Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Damiani Vertical Riesling Tasting 6-6-15

Damiani Wine Cellars Winemaker Phil Arras and Owner Lou Damiani discuss Damiani Rieslings
   I attended the Damiani Vertical Riesling Tasting last weekend, where 6 years of Damiani Rieslings were poured from 2008 to 2012, along with a barrel sample of the current 2014 vintage. Owners Lou Damiani and Glenn Allen were on hand, joined by winemaker Phil Arras to discuss the vintages and answer a wide range of questions presented by the attendees from optimal temperature for serving Riesling (slightly chilled) to optimal fermentation temperature for Riesling (I knew cooler slow fermentations were best, but I was surprised that some of these Rieslings were fermented at extremely low temperatures).
   Damiani opened in 2004 focusing on red wines and have won many accolades for their red wines. But as I always say, the best red wine producers are often some of the best white wine producers, producing whites that are nuanced and ageworthy. Thus was my quest to find out if these Rieslings could withstand the test of time.

2008 (Semi-dry) Riesling: Powerful slate mineral with a hint of vanilla on the nose, a touch of oxidation in the aromatics (not unexpected for a 7 year old white) but none on the palate; abundant lemon/lime acidity on the front, still structured and not flabby, and sufficient mineral on the finish. It has peaked, but still very drinkable.

2009 (Semi-dry) Riesling: Fresh lime aromatics, with the structure softening nicely; more lemon zest than lime on the front, into juicy stone fruits in a long finish, showing beautifully right now and it still has some years left. This one and the next one were my favorites.

2010 Dry Riesling: Balanced citrus and mineral aromatics, austere structure and very dry (but that was after 2 semi-dry's), more floral elements than fruit elements on the palate, with a touch of that signature Riesling kero-aging. This was the only dry Riesling among the bunch and it stands up there with the best of the Dry Rieslings in the Finger Lakes. This has some years left.

2011 (Semi-dry) Riesling: Damp stone on the nose, a touch of tannin on the superstructure, less RS showing with pure smooth lime from start to finish, holding up very well.

2012 ( Semi-dry) Riesling: Beautiful nose with floral, lime, and layered minerality; Juicy peach palate but of shorter duration on the finish, maybe this one will build with age.

2014 Semi Dry Riesling (Tank sample): This wine had a great story to go with it. Winemaker Phil Arras told of how a hale storm severely bruised the grapes used for this wine and they really did not know if the grapes would be worth using, but they went ahead and used them anyway and it turned out to be very good. So when he went to name this wine, he thought of his son who had been born with a heart defect and needed open heart surgery at 5 months old, but recovered wonderfully, as did the grapes for this Riesling. So they will name this wine Rhysling in honor of his son. Some other humorous hale-inspired names that were considered were "What the Hale", "Go to Hale" and "Hale of a Riesling".
They opted for natural fermentation and whole cluster pressing for this one with extended lees contact. This wine is currently showing huge peach aromatics; on the palate I get beautiful lavender, lime and dried peach skin tones. It will be interesting to see how this turns out in the bottle. A portion of the proceeds from this wine will go to a childrens cardiac charity.

So as I've experienced before, Finger Lakes Rieslings can be very age-worthy and very expressive as they age. I know it's hard to do (mine disappear quickly), but try to put a few of your favorite Finger Lakes Rieslings in the cellar for a while and see how they age.  -Rob Lane


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