By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Editor

It occurs to me that, as the Finger Lakes produces an increasing amount of world-class riesling, there is a cycle of riesling appreciation that we all seem to go through. I admit to having gone through each stage. I am now a stage-four junky.

This is expanded a bit from its nascent Twitter form, so I ask you to take a fresh look and answer: Where stage are you in?


STAGE ONE: Riesling As Training Wheels

It's true that most people who are new to the world of wine prefer sweeter wines, and that means white wines.

At this stage even chardonnay can be off-putting (a prescient impulse, to be sure). Riesling offers a simple how-do-you-do, an easy-drinking entry. Gewurztraminer is often too exotic. And while hybrids are approachable, someone once said that hybrids can make you sterile.

Why risk it?

The training wheels wine of choice is riesling.

RieslingStage2_MorganDawsonPhotographySTAGE TWO: Too Cool For Riesling 

You have broken through to red wines and you wonder why you ever bothered with that low-class swill. You're ashamed if you can see your fingers through your glass of wine. You prefer to chew wine, not drink it. Trees were made for paper and cabernet sauvignon. You like your wine drier than a NASA-tested poncho.

Why, everyone knows that riesling is for beginners, and you are hardly a beginner anymore.

Let's go in on a case of Opus One!

RieslingStage3_MorganDawsonPhotography STAGE THREE: Riesling Reconciliation

After case upon case of cabernet your palate is weary. At a party someone hands you a glass of white wine and you fake enough enthusiasm to muse, "Oh, chardonnay?" When you're told it's riesling you glance around, see who's watching, and take a sip.

What's going on here? They can balance that sugar with acid? How come no one told you that? Furthermore, you're floored to hear that in places like the Finger Lakes winemakers are producing rippingly dry rieslings.

You take yourself off the list for 3 Rings, you thank the wine gods that you never were approved to buy an allocation of Screaming Eagle, and you head for Mosel. And Alsace. And the Finger Lakes of New York.

You only tell a select few erudite friends.

RieslingStage4_MorganDawsonPhotography STAGE FOUR: Riesling as Wine God

Everything is clear to you now.

No other wine in the world can range from bone dry to toe-curlingly sweet and still find the balance to keep a bowling ball on a tightrope a hundred feet in the air.

Your Fritz Haag checks in at 7% ABV, about a third of the ABV of those untouched monsters sitting in your cellar, and you love it. You recently opened a Gunderloch that you're pretty sure is responsible for sending your friend's cancer into remission. And you stockpile vacation days just to explore the dozen-or-more Finger Lakes producers who are carving out an electric style unseen in other parts of the wine world.

You dream about four-hour dinners with Lyle Fass and you've named your dog "Auslese." The Cycle of Riesling is complete.