If you’re looking for the a one on one, personalized, in-depth, and utterly amazing tasting experience in the Finger Lakes, you need to go to Hermann J. Wiemer. But don’t just go. Sure, you’ll get a good tasting, but there’s a secret to visiting Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard that will take you to the next level of wine tasting.
Ok, it’s not a secret, more of a suggestion you may not have heard yet.
Make a reservation.
That’s right, instead of just showing up and doing the regular tasting, make a reservation in advance and let them know what you’re interested in, even if it’s as simple as “we like so and so types of wine”, and how much you’re looking to pay for the tasting- whether it’s the normal fee, a few bucks more, or a lot more.
Trust me on this one. If you’re looking to be a complete nerd about wine, HJW can cater to your needs. If you’re just looking to be a little fancy, HJW’s got you covered. If you have specific wines you’re interested in, HJW’ll make it happen. They win for service, all day, every day.
Our Epic HJW Tasting
What did we ask for? We asked specifically to try some sparkling and library (i.e. older) wines, something a little special to celebrate New Year’s Eve with, and wanted to get super nerdy about them. With Jenny Menges taking the lead, we got exactly what we were looking for, and much much more.
Our tasting began with a 2014 Brut Rosé made from Pinot Noir that was disgorged special for us that morning, so it had no dosage (in the last stage of traditional method sparkling wine you remove the dead yeast, which is called disgorging, and add a little more wine and sugar to the bottle to change the sweetness, which is called the dosage). The wine was bright with a nose of red berries, cherry, strawberry and hints of fresh herbs and ciabatta bread. When sipped it continued to be light and fresh with tart strawberry notes, a little nuttiness and a great acidity, complemented by delicate bubbles.
We got to compare this against a tank sample of the 2018 Brut Rosé, which will one day become a sparkling but is currently still. It has a nose of strawberry bubblegum and grapefruit, with a lovely strawberry tinged acidity. However, because it hasn’t gone through the full process of becoming a traditional method sparkling it doesn’t yet have those bread or nut-like qualities you often find.
From there, we started tasting the lineup of current 2017 Dry Rieslings. The 2017 Dry Riesling has notes of stonefruit, tangerine, and slate with a medium acidity. The 2017 HJW Dry Riesling has a floral nose with hints of lime and nectarine, and on the palate is a little more citrusy than the previous. Finally, the 2017 Bio Riesling, which was made using different farming techniques than the others. It’s nose is like dry fall leaves and apricots, and on the palate is has a lightness with its bright acidity and lingering peach notes.
Next we did a comparison of the current Chardonnay releases. The 2017 Chardonnay was made in large format Hungarian oak barrels, which is clear in its nose of baking spices and apples. However, the oak isn’t overwhelming, and when sipped it adds just a hint of butteriness to the apple and citrus taste. We compared it to the 2017 Reserve Chardonnay, which not only was made in a range of different older oaks, the fruit hung on the vines a little longer. It has a nose of butter, pear, baking spice and apple, and on the palate there is a nice green apple acidity to complement the nutmeg and butter taste.
From here we moved to reds, and had a 2017 Lemberger that has notes of cigar box, smoke, raspberry, and plum, with a light chalky tannin and hints of chocolate on the palate. Next was a 2017 Cabernet Franc that was made with a combination of stainless, Hungarian and neutral barrels. It has a slightly vegetal nose, with tart cherries and leather, and is light and bright when sipped with a cherry-raspberry taste and big chewy tannin.
The tasting finished with the Late Harvest Rieslings, one from 2012 that had notes of apricot, peach a hint of petrol, and a rich taste of citrusy stonefruit, and a 2016 that was much brighter with hints of tangerine, nectarine, and a bright acidity. Our last taste was a 2015 Magdalena Noble Select that has a nose of honey, apricot, canned peaches, and hints of floral, with it’s rich mouthfeel complemented by a lovely citrus acidity.
After all of that, we ended up purchasing the Reserve Chardonnay and the Cabernet Franc. We chose the Chardonnay because it had such a punch of flavor we thought it would be fun to try again with food, and the Cabernet Franc because it is going to be an amazing wine in a few years (tip: it’s cheaper to buy the wine while it’s young and age it yourself then to buy it when it is already older).
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, and Sunday, 11 AM – 5:00 PM. However, their winter hours sometimes vary so if you’re visiting between January and March check their website or call ahead.
Tasting Fees: Varies from $6-10 or around there depending on what flights they have available. However, if you’re doing a special reservation based tasting you set the price you want it to be.
We did $30 for our anniversary and got an amazing tasting. If you think about it, $30 for a three hour tasting for two people is pretty awesome. That’s $5 per person per hour to enjoy some of the best wine in the Finger Lakes and an amazing conversation about wine.
Group Tastings: If you’re in a group of six or more, you have to do a reservation. But as I’ve said a dozen times now… you should always make a reservation here.
Wine Prices: The wine by the bottle ranges from the low teens like $11 for the 2016 Dry Riesling and go all the way up into the $100+ range for their dessert wines.
Accessibility: The winery has multiple levels and no elevator, but there are alternative ways to enter it and bathrooms on each level, so it should be accessible for wheelchairs (though it may take a little off-roading since the drive is stone).
Tips for Visiting:
- Eat lunch beforehand: while they sometimes offer food pairings, they don’t have a full menu or even substantial snacks, so prepare for your own epic tasting by eating in advance (FLX Wienery is just down the road)
- Don’t schedule another tasting: this was a three hour tasting featuring 20 very different wines, and to fully appreciate it you’ll probably want to make this your day instead of doing tastings before and after
- Be honest about what you do and don’t like: Jenny knows I’m not a Gewürztraminer fan, so when she brought that out she also brought a Grüner Veltliner as an alternative. While you should always be open to new wines, if there is something you don’t like, tell them and they’ll find options.