Battle of the Locavoric Wines: Two Finger Lakes Dry Rieslings


Two wineries on the eastern shore of sylvan and deep Seneca Lake make dry Rieslings. Are they really dry, and which one is better? We set out to make a determination.

Nowadays, more people bitten by the locavoric bug are turning their attention to locally produced wines, which in New York means the North Fork of Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and, most venerable of all, where Taylor was making sparkling wines in the late 19th century, the Finger Lakes of west central New York. The area was scored by the Wisconsin Glacier, so that parallel lakes were gashed along a north-south axis. These lakes enjoy a peculiar mild microclimate that allows cultivation of grapes usually sown in warmer, dryer, less limey soil.

Here are the wines. We purchased the vintage year currently available in area wine shops:

Chateau Lafayette Reneau Dry Riesling, 2008
The effete-sounding Chateau Lafayette Reneau winery is located in Hector, New York, with 140 acres of grapes in production on land that slopes down toward Seneca Lake. The winery was founded in 1985. Their Dry Riesling is one of 18 wines produced, including both reds and whites. Their description is as follows: “An appealing peach nose and flavor, perfectly structured to enhance any meal. Dry, with elegant melon fruit and notable citrus character. A slight, surprising spritz is our unique Riesling style.” One bottle usually sells for from $10 to $15; 750ml, 12% alcohol.

Wagner Dry Riesling, 2007
Founded in 1979, Wagner Vineyards is located on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake in Lodi, New York. It produces 30 wines from 20 different grapes. Wagner cultivates 250 acres, and asserts that all of their wine is made exclusively from grapes they’ve grown. According to Wagner, the depth of Seneca Lake (600 feet) and slope of their vineyards contribute to an unrivaled microclimate. According to Wine Enthusiast: “The wine offers aromas of green apple and pears, with a touch of floral spice. On the palate, the character is lively and crisp, with a minerally backbone. The fresh fruit component is elegant and light. A food-friendly wine with a delicate touch.” One bottle usually sells for form $10 to $12; 750ml, 11.5% alcohol

Next: Tasting Notes and Conclusions



Pouring out a glass of each, both presented a pale straw hue, though the Chateau Lafayette Reneau (CLR) was slightly darker. The Wagner had a more florid nose, and a sweetish afternose, perhaps more characteristic of an off-dry Riesling. The CLR smelled crisp, but without much complexity, though there was a little lingering soapiness. Once on the tongue, though, the CLR became considerably more aggressive, with an enhanced fullness in the mouth, and really, we were loath to spit it out. The Wagner turned out to be subtler in flavor, but did not live up to the promise of its initial sniff.

THE WINNER: Chateau Lafayette Reneau Dry Riesling, 2008

Check out our entire collection of Battle of the Dishes

Also take a look at our Sarah DiGregorio’s piece on the Brooklyn Wine Exchange, which specializes in locavoric vino.

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