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Introduction

This month’s wines from Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard in the Finger Lakes, upstate New York are wines that I have long admired and enjoyed.  Recently, the wines became available in the Tampa market and I jumped at the opportunity to showcase them for you.  My first exposure to Wiemer came while I was working in various wine programs in New York City.  I met and tasted with Oskar Bynke, current co-owner/estate manager/head of marketing and immediately fell in love with the Rieslings.  The purity and aromatic complexity these wines possessed was revelation, especially considering I am German Riesling fanatic!

Hermann Wiemer is a pioneering figure in the history of New York wine.  Wiemer was born to make wine – his mother’s family had over 300 years of winemaking experience in the Mosel, and his father was responsible for restoring vines in that region after World War II. Hermann grew up learning to graft vines by hand with his father before attending prestigious German winemaking and viticultural institutions. When Hermann moved to New York he discovered that the western shore of Seneca Lake was quite similar to the cool climate and gravelly soils of the Mosel. Using his grafting skills, Wiemer planted one of the first successful vinifera vineyards on Seneca Lake in 1976.  This ran in parallel to the fine wine revolution in California that exploded after Steven Spurrier’s legendary ‘Judgement of Paris’ tasting (where California Chardonnays and Cabernets faired well in a blind tasting against classics from Bordeaux and Burgundy).

Hermann retired in 2007, leaving selling the winery to agronomist Oskar Bynke and Wiemer’s right hand man, Fred Merwarth.  The Finger Lakes are not an easy place to grow grapes: the winters are brutally cold, spring frosts are common, and the summers are humid and often rainy.  Both Oskar and Fred are committed to continuing Hermann’s vision based on meticulous, precise vineyard management and winemaking.  Oskar says,

“Our future plan for the winery is to elevate the quality. Although we are one of the oldest in the Finger Lakes, we are very young compared to the other regions of the world. We are still working on our plantings, viticulture, and vinification methods. The winery has a history of being very agriculturally driven, in the sense that we have little intervention in the winery. Instead, we focus on the quality of the fruit. We continue to review the potential of our sites with better management. We use an organic spray program with no herbicides and no pesticides, and we will try to grasp the powers that are out of our control-flirting with Steiner (the father of biodynamic farming) a small bit… The goal is not only to make very high quality wines, but also to elevate the wines of the whole region by spearheading the Finger Lakes as the premier Riesling terroir of the country ….it is in pursuit of Hermann’s determined philosophy that we combine the best of old-world viticulture practices with sustainable modern techniques in our nursery, vineyard, and winemaking and ensure that our wines embody the finest expression of our vineyards”.

Oskar sums up concisely why we love Wiemer wines: they are authentic, handmade, environmentally responsible, and most of all, delicious!

Riesling Reserve Dry 2015

100{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Riesling

Sustainably farmed.

Whole cluster pressed.  No fining or filtration.

The Reserve Dry Riesling, made from a small selection of grapes meticulously chosen from Wiemer’s 3 single vineyards.  Each vineyard’s wines are fermented separately and then blended prior to bottling.  Highly aromatic and extremely complex, we find a mix of tangy stone fruits and citrus zest balanced by a stony minerality, unctuous texture and an electric, crisp finish.

From the Wine Advocate, “The Dry Riesling Reserve is, according to winemaker Fred Merwath, about 90{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Auslese level in ripeness. It is a luscious Riesling that seems round and rich, but as with most of what Wiemer makes, there is ample attention here to age-worthiness and structure. Underneath, there is fine acidity that cuts through the dense fruit. Then, it never seems as rich again, eventually showing more and more power on the finish. This is something you can sink your teeth into”.

Cabernet Franc Magdalena Vineyard 2014

100{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Cabernet Franc

Sustainably farmed.

Whole cluster pressed.  8 months in Hungarian oak barrels.  No fining or filtration.

The Cabernet Franc Magdalena Vineyard is selected from a 2.5 acre plot at the warm, northern end of the Magdalena site. Extended skin contact, whole-cluster pressing, and time in younger Hungarian oak barrels impart a structure and depth to this full-bodied red. Dense tannins and prominent tobacco notes hint at the ageabilty of this Cabernet Franc though it will drink energetically while young.  Decant for an hour before drinking and enjoy with one your favorite roasted red meat dishes or with a multitude of cheeses.

A recent Editor’s Choice from Wine Enthusiast, the Magdalena Cab Franc scored 93 points, “­Hermann J. Wiemer may be synonymous with New York Riesling, but its Cabernet Francs are consistently some of the best reds made in the state. Subdued shades of cigar box, cedar and tomato leaf lend savory, Old-World elegance to this ripe, richly concentrated wine. Pristine blackberry and plum flavors are juicy and penetrating yet briskly composed. A bristle of soft, cocoa powder tannins extends the finish.”

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