Dry Riesling Vertical Tasting with Stuart Pigott

The continuing construction on our soon-to-be Wine Library made for a great excuse for us to hold a Dry Riesling vertical tasting. Our large collection of Sheldrake Point library wines, wines we have cellared since our beginning, gives us an opportunity to revisit our work. By conducting a vertical tasting, we can investigate and evaluate our library wines to determine if these should be released and sold to the public, or returned to the library to continue aging.

Who tasted our Dry Riesling?

Dry Riesling vertical tasting

We include as many people as possible in a vertical tasting, bringing in the palates and opinions of our staff in the tasting room, on the winemaking team, and from the vineyard.

We include as many people as possible in a vertical tasting, bringing in the palates and opinions of our staff in the tasting room, on the winemaking team, and from the vineyard. What could be a better ‘team building activity’ than an afternoon sampling twenty Sheldrake Point Dry Rieslings?

For our Dry Riesling vertical tasting, we welcome two special guests, local and international wine experts Bob Madill and Stuart Pigott.

Bob Madill is a founding partner of Sheldrake Point Winery and now serves as Brand Ambassador for the Glenora family of wineries and Wine Director for Red Newt Winery & Bistro. He is Executive Director of the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance, a member of the Board of the International Riesling Foundation, and co-chair for the Wine Symposium of the Finger Lakes.

Bob’s long involvement with Sheldrake Point makes him an important ‘panelist’ at many of our vertical tastings.

Stuart Pigott, author of Best White Wine on Earth: The Riesling Story, at our Dry Riesling vertical tasting. Sheldrake Point Assistant Winemaker at his left.

Stuart Pigott, author of Best White Wine on Earth: The Riesling Story, at our Dry Riesling vertical tasting. Sheldrake Point Assistant Winemaker Julia Hoyle at his left.

Stuart Pigott, well known in the wine industry, is wine columnist for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany’s equivalent of The New York Times. He has also published several wine books in German and English, including Best White Wine on Earth: The Riesling Story, which was given to sponsors of the 2014 Wine Symposium of the Finger Lakes. See a clip of Stuart at the 2014 event.

Work on another Riesling book recently brought Stuart back to the Finger Lakes. When our assistant winemaker Julia Hoyle heard her friend Stuart was in town, she invited him out to Sheldrake Point for a vertical tasting.

(Full disclosure: We originally planned to taste our Cab Franc, but the opportunity to taste our Dry Riesling alongside Stuart called for a change of plan!)

How we tasted

Whenever we do a vertical tasting, we honor the same format:

  1. Pour 4 glasses of wine each, oldest to newer vintage.
  2. Taste silently.
  3. Make notes individually.
  4. Group discussion.
  5. Then start on the next 4 wines.

This format moves us efficiently through the tasting and upholds the integrity of the process. But, this time, before we had a chance to progress to group discussion, Stuart spoke up. He had something to share immediately after tasting the first batch of Dry Rieslings:

“These wines are holding their own on an international level, and are on par with top German producers.”

Stuart, you can sidestep our vertical tasting protocol any time. It was neat for us to have Stuart Pigott, the guy who is literally writing the book on Riesling, make that observation about Sheldrake Point Dry Riesling.

What we tasted

Sheldrake Dry Rieslings, vintages 2001 through 2013

Dry Riesling vertical tasting2

Some vintages were exciting and impressed us more than others. Depending on how much is in the library, we will determine whether to release the wines to later sell in our new Wine Library. If there are just a few cases, we have to decide if we want to sell a case, but hang on to others to continue to study the progression of our aged Rieslings.

Reserve Rieslings, vintages 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2013

Consensus overall was that we were more impressed with how our Sheldrake Point Reserve Rieslings are aging versus our classic dry. Our Reserve Riesling is made with vineyard-selected bunches sorted aside during hand picking.

In a few years we will revisit this varietal to see how the younger wines continue to age.

For Stuart Pigott’s impressions, and more about his time in the Finger Lakes, visit his blog.

Dry Riesling Vertical Tasting at home

Vertical tastings are a fantastic way for any wine enthusiast to learn about wine. We do it at Sheldrake Point because it’s part of our job to know our product past and present, and to think about the future of our wines.

To share this experience with you, a new product we are considering for our wine library is Vertical Packs, where we package sets of our vintages for your at-home vertical tasting. In the meantime, another great way to get in on Sheldrake Point library wines is to consider a Wine Club Membership!

P.S. Want to taste with us? Join us on April 2 for our horizontal tasting of 2015 Finger Lakes Rosé! 

Chuck was attracted to the Finger Lakes wine industry during his graduate work at the Cornell Hotel School and was instrumental in the transformation of the old abandoned dairy farm to today’s winery and vineyard. As principle owners, he and his wife Fran assume the risk of the venture and personally see to its priorities and requirements.  Chuck’s focus is on the management and company systems and processes.  When not in the office, he and Fran may also be working with the staff, doing repairs, tending the gardens, or chatting with visitors.