North Fork Riesling

Amid the hubbub leading up to Ellen’s dinner, on Sunday morning, we took a walk to the farmers’ market at Columbia to pick up some fresh vegetables. Tucked among the covered stalls of produce sat a man at a table selling Widow’s Walk wine. We almost got by him, but something, something pulled us in.

Widow’s Walk is a producer from the North Fork of Long Island. Way out on the eastern tip of the island, the transition from potatoes to grapes occurred in the ‘70s, with Hargrave Vineyard. The idea was that Long Island’s climate was more moderate than upstate, where white varietals did better; on Long Island, red varietals stood a chance of attaining full ripeness. And they were right. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot did just fine, as good as Bordeaux, to hear the growers tell it.

Among the reds, the man at the table had two Rieslings, both at 13% alcohol, one fermented to dryness and the other with a little sweetness. We tasted them both and selected the demi-sec, or off-dry wine. Just how the winemaker crafted this wine is unknown to me. I think these were experiments, because I could not find them anywhere online, including the Widow’s Walk website.

Many growers on the North Fork outsource their winemaking. Widow’s Walk was produced and bottled by the Premium Wine Group, which amortizes the cost of the latest in winemaking technology and expertise across multiple vineyards. They undoubtedly have the formula for off-dry.

In Germany, less quality-minded producers employ the perfectly legal practice of adding unfermented grape juice to their fermented wine to sweeten it, and enhance the fruit. After pressing, the winemaker will sterilize some of the juice, called süssreserve, and put it aside until after fermentation, then add it back. Since it is a natural grape sugar, not a sweetening agent, it doesn’t have to be mentioned on the label. On balance, I like adding süssreserve better than adding antifreeze, as the Austrians are alleged to have done.

In any event, our North Fork Riesling got stashed in the refrigerator until after Ellen’s dinner. We unscrewed it with the leftovers. The roasted vegetables, already caramelized, played against the sweet edge of the riesling, bringing out the acidity. The food/wine balance was quite pleasant, as was the afterglow of a fine meal.



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