Forge Cellars Les Allies 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.
Forge Cellars has quickly become known as a benchmark producer for Dry Riesling in the Finger Lakes (Upstate New York) and in the United States. In 2017, their Dry Riesling Classique appeared on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year in position number 31.
Partners, Louis Barruol (Château de Saint Cosme in Gigondas, France), and Richard Rainey have been working together since their first vintage in 2011 to produce hand-crafted, terroir-driven, bone dry Riesling and cool-climate Pinot Noir. Focusing on the east side of Seneca Lake—the deepest of the Finger Lakes at 620ft—the duo works with several premier sites with considerable slope and an abundance of different clones and soils. They have long-term relationships with growers throughout the region, and work closely with them to cultivate healthy grapes and develop viticultural programs that work well for each individual site. Bellows is the estate vineyard at Forge Cellars, which is farmed biointesively and densely-planted to Riesling and Pinot Noir.
Each vintage, a variety of lieux-dits (single vineyard bottlings) are produced in limited quantities. These wines reflect the substance and diversity of southeast Seneca Lake, and pay homage to Forge Cellars’ exploration of the region. Of most importance in the winery’s lineup is their Classique, which represents their work on a larger scale. All of their lieux-dits, each vinified separately, are the basis of this wine and represent the DNA of Classique. In the words of Louis Barruol, “This wine is like you and me—we are individually unique, but we represent all of our ancestors at the same time. We carry their traits.”
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.
Riesling possesses a remarkable ability to reflect the character of wherever it is grown while still maintaining its identity. A regal variety of incredible purity and precision, 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. Somm Secret—Given how difficult it is to discern the level of sweetness in a Riesling from the label, here are some clues to find the dry ones. First, look for the world “trocken.” (“Halbtrocken” or “feinherb” mean off-dry.) Also a higher abv usually indicates a drier Riesling.