Culinary Center, I had the distinct pleasure of tasting a great many 2007 rieslings. In fact, few of the 40 plus wineries at last year's event were not pouring their 2007 rieslings.
I was able to sample so many 2007 rieslings at this single event last year that I felt confident enough to proclaim familiarity with the vintage before summer even started.
The 2009 Riesling Rendevouz provided a slightly different story. All of the trappings were the same: the nice tasting setups, the great food, and the same fun and informative staff. As I moved from tasting booth to tasting booth, however, I soon learned that unlike its predecessor, the 2009 version of the Riesling Rendevouz would not provide me with many opportunities to try the newest vintage. In fact, all told, I had only 4 or 5 new 2008 rieslings. Almost all the wineries were pouring their 2007 rieslings, and a quite a few were still pouring some 2006 rieslings!
This result left me with mixed feelings. On one hand, I wanted to share the excitement of a new vintage and begin to taste and judge its qualities. On the other, I can't help but applaud a development that shows a bit of maturity for the region as a whole. I think.
I checked the date of last year's event, and it was held at least a week-and-a-half earlier, so there is no doubt that wineries are consciously holding on to their 2008 rieslings.
The reason for this development could fall into two main possibilities: either the region has decided not to rush its new vintages, taking the time to harvest and ferment a little later, leaving some extended time in tank, and maybe even possibly holding on to their wines once bottled to avoid tasting and selling shocked wines; or, perhaps everyone has a ton of 2006 and 2007 rieslings in stock and they need to push them out the door before they even think about selling the 2008s.
The pragmatist in me thinks it is a combination of both. Either way, I see no reason why we always want the newest Finger Lakes rieslings RIGHT NOW when so many wine regions around the world hold on to their whites just a touch longer and hold on to their reds for several years. On the whole, this might be a good development for the region which signifies increasing quality.
The few 2008s I did try were very good but hard to describe as of yet. Anthony Road Wine Company's winemaker Johannes Reinhardt calls the vintage "beautiful" and the best he's seen in his tenure at the Finger Lakes. Ravines Wine Cellars' winemaker Morten Hallgren was also adamant about the quality of the vintage, explaining to me that the structure is very intact but that the fruit was also present and in balance, a nearly-perfect vintage after the steely wines of 2006 and very ripe wines of 2007.
We shall see. I am looking forward to tasting more 2008 rieslings.
As always, I enjoyed the Riesling Rendevouz event, which I think is a marvelous opportunity for wine drinkers to be exposed to the quality of the region in a single evening. With so many wineries to visit, it sure is convenient to get a large sample all at once!