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Hermann J. Wiemer HJW Vineyard Riesling 2016
#2 wine in VinePair's Top 50 of 2018
Planted in 1976, our HJW Vineyard features Hermann’s original plantings on Seneca Lake. Mature vines, combined with the site’s shallow topsoil and shale bedrock, produce lower yields, resulting in expressively vibrant flavors. Higher elevation and a greater distance from Seneca Lake contribute to a cooler growing season, resulting in a leaner, more austere wine with intense flavor and an excellent aging potential. These core characteristics of the HJW vineyard are expressed in this exclusive vineyard-specific wine. Invigorating crispness and an appealing balance of flavors combine with an unprecedented minerality, which carries into an impressive and enduring finish.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
In 1973 he bought 140 acres on the west side of Seneca Lake, which he planted with a variety of European vinifera grapevines. Visitors who wish to see these vines, along with ponds and the six acre nursery, can take the popular Vineyard Walk through the property.
The Winery, which produces 12,000 cases each year, was designed in 1982 by an award winning team of Cornell architects. Enclosed within the shell of a seventy-year-old scissor-trussed barn, it accommodates a laboratory, tasting and retail sales, a wine production area and a private tasting room. Its unique white cathedral-like interior counterpoints the bare wooden walls and sleek Italian stainless steel tanks.
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 more 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.