“You, who are on the road, must have a code that you can live by. And so, become yourself, because the past is just a goodbye…”

by Katie Pizzuto on August 19, 2011

in Finger Lakes,Riesling

He was standing there looking at me with these eyes that were all at once expressing both complete conviction and sincere humility, trying desperately not to insult me. I had just told him I would let him know when my post went up and his somewhat hesitant but unflinching response was something like, “I appreciate that, but I try very hard not to concern myself with what the press says and just focus on making the types of wines I want to make.” It was akin to completely disregarding my writing, and yet in a way that actually endeared him to me even more. We spoke for no more than 5 minutes and maybe only 2 minutes of that took on any tone of seriousness, but I have no doubt that I stepped out of that tasting room completely understanding his ambitions…

My titles don’t ever seem to run this long, and yet picking only one of the two lines of lyrics to summarize this post would be to do its subject an injustice, because when you find yourself pulling away from the parking lot of a singularly fantastic winery, not sure if you’ve been moved more by the warmth of its people, the depth of its wines or the soul of its winemaker, you have a hard time being succinct. In the short span of 24 hours, I stepped foot inside Anthony Road Wine Company not once but twice, and in that time I probably learned more about wine, about myself and about my connection to the industry than I have in all my years of writing.

This is not about the steady insurgence of Finger Lakes wineries that are determined to make high-caliber wines despite their reputation for sweet, sophomoric wines. It’s not even about reviewing one winery’s portfolio, giving it all sorts of multi-starred, 90-something-point reviews. Because even though those are valid points, the sum of the parts is much more. And the sum of the parts isn’t in the bottle…it’s in us. It’s in the value that’s placed on integrity.

Johannes Reinhardt (top right) has a code he lives by—which partly places little to no importance on what the press says about his wines—and that was a beautifully rude awakening because no matter how much a winemaker says that their wine is their sole focus, who doesn’t look forward to some good publicity? As flattered as he was that I adored his wines, he didn’t want to give much credence to my opinion, and that was just about the coolest thing I could hear at that moment. For as often as I find myself explaining to wineries that I won’t be swayed by free samples or kind gestures, and that I will write exactly what I feel, I haven’t ever had the chance to have the tables turned on me. It was great to hear.

Reinhardt’s determination to make exactly what he feels led him away from a predetermined destiny to make his family’s wines in Germany, straight into the arms of America…not that American bureaucracy has been very appreciative of his gifts. He left his family and his future for a sense of freedom that couldn’t be found in the vineyards of Germany, found that freedom nestled in a winery perched along Seneca Lake, and began making wines that he could call his own. But bafflingly unconvinced by a pile of medals, pleading letters from both friends and competitors to the government, and repeated insistence from his employers that he couldn’t be replaced by an American, the US has refused to give him a green card, rejecting the idea that Johannes was a worker of extraordinary ability. Work hard, be honest, pay taxes, get screwed— that’s the footnote on the Statue of Liberty. Despite impending deportation, countless sleepless nights and an immovable cloud of uncertainty that always follows him, however, his focus remains unshaken. Thank Bacchus he’s continued making his wines, and collaborating with other Finger Lakes wineries to make even more fantastic wines.

At one point during our romp through the portfolio, Peter Becraft, Anthony Road’s Associate Winemaker pulled out two unlabeled bottles marked only by what looked like a couple of words scribbled with a silver Sharpie. “These are two wines we are experimenting with right now…they’re not even bottled yet.” My arm hairs were on end when he opened the one marked “spontaneous” and starting describing their go at making a Riesling using only native, wild, ambient yeasts—the wine industry’s version of a Lambic. What I tasted was so radically different than any Riesling I’ve ever tasted that I fumbled with tasting notes. I stopped, stammered, sipped, spit, and found myself longing for a case of this stuff to take home and ponder over.

Their dry Riesling ($16) was fleshy but had plenty of acidity and a long, lingering finish with citrus and herbaceous notes. The Cab Franc Rosé ($13) was a favorite for me, with beautiful strawberry aromas and a completely dry finish, and plenty of other tasting notes follow below. At the end of it all, it was undoubtedly a good thing that I left the credit cards home or I would have found myself having to explain the cases of wine in the previously empty trunk. Anthony Road will probably always continue making their pay-the-bills, tourists-like-sweet-stuff wines, and who could fault them for doing so if it allows them to continue experimenting and forging a path of elegance and grace with their other wines. Keep a light on, guys…I’ll be back.

2008 Tierce Riesling (collaboration with Red Newt Wine Cellars and Fox Run) $30 – Absolutely electric. Awesome citrus notes but this is unlike any other Riesling out there because it combines the best of what each winery had to offer. Very lean but incredibly nuanced.

Wild Fermentation Riesling – I have no idea what the price will be but put me in for a case of this, site unseen. Typical citrus notes on this but undertones of what? Can’t wrap my head around it. The complexity is amazing for such a young wine. Perplexed at how to describe it.

Low-Alcohol Riesling – At 6%, this baby is made in the style of a Spätlese, delicate and fruity. Amazingly enough it’s got twice the amount of sugar as the semi-dry Riesling, though you’d never know. Another work in progress so no price on this yet, either.

2008 Martini-Reinhardt Riesling Trockenbeeren $100 – These “noble rot” grapes were stomped by foot…not so easy when they are raisinated! Lovely honey notes, long beautiful finish and not at all heavy.

2008 Martini-Reinhardt Vignoles Trockenbeeren $75 – This Tba is made from the Vignoles grape, a French/American hybrid, and it’s from 100% dry berries as well. Luckily for these guys, they get botrytis every year! Big ass notes of pit fruits (apricots and peaches) drizzled with chestnut honey. Never had this grape before but I want it again.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Veronique Deblois August 19, 2011

So glad to see that you enjoyed the wines at Anthony Road as much as I did. Tierce Riesling’s super and even liked their Cab Franc / Lemberger.
Can’t wait to try the mystery wine you describe. Sounds amazing.
Cheers, Veronique

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2 Katie Pizzuto August 19, 2011

Yup, tried the Cab Franc/Lemberger as well….great stuff. Luckily for me, they perch themselves on a small plot of territory at the Union Square Farmer’s Market every week so I can always swoop some up there!

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3 Lenn Thompson August 19, 2011

Johannes and Peter are easily two of my favorite people in the Finger Lakes. Passionate and intense — yet fun and welcoming. I think you’ve captured them well here….and yes, they do make some of the best riesling you’ll find in the FLX — and thus in the country. Well priced too.

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4 Katie Pizzuto August 19, 2011

“Passionate and intense, yet fun and welcoming”….couldn’t have said it better. Wish I had more time with them.

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5 Peter Becraft August 19, 2011

Katie, Thank you for your visit and the nice write up about it. Just to clarify a couple of things for you, the spontaneous fermentation and the low alcohol rieslings are bottled and we were working on the labels. We have the labels designed and hopefully will be able to get them on the bottles shortly. Look for these two wines towards the end of September. The low alcohol will be a Martini-Reinhardt Selection wine and the spontaneous will be a special art series label. Lenn, you are pretty swell as well. Thanks.

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6 Katie Pizzuto August 20, 2011

Fantastic, Peter. Can’t wait to get my hands on a bunch!

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7 jill richardson August 21, 2011

When god is your boss, it truly doesn’t matter what anyone else or thinks…..

Johannes, god bless you and your family. You deserve only the best.

Your talents are a gift. May you experience the gratitude and appreciation your efforts deserve.

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8 THE Zinhead September 14, 2011

Love the Tierce. Tasted an older vintage (Can’t remember though me thinks it was the 05. Sadly this forgetfulness was due to this dumbshit forgetting his notebook) at Red Newt in early August. Vintage variations aside, the wine was clean and aromatic with a good nose of tropical and stone fruit. Acidity held it all together. Like what the three are doing. Good post K. SKOAL!

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9 Katie Pizzuto September 14, 2011

Vintage variation is something i love and appreciate! If weather varies from year to year, so should a wine…there shouldn’t be a magical formula that molds a wine into something nature didn’t intend it to be 🙂

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10 BlondeBomber October 24, 2011

I don’t know if I was drawn to this post because of the CSNY reference in the title or the actual content. Great post! I know all too well what you mean about that feeling you described as you drove away from the winery.

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11 David J April 21, 2012

Catching up with my reading just in time! Bought some of their Wild yeast Riesling & the Blau-Franc blend at Union Square.

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