Hermann the German

Yesterday, I visited:

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Hermann J. Wiemer purchased 140 acres on the west side of Seneca Lake (Finger Lakes, upstate NY) in 1973 and released his first vintage in 1979.  He’s originally from Bernkastel, in the Mosel region of Germany and his family has a winemaking history of over 3oo years. 

He’s considered one of the pioneers in this region and was one of the first to focus on planting vitis vinifera grapes – this is the species of all the wine grapes you’ve heard of before; Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc.  Previously, most plantings in this area had been vitis labrusca – think concord grapes and Welch’s grape juice. 

The cool climate and gravelly soils in the Finger Lakes reminded Wiemer of his family’s vineyards in the Mosel.  His dedication to old-world style winemaking and the quality of the wines he’s produced have not gone unnoticed – just this past week was a great mention in the New York Times where Eric Asimov focused on Complex American Wine at an Easy Price to Pay.

Here’s what I tried:

1. Blanc de Blanc 2002: 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, made in the traditional method; clean, full-bodied and well-balanced with notes of toasty brioche, citrus and honey.

2. Estate White 2007: 60% Chardonnay, 20% each Riesling and Gewürztraminer.  I usually don’t care for blends like this, but here it worked – I got highlights from each varietal; citrus from the Riesling, some lychee from the Gewürztraminer and an apple roundness from the Chardonnay. 

3. Dry Rosé NV: approximately a 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with a touch of Cabernet Franc.  Rasberry, orange rind and yeast were the notes on this dry, full-bodied rosé.  This is the one I purchased to take home to drink with mom and dad’s bbq chicken and salt potatoes.   

4. I did a side-by-side tasting of the 2006 Cabernet Franc and the 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve.  The 2006 was much lighter in body, with black cherry, tobacco, herbal and sweet spice notes.  2007 was a much warmer vintage, yielding a wine with ripe plum and berry notes, chewy tannins and a long finish.  The differences were noticeable even before lifting the glasses to my nose – can you guess which is which?

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5. Dry Riesling 2007: notes of lime and grapefruit with stunning minerality.  This is the varietal that put Wiemer and the rest of the Finger Lakes on the winemaking map.

6. Gewürztraminer 2007: highly perfumed and a touch spicy – peaches, apples, melon as well as the signature rose petal and lychee so often found with this varietal. 

There’s nearly 100 wineries now in the Finger Lakes AVA (American Viticultural Area).  If you plan a visit, make sure Wiemer’s on your list.

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