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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!

Dry Riesling 2015

100{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Riesling

Whole cluster pressed.  No fining or filtration.

The Dry Riesling is rapidly becoming the signature wine for Wiemer.  It is a blend of 3 single vineyards: HJW, Magdalena and Josef.  On the nose, the Riesling has aromas of green apple and yellow peach, as well as hints of minerality and fresh cut flowers.  The palate shows dense nectarine, white peach, orange peel, marmalade, and apricot skin.  It becomes more tropical with air.  Don’t be afraid to decant it!   This wine is extremely versatile at the table – all kinds of spicy food, seafood, and chicken just to a name a few.

From the Wine Enthusiast, “Smoke and slate extend from nose to finish on this intensely mineral dry Riesling. On the palate, flavors of pristine white grapefruit and waxy lemons penetrate deeply, finishing long with a bracing crush of lime and salt.”

Cabernet Franc 2015

100{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Cabernet Franc

Ages 8 months in old, used, neutral oak barrels.  No fining or filtration.
Ideally suited to cool climate growing, Cabernet Franc is quickly gaining a reputation as a principal red wine grape in the Finger Lakes where long, brisk autumns allow for slow ripening. The palate is generous and round, marked by vivacious berry flavors, along with savory earth notes and a bit of structure. Firm tannins grip the tongue, then soften at the finish.

Kelli White, New York State wine critic for Vinous, on the Cab Franc: “A lovely wine, if a bit of a departure from the Finger Lakes “norm.” While many FLX Cabernet Francs are spicy and savory, this wine is far more ripe and polished. This is evident even in the color, a richer ruby than is typically seen. The nose offers scents of red apples, dried leaves, roses and sweet soil. The palate is lifted and fresh but with a good density of fruit for such a middleweight wine. The tannins are present but chalky and fine. Overall, a wine of great finesse and breeding.”

Field Blend 2013

40{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Cabernet Franc, 25{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Merlot, 25{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Cabernet Sauvignon, 5{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Pinot Noir, 5{8a779485a35888273496f0b72dc634490a1f8dcc316116b0257b1d61f66eee22} Lemberger

Ages 15 months in used, neutral oak barrels.  No fining or filtration.

This balanced, well-structured table wine shows mellow tannins and ripe fruit ahead of a peppery finish.  Black currant, black cherry, red currant, red cherry, plum and a hint of nectarine on the nose of this ruby-colored blend.  The palate is fruit-forward, medium bodied with medium acidity kicking at the finish.  Ideal for a weeknight sipper or with lighter meat-based dishes.

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