Forge Cellars Les Alliés Riesling 2016
This top cuvée is meant to showcase our favorite barrels of Riesling from each vintage. It undergoes additional bottle aging and in the end, is more reminiscent of white Burgundy than Riesling. This powerful wine packs in flavors of pear tart, tangerine, glazed citrus, slate, nutmeg and white pepper—yet it is racy and brisk enough to make your teeth hurt.
This project took 3 years to realize but the intent has always been clear – to make the best Riesling and Pinot Noir possible from the Finger Lakes of New York. From the very beginning we asked ourselves, "If we are diligent, disciplined and stay committed to doing the best work possible, what levels of quality can we realize in this unique cool climate region?"
They work with several different growers for a host of reasons vineyard aspect, soil, viticulture practices and general philosophies. The Finger Lakes is interesting as there are many growers that grow more than they make and even growers that don’t even make wine. What does this mean? Well, Forge Cellars would argue it is a great thing because the ability to find fruit is easier than in some parts of the world. That being said, finding quality fruit presents its own challenges. Their Solution? A friend by the name of Phil Davis who is a grower and partner of a great winery named Damiani Wine Cellars offered several years ago to help them navigate the grape grower maze. In a short time, they have been able to establish very good relationships with several high quality growers and the insight they and Phil have been able to provide has been invaluable in helping the winery to achieve the quality levels they were aiming for.
As the most historic wine-producing region in New York state, winemaking in the Finger Lakes area dates back to the 1820s and today as a region, accounts for 90% of the state’s total wine production.
Its narrow and deep lakes created by the movement of Ice Age glaciers create an environment similar to the classic Riesling-loving regions of Europe, namely Germany and Austria. The Finger Lakes retain summer heat that incidentally warms up cold winter air, making it fall down from the lakes’ steep slopes. When spring comes, the lakes, already cooled by cold winter weather, stave off vine budding until the danger of frost has subsided. The main lakes of the zone, that is those big enough to moderate the climate in this way, are the focal points of prime vineyard areas. They include Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, and Cayuga.
A regal variety of incredible purity and precision, Riesling possesses a remarkable ability to reflect the character of wherever it is grown while still maintaining easily identifiable typicity. This versatile grape can be just as enjoyable dry or sweet, young or old, still or sparkling and can age longer than nearly any other white variety. Riesling is best known in Germany and Alsace, and is also of great importance in Austria. The variety has also been particularly successful in Australia’s Clare and Eden Valleys, New Zealand, Washington, cooler regions of California, and the Finger Lakes region of New York.
In the Glass
Riesling typically produces wine with relatively low alcohol, high acidity, steely minerality and stone fruit, spice, citrus and floral notes. At its ripest, it leans towards juicy peach, nectarine and pineapple, while cooler climes produce Rieslings redolent of meyer lemon, lime and green apple. With age, Riesling can become truly revelatory, developing unique, complex aromatics, often with a hint of petrol.
Riesling is quite versatile, enjoying the company of sweet-fleshed fish like sole, most Asian food, especially Thai and Vietnamese (bottlings with some residual sugar and low alcohol are the perfect companions for dishes with substantial spice) and freshly shucked oysters. Sweeter styles work well with fruit-based desserts.
It can be difficult to discern the level of sweetness in a Riesling, and German labeling laws do not make things any easier. Look for the world “trocken” to indicate a dry wine, or “halbtrocken” or “feinherb” for off-dry. Some producers will include a helpful sweetness scale on the back label—happily, a growing trend.