Just because the temperatures relented and the nights cooled off doesn’t mean you have to abandon white wines.
Riesling is one of my favorite white wines and an ideal wine for fall. For a white wine that pairs with the season of pumpkins and crunchy leaves, riesling’s tree fruit and zippy acidity bring life to your pallet. The additional weight and versatility make riesling one of the most easily parable wines with food, including more flavorful and hearty dishes.
Riesling has the ability to channel so many flavors, including citrus, floral and spiciness. You will find the characteristics tuned into the region where it is grown “channeling the terroir.” Plus, riesling can be sweet or dry, and it makes a convincing sparkling wine. It finds luscious expression as an ice wine, or dessert wine. If I had to live out life drinking wine made from one white grape, it would riesling. Riesling can do anything.
The Finger Lakes — and to a lesser extent, Pennsylvania — flow with riesling. The cool-climate grapes develop wonderful acids with the nighttime shift in temperatures. Also, riesling vines tolerate winter’s bitterly cold temperatures that would kill to the ground vines such as cabernet sauvignon or syrah.
A bit to the north, the Finger Lakes has long been heralded as one of the world’s top riesling regions. If you have not yet gone there, you need to, or at least try a Finger Lakes wine from the state store.
One you may find is Empire Estate, a virtual winery with a business connection to Finger Lakes winery Red Newt. It does not appear that Empire Estate has released a wine since 2017. For a ready-to-drink white, a 2017 wine is marginal. Its riesling has been described as a “gateway riesling for non-natives.” No worse for the bottle aging, Empire Estate 2017 Finger Lakes Dry Riesling is lean, showing lime zest and minerals with a slightly tart finish. $12. ♦♦♦ 1/2
Closer to home, Nimble Hill Vineyards & Winery has made stellar rieslings that have earned serious accolades, all from a patch of land known as Toszko Vineyards, located near Mehoopany. I wait for this to come out every year. The land reveals a lot of complexity, and I prefer the drier approach.
For 2018, it went a bit sweeter with 1.2% residual sugar, but dry drinkers need to give it a chance. The Nimble Hill 2018 Toczko Vineyard 2018 Pennsylvania Riesling smells of peach and apple and shows a luscious mouthfeel of fresh apples dissolving into a white pepper and apricot finish. While I can quibble about the sugar, the wine is still balanced on the finish. You have to go to the Tunkhannock tasting room for this; it offers curbside pickup. $18 to $20. ♦♦♦♦ 1/2
Riesling’s home is Germany, and the nation produces a full range of delicious ones. One moderately priced riesling that caught my eye is Ich Bin Ein Riesling. With a graffiti peace sign on the label cribbed from the falling of the Berlin Wall, the wine claims to celebrate unity, rebelliousness and inclusivity in turbulent times. For sure, it also celebrates selling wine, which is OK. The concept is fun and can be a talking point for your next get-together. Ich Bin Ein Riesling 2018 Rheinhessen Riesling shows some green apple character and a touch of spice with a medium weight. With moderate acids, the fresh wine has a clean, stony finish. $12. ♦♦♦♦
When it comes to riesling, plenty are available. Other great riesling locations include Washington and Oregon. For people who drank riesling in the 1970s, please note: it is not all sweet.
GRADE: Exceptional ♦♦♦♦♦, Above average ♦♦♦♦, Good ♦♦♦, Below average ♦♦, Poor ♦
David Falchek executive director of the American Wine Society, reviews wines each week. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org