Two Winemakers. Two Private-Label Rieslings.
No one would ever confuse the North Fork of Long Island with the Mosel, Rheingau, Kremstal, Alsace or even the Finger Lakes – but that doesn’t mean Riesling can’t succeed here.
Over the weekend, I tasted two Rieslings from two different vintages, two different regions and from two different private winemaker labels – and they couldn’t have been more different.
The first, Influence Wines 2010 Riesling ($20) comes from Erik Bilka’s label. Bilka, a winemaker at Premium Wine Group, the region’s local custom-crush facility, makes this wine with Riesling grown at Ovid Farm on Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes – and why wouldn’t he? Some of – if not the best – Riesling in this country is grown and made up there. [expand]
The nose is fruity and a bit candied, showing a fruit cocktail of aromas including peach, lime, ruby red grapefruit and cantaloupe, with subtle floral and green tea notes.
Forward and generous, the off-dry palate offers sweet ruby grapefruit and peach flavors with fresh, citrusy-lime acidity that, while not electric, brings nice natural balance. The finish is lengthy and brings a bit of green apple to go along with lime, peach and melon flavors.
Unlike some winemakers, Bilka didn’t add sugar or acidity during the making of this wine. It expresses the vineyard and the vintage.
The Influence Wines Riesling is distributed by Lieb Family Cellars and is available in their tasting room.
A bit more mainstream is Roman Roth’s private label, Grapes of Roth. Though Roth is best known as winemaker at Sagaponack’s Wölffer Estate and the North Fork’s Roanoke Vineyards, he’s garnered critical and consumer praise for his own wines, particularly his classically styled Merlot.
The German-born winemaker makes Riesling too and his Grapes of Roth 2009 Riesling ($22) might be his best yet. Roth purchases the fruit for this wine from Split Rock Vineyards outside of Greenport, which is then vinified at Wölffer Estate.
Green melon, peach and lime aromas are accented by beautiful smoky-flinty notes and hints of boytritis – known as “noble rot” – the one time when rot can be a good thing in a vineyard because it brings a honeyed, spicy character.
Lemon-lime, green melon and peach flavors mingle on the palate with a laser beam of focused, wet-stone minerality running right down the center. That acidity gives the wine a tension that really extends the finish and all of its citrus-melon flavors.
Roth’s wines are currently available at Roanoke Vineyards in Riverhead and will soon be found at The Winemaker Studio, set to open later this month on Peconic Lane in Peconic. The Winemaker Studio is run by winemaker Anthony Nappa and his fiancée Sarah Evans, who is chef de cuisine at North Fork Table. [/expand]