FLX: The Dry Summer Days of Riesling

The road up County Route 76 slopes gradually north and with a grade, as if the car is heading towards some ramp on a monster truck rally. Outside the window the summer greenery is at its peak splendor.  I pass old storage houses and garages that present carcasses of withered single row fishing boats – the majority wooden – in as much need of fresh sanding, paint and protective coating as the garages behind them.

Keuka Lake rises out of the sheds and trees off to the near east, cool and blue waters reflecting light diamonds off of its surface.  As only the third largest in size of the numerous Finger Lakes its stature is no less impressive. A few turns of the steering wheel and a handful of other boating sheds and I pull into the gravel drive and parking area of Lake Keuka Vineyards.  The view is impressive today, yet I can’t see over the sharp slope of Riesling vines that stand in front of me. I know they are there, protected by the slope in front of me and the thicket of pine to the north along the shore.  It’s as if the forest canyon was filled with water and never left.  The ice glaciers thousands of years ago all but assured this would be the case.

Keuka Lake from the estate vineyard.

Jan was in the tasting room working the counter as I entered. I introduced myself and she began to pour the tasting flight beginning with the winery’s signature varietal: Riesling. It grows particularly well in FLX – finger lakes I learned – with various minerality, residual sugar and ABV levels. The winery boasts some of the oldest vines in the AVA and particularly around Keuka Lake, and with partner growers can craft some amazing offerings beyond the signature dry Rieslings. Of particular note is the Leon Millot, which is a 100% varietal offering of the two hybrid clones grown in the area.

Chief do-gooder and proprietor, Mel Goldman

I was half way through my lunch tasting when Mel came in and introduced himself.  Mel Goldman is the proprietor, vineyard manager and chief do-gooder at Keuka Lake Vineyards.  As I was narrowing my way towards the Leon Millot and Cabernet Franc, Mel took me on a divergence with a Coravin in hand to some of the library wines, which show exceptional ageability of the winery’s Riesling offers. As I wrapped up the tasting and thanked them both for their hospitality I was reminded of the restaurant board illustrating the many locations in FLX, NYC and elsewhere in the world – including several Tokyo establishments – where one may find their wines.

Where’s Waldo? From FLX to Tokyo.

Below are some of the tasting notes, where appropriate new releases are noted as well as the recent Wine Enthusiast ratings published in the September, 2019 edition.

2017 Falling Man Dry Riesling

89 – a nose of forest floor yields crisp off dry minerality and stone fruit overtones of pear and nectarine. Easy drink alone or with food. Falling man refers to the steep lake-facing slope of these vine blocks. RS 3.5g/L (Wine Enthusiast 90 pts)

2015 Falling Man Dry Riesling

90 A sparkling honeysuckle nose and deep white peach overtones suggest the age-ability is this offer reflected in this cool year vintage.

2017 Evergreen Lek Estate Dry Riesling

88 – Pine bark with a gentle lime facing stone fruit palate of nectarine. RS 2.6g/L (Wine Enthusiast 91 pts)

2017 Upper Eastside Dry Riesling

89 – Forest floor aromas with stone fruit of an almost tart complexity. Pair with Asian fusion dishes. RS 3.2g/L

2018 Estate Dry Riesling

90 Four vineyard complication of a new release. Young still with great structure and minerality with pine traces and white peaches on the palate. (Wine Enthusiast 90 pts for the 2017 vintage).

2017 Semi-Dry Estate Riesling

91 Creme brûlée nose with peaches and whip cream palate. Pair with Asian but keep the cobbler handy for dessert. RS 12.7g/L ABV 11.7% (Wine Enthusiast 88 pts)

2018 Gewurtztraminer

87 Chewy table fruit with a bright melony finish. A peculiar, musty nose is hard to place.

2017 20 Rows Dry Riesling

90 A new release featuring a bright, sunny nose of apricots with a full expression of stone fruit and honey on the palate. Prolonged finish. RS 3.2g/L

2017 Leon Millot

89 Cherry pie nose with tart cream finish from this 20th century hybrid. A full varietal bottling of both available clones with age back to the 1950s.

2017 Cabernet Franc

90 Big nose of currant and blackberry with a deep palate of dark fruits and a bit of allspice. Medium finish. Impressive FLX varietal offer. Very expressive with lower ABV below 14% demonstrate mature fruit and talented winemaking.


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