Other White Wine



Riesling is the Queen of white grapes in the Finger Lakes.  It is sometimes majestic, very often compelling, rarely disappointing.

King Chardonnay comes next, the second most grown variety in the land. Sadly, too often it lacks power, is almost never regal, and fails to achieve the consistent quality of Riesling.

Beyond these two major grape varieties, we have the “other” white vinifera grapes.  Acreage for the “others” is comparatively small, sometimes minuscule.

While there were 1200 acres of Riesling and Chardonnay planted in 2011, according to a 2013 vineyard survey, plantings of other white vinifera grapes were tiny in comparison: Gewürztraminer 108 acres, Pinot Gris 69 acres, Sauvignon Blanc 17 acres.  Some other varieties (e.g. Pinot Blanc,  Grüner Veltliner) were not even recorded, there was so little.

Some of these grapes have potential.  If there are princes and princesses, these would be Gewürztraminer and Grüner Veltliner, the former capable of greatness, but very rarely rising to the occasion, the latter quickly establishing a very good reputation for consistent quality.

But what of the white vinifera grapes you see only sporadically on liquor store shelves?

The most important of these are Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.  Neither is much grown, and one suspects their main purpose is to round out tasting room menus.

Pinot Gris is a problematic grape for the Finger Lakes.  Apart from Anthony Road and Mazza Chautauqua, no wineries have had much success with it.  Sauvignon Blanc appears to show a bit more promise.  

But  given competition from Italy (Pinot Grigio) and New Zealand (Sauvignon Blanc), and the unforgiving weather in the Finger Lakes, it seems highly unlikely that either grape will ever be a major player in the region.

One variety with minuscule production which does show promise is Pinot Blanc. Heron Hill and the Hector Wine Company have had successful wines, and Johannes Reinhardt of Kemmeter has planted it.

On this page we have the most successful bottles of the “other whites” from the 2014 vintage (i.e. rated “very good” or better). Other less appealing wines can be found via the menus on this site.

Some of these wines may no longer  be available.  Keep an eye out for the 2015 releases from these producers.  As always, new bottles will be added to this lineup in the coming weeks.

Cheers! — Douglas

A word about these tastings: Each tasting note is based on a full bottle of wine (no tasting room notes or group tastings), sampled over a two-day period, most often with food.  All bottles are purchased from the winery or a wine shop. I do not accept “sample” bottles from wineries, nor do I have a financial relationship of any kind with any winery or the wine industry.  The views expressed here are my own, and I strive to be as honest and objective as a person can be.


© Douglas Hillstrom 2014