Last weekend, we attended the Hermann J. Wiemer Estate Tasting. I’ll just begin this post by saying, if you have the opportunity to attend one of these (there’s another one in two weeks), you should definitely do it! This event gives you a unique deep dive into the heritage of a single winery paired with the wines that define their growth and development. You basically get to taste your way through the vineyard’s history.
The event took place in four courses, and we moved throughout the tasting rooms and winery for different sections. We started with a glass of either their 2014 Reserve Riesling or the 2014 Chardonnay while we waited for the event to begin.
We tried around 24 different wines in this tasting, and by the end I had stopped taking notes and just enjoyed the process, so I’m just going to be sharing notes for a couple of my favorites and some of the more fascinating comparisons.
Where We Are & Where We’ve Been
Our first tasting was led by Fred Merwarth, head winemaker, and Oskar Bynke, co-owner, and featured a flight of four wines that they feel exemplifies their current winemaking style and the sites that they source their grapes from. We tried the Cuvee Brut 2012, Dry Rose 2016, Riesling HJW Vineyard 2014, and Cabernet Franc Magdalena Vineyard 2014. They also surprised us by bringing out a 1990 Riesling and 2004 Cabernet Franc to compare how the wine has changed with age.
Cuvee Brut 2012: The winery began producing sparkling wine in 1983, with the motto that sparkling was something you made in bad years. Since 2008, sparkling has become a staple of their winery that they produce regularly using the traditional Champagne method (Learn more about the ‘traditional method’ from Wine Folly). Their sparkling currently is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. It has wonderful notes of white peach, pear, and crusty bread, with citrus on the palate and a great acid.
Riesling HJW Vineyard 2014: Riesling has always been one of the main varietals produced at the vineyard, which was a difficult thing in the 1980s when Riesling was equated with being super sweet (a misconception that still persists). Hermann J. Wiemer was the first winemaker in this region to label his Rieslings ‘Dry’, and they’ve continued to produce amazing Rieslings from dry to sweet. The 2014 HJW, grown exclusively at the HJW vineyard, is green gold in color, with notes of lime curd and slate, with bright peach, citrus and mineral on the palate. The mouthfeel is slightly viscous but balanced with a high acidity.
We compared this against a 1990 Riesling from the same vineyard. The color in this 20+ year wine is golden and reflective, and it has a nose of honey, peach, petrol, and a strong nuttiness, like hazelnuts. However, when sipping, the mouthfeel and palate are shockingly similar- with a bright acid that clears away the honey notes. It was fascinating to try such an old wine.
Riesling at the Table
Our second section was a wine and food pairing led by Chef Michael Murphy of Sugar Hill Catering, and Thijs Verschuuren, vineyard manager. In this section, we tried a Dry Riesling 2014, Semi-Dry Riesling 2007, Semi-Dry Riesling 2016, and a Late Harvest 2014. This was paired with, respectively, an herbed goat cheese with oven dried tomato, winter vegetable ragout, smoked duck with vegetables, and a shrimp and crayfish salad.
This section ended with a surprise pairing, a Noble Select Josef 2014 and a dried date with blue cheese.
Late Harvest 2014: Notes of candied lime peel and citrus, with strong slate and acid added to these flavors on the palate. It was very sweet, but this was balanced by the bright acidity and citrus notes. When paired with the delicious shrimp and crayfish salad, the wine became even brighter and the citrus was more pronounced, cleansing the palate and reducing the impact of the sweetness.
Because after all that wine tasting, one really needs a break… a Chardon-nay-nay break!
In this section, led by Joshua Carlsen, sommelier of Stonecat Cafe, we had the option of tasting two Blanc de Blanc sparkling wines, one from 2002 and one from 2009, and two Chardonnays, one from 2003 and the other from 2014 (quick note, Blanc de Blanc means that the sparkling is made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes).
Blanc de Blancs 2009 vs. 2002: The older sparkling had strong notes of brioche and pear, with the bright citrus and acid on the palate. In comparison, the 2009 had more fruit flavors of apple and lime, and less of that brioche, crusty bread. I was a huge fan of the older one since I really love that bread crust taste (I also just really love bread crust), but my family preferred the 2009’s brightness and fruit notes. This was paired with a cucumber dill soup that really brought out the freshness in both the soup and wine when paired together.
Where We’re Going
Our final section was led again by Fred and Oskar, with assistant winemaker Dillon Buckley. This flight of wine included Gruner Veltliner 2016, Lemberger 2016 (barrel), Red Field 2016 (barrel) and 2005, and Riesling Bio Field 2016 (barrel). Three of these were taken straight out of a barrel and are not currently available, and the first wine was bottled but has not been released yet.
Red Field 2016 vs. 2005: The Red Field is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot (the 2005 also has Pinot Noir and some other wines added). The 2016 has a great nose of black berries, cherry, smoke, and leather. When sipped, the cherry and spice really comes through, the there is a bright acid and chewy tannin. In comparison, the 2005 is a little more jammy and earthy, with a chalky tanning. Both were delicious and really interesting to compare. What’s fascinating about these wines is that they are picked and fermented together from one field, not taken from different fields and then blended together.
Lemberger 2016: Who doesn’t love a good Lemberger; its such a unique wine and fun to taste them across the Finger Lakes. This wine has a unique nose of blueberry, cherry, leather and tobacco. The blueberry is fun and different- you don’t normally get that note from wine. On the palate, the berries carry through, and there is a bright acid and chewy tannin. This would be a fun wine to age to see what happens with it over time, and if that blueberry and acid lingers.
You would think after twenty tastes of wine we would be done… we weren’t. The tasting continued, and they opened up a few more interesting surprises for us while we snacked on charcuterie and compared notes with the other guests. This was an incredible experience. The team at Hermann J. Wiemer are open, friendly, genuine and really love what they do. Their curiosity and love of their craft translates into the wines and into their events. You really feel like part of the family when you’re there.
Again, if you get the chance to do this tasting, DO IT. If you can’t make it out for the event, you can always call ahead and request a special tasting. They are more than happy to help out. We did one over the winter with Jeremy Coffey, sommelier at winery, and it was fabulous.