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Hector Syrah 2016

The Hector Wine Company Syrah (Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes, NY) 2016 $28 [Very Good+] is a worthy successor to Hector's 2015 Syrah, one of my favorite wines of the vintage.  This bottle (like the 2015) emulates the northern Rhone, with its meaty and iron-tinged flavors of blackberry, black cherry, and pepper.  It should age well.  Drink it with dinner.

Medium dark violet-tinged ruby in color, the Hector shows focused meaty aromas of blackberry, black cherry, ferrous mineral, black pepper and tobacco.  Full bodied, with medium to high levels of tannin and enlivening acidity, balance is very good.  Flavors of blackberry, black cherry, ferrous mineral, brown spice, and meaty/tobacco notes have very good precision and concentration.  The finish is lively, gritty and tannic, with very good length.  January 2018

Note:  Unlike the 2015, this bottle is more “vin de garde” than “drink me now”.  Put it away in the cellar for a few years and an even more compelling wine should emerge.


Red Newt “Circle” Riesling 2016

Is there a better white wine value in the market today?  I doubt it.  While many “Semi-Dry” (i.e. medium sweet) Rieslings are sugary and lack both depth and acidity, this Red Newt Cellars “Circle” Riesling (Finger Lakes, NY) 2016 $12 [Very Good+] hits all the right notes.  Deeply flavored, well balanced, medium sweet, but with great snappy acidity, this wine is a fine sipper.  Demi-sec wines like this (think Domaine Huet) can also be very good with food.

Medium straw in color, the aromas are sharp and deep, with scents of gooseberry, ripe pear, nectarine, beeswax, flinty notes, and hints of honey. The wine seems to become more citrus-y with aeration.  Medium bodied, medium sweet, full in the mouth, with a good deal of enlivening acidity, balance is very good.  The deep flavors feature a panopoly of fruits — grapefruit, nectarine, tangerine, lime, lemon — as well as accents of slate, chalk and honey.  The finish is full-fruited, sweet, citrus-y and tangy, with a smack of the lips and very good length.  January 2018


Two Excellent Rieslings from 2016: Hermann J. Wiemer “Reserve” Dry Riesling 2016 Empire Estate “Reserve” Dry Riesling 2016

Wiemer’s “Reserve” Riesling has always been one of this firm’s best wines.  It may not always reach the heights of the “Magdalena” or the “HJW,” but neither does it suffer the faults of these vineyards in off years.  Typically, it is very well balanced.  This wine is a beauty, with lovely balance, pretty flavors, and a compelling long finish.  Made in the classic Wiemer style — soft and medium dry — it is a great candidate for sipping.  This bottle proved to be very nice with food too.  Goat Cheese Enchiladas was a fine match, as were mild soft white cheeses.

The Hermann J. Wiemer “Reserve” Dry Riesling (Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes, NY) 2016 $29 [Excellent] is dark lemon yellow in color.  Rich penetrating aromas of pear, ripe apple, lime, apricot, smoky mineral, beeswax, and hits of honey are compelling.  Medium bodied, medium dry, with a soft round mouth feel, just enough tangy acidity provides very good balance.  Focused flavors of pear, pineapple, lime, smoky mineral, and touches of honey and beeswax are concentrated and complex.  The finish is balanced, gently peppery/spicy and quite long.  Jamuary 2018



The better Rieslings from the 2016 vintage all show creamy and beeswax notes and a powerful stony minerality.  The Empire Estate “Reserve” Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes, NY) 2016 $25 to $42 [Excellent] has these characteristics in abundance.  Full bodied, dry, with very rich flavors of ripe apple and peach, this wine is also quite spicy, with distinctive ginger and mineral notes in the wine’s long finish.  This bottle can be sipped or served with food.

Light to medium straw in color, the creamy aromas are quite rich, with scents of ripe apple, peach, lemon, beeswax, ginger, and smoky/stony notes. Full bodied, dry, with relatively low acidity for Riesling and a spicy/peppery mouth feel, balance is very good.  Intense creamy flavors of ripe apple, peach, citrus, beeswax and smoky/stony minerality are compelling.  Te finish is quite spicy and very long.  Flavors linger for some time.  January 2018

Note: The abundant spice in this wine will be a selling point for some drinkers, but possibly a negative for others.

Heart & Hands Dry Riesling 2016

The Heart & Hands Wine Company Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes, NY) 2016 $21 [Very Good to Very Good+] is the best regular dry Riesling I have had from this winery.  Off dry, with high acidity, this wine has an appealing round mid-palate and pure flavors.  Given the wine’s nice balance, it should work well with a variety of foods.

Medium straw in color, the aromas feature nectarine, apricot, lime, flinty notes, and mineral.  Light to medium bodied, with high acidity and an attractive round mouth feel, balance is very good.  Nicely focused flavors of nectarine, apricot, tangerine, lime, gunflint and slate have very good intensity and an appealing sense of austerity.  The finish is very well balanced, tart, lip smacking, with very good length.  Mineral and citrus flavors linger.  December 2017


Eminence Road “Elizabeth’s Vineyard” Pinot Noir 2015

The Eminence Road Farm Winery “Elizabeth’s Vineyard” Pinot Noir (Finger Lakes, NY) 2015 $20 [Very Good to Very Good+] is no blockbuster.  It won’t need time in your cellar.  But it is a lovely ready-to-drink quaffable wine, full of juicy strawberry fruit flavors, with a good deal of character and complexity.  A fine sipper (gulper?), this wine is also very food friendly.

Medium ruby in color, airy and tangy aromas of smoke, ferrous mineral, shale stone, ripe strawberry, black berries, and a dash of horse barn are distinctive and appealing.  Medium bodied, soft, with adequate acidity and light tannin, balance is good.  Easy-going juicy flavors of ripe strawberry, black berries, shale stone, herbs and hints of horse barn are deliciously quaffable.  The finish is lightly tannic and a bit gritty, with very good length. December 2017


Thirsty Owl Dry Riesling 2016

This wine is a bargain.  Sharp-edged, with a good deal of richness, and the stony mineral notes that characterize the 2016 vintage, the Thirsty Owl Wine Company Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes, NY) 2016 $13 to $15 [Very Good to Very Good+] is a fine food wine.  It pairs quite nicely with curry dishes and should work with many other entrees as well.

Medium lemon yellow in color, the aromas are rich with a sharp edge — dried apricot, peach, lemon oil, beeswax, and earth.  Medium bodied, dry, with razor sharp acidity, balance is good.  Flavors of lime, dried apricot, bitter citrus zest, earth and hints of honey are distinctive and have very good concentration.  The finish is dry, acerbic, chalky, and lip smacking, with very good length.  Flavors linger.  December 2017


Dr. Konstantin Frank “Reserve” Gewürztraminer 2016

Ordinarily, Finger Lakes Gewürztraminer is not a wine to put away.  These wines generally don’t improve with age.  But the Dr. Konstantin Frank “Reserve” Gewürztraminer (Finger Lakes, NY) 2016 $20 [Very Good+] may be an exception to the rule.  Full bodied and moderately sweet, with very zesty acidity, a bit of age should facilitate a greater degree of harmony and complexity.  In the meantime, this Gewürz is a very refreshing wine to sip.  Zippy acidity makes it quite food friendly too.

Medium straw in color, aromas of pear, lychee, coconut, spice, smoky mineral, and hints of honey are attractive.  Full bodied, medium sweet, with pronounced zesty acidity, balance is very good.  Flavors of pear, coconut, lychee, grapefruit, spice and a near “foxy” note have very nice concentration and definition.  The finish is surprisingly zippy and tart, lip smacking, and quite long.  Spice and grapefruit notes linger.  December 2017


Atwater Pétillant Naturel 2016

Most white Pétillant Naturel wines in the Finger Lakes are made from Riesling, but this sparkler is a 50-50 blend of Chardonnay and Riesling. Sweeter than the typical pet-nat, with fine balance and lip smacking flavors, this first Pétillant Naturel from Atwater is an undeniable success.  It makes a very nice aperitif, and may also work with some light fish or chicken dishes.

The Atwater Estate Vineyards Pétillant Naturel (Finger Lakes, NY) 2016 $25 [Very Good+] is medium lemon yellow in color and slightly cloudy.  Unlike most other Finger Lakes Pét Nats, there is no sediment in the bottle.  Moderately intense and pure aromas of lemon oil, lime, apple, subtle yeasty notes, chalky mineral and white flowers are elegant and attractive.  Light bodied, medium dry to medium sweet, with snappy acidity and a medium froth, the Atwater is very well balanced.  Flavors of lemon oil, apple, apricot, citrus zest, subtle yeasty notes, chalky mineral and white flowers have nice focus and concentration.  The persistent finish is lip smacking, lightly bitter, with very good poise and length.  Chalky mineral notes linger.  December 2017.

Note: A mere 20 cases of this wine was produced.  It should disappear very quickly.


© Douglas Hillstrom 2014