Monday, September 21, 2009

Roman Roth Riesling, Take 2

I'm a big fan of vintner Roman Roth's mission to draw fine riesling out of the Long Island soil, so I was inordinately excited when a bottle of his 2008 Grapes of Roth Riesling came through the mail. This is only the second riesling vintage for Roth, the first debuting last year.

The fruit source for the 2008 Riesling is 68% Split Rock Vineyard, located just east of Greenport, located on the far end of the North Fork (one does taste that maritime influence, and 32% is from Martha Clara Vineyards, located in the warmer Riverhead area. Roth describes the grapes as being perfectly ripe when he picked them. This would explain the marked increase in alcohol content. The 2007 came in at a super-low (for American wines) 9.6%. The 2008 graduates to 10.8%.

The project appears to be maturing, with significant differences in the two vintages. Fermentation was done in stainless steel. After racking , the wine sat on the fine lees till mid-January and was then filtered. Some Süssreserve was then added from the same lot.

If there is a common thread to Roth's riesling this early on in the game, it their metallic edge. One of the first things I wrote down while tasting this wine was "metal shavings." I didn't look at my 2007 note before tasting the 2008, but when I did check back I saw that I have written the same note, "metal shavings," last years. It's not a descriptor I use often, so that aspect of the juice must speak loudly to my palate.

I found the 2008 to be less fruity and instantly appealing than the 2007, but arguably more interesting. I wondered if it might change in a month or two, growing into something more complex. Most of the fruit came on the nose: light honeysuckle, lime, lemon, gooseberry, green apple, light tropical notes, white raspberry. When it passes the lips, lime and lemon are pretty much all you're going to find in terms of fruit, maybe some quinces and kumquat. The mineral and metal aspects dominate, all but swamping the fruit. It's a tight and controlled wine, very disciplined. Not that any of this is bad. It's a well-made wine, one suited to seafood and fish. But a touch more fruit to round it out wouldn't have hurt. I look forward to what Roth will fine in his grapes next summer.

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