When you read a sentence like “New York Rieslings don’t come any better than those from Ravines” in the New York Times that should make you curious. It did with us. We have tried the wines a couple of times – but its aging potential blew us away. Here is the story about our visit at Ravines Wines at Finger Lakes.
Eric Asimov is an important journalist for wine. Especially in the US. Why? Because he writes the “Wine school” for the New York Times. That is the power to set the trends for a whole continent. He is a big fan of Riesling and a big fan of Ravines Wines – a beautiful winery at Finger Lakes.
On the map, the Finger Lakes look it little bit like a big monster scratched the country with its claw. There are six bigger scratches and some smaller ones. The monster actually dug deep with its finger nails - Cayuga Lake is the biggest of the Finger Lakes and 65 km long. But more importantly, Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake are very famous wine regions in the USA. That is why we decided to spend some time here.
Right where the limestone is
You can find Ravines at two beautiful spots at the Finger Lakes. One is at Keuka Lake in Hammondsport. This is the place where it all started. A beautiful house with a traditional winery logo at the driveway. In front of the building is the lake, in the backyard vines. The view is simply fantastic.
The other one is in Geneva – close to Seneca Lake. An old traditional barn that has so much flair. The barn is surrounded by vineyards. Not steep, a little bit like in the Pfalz region in Germany or the Alsace region in France. But the magic lies underneath. Because the barn stands right on a rare lode of limestone. The only one at Finger Lakes. It is the basis for the brilliant minerality of the Ravines Riesling. Only a few winemakers in the region benefit from this source of great taste.
Family business, dry first
It took us only two minutes to get close to Morten Hallgren – the winemaker behind the name Ravines. He is a warm-hearted person and lives for making great wines. You can feel this passion in every word he says. Born in Denmark, he grew up in France in the middle of the beautiful vineyards in the Côtes de Provence. This is where his passion for wine was born. His eyes are glowing when he talks about that. He studied Enology and Viticulture in Montpelier and started to work in the Medóc region of Bordeaux.
In 1998 he started to work as Chief Winemaker for Dr. Konstantin Frank Cellars. This winery was one of the pioneers of vinifera grape growing in the Finger Lakes region. The typical style back than and still today is to make off-dry, fruity wines. Morten was convinced that the grapes would be best expressed in a very dry, minerality-driven style. This is where the typical style of Ravines comes from – to focus on making dry wines.
“If you want to buy sweet go somewhere else.”
While we walked through the vineyards with Morten, he talked passionate about the days back then. When he was the first in the region with a European wine education. How he made wines in Texas and North Carolina. When he decided to go to Finger Lakes because of the huge potential of this region. And how he started Ravines after purchasing the Keuka vineyard in 2001.
It must have been a tricky time to focus only on dry wines. With ups: Like immediately winning Best Dry Riesling in the World Riesling Cup in 2003. And with downs: Like having to tell people that walked into the tasting room looking for off-dry wines that they need to go someplace else.
Huge aging potential
If you love dry wines this is the place to be. We spend quite some time with Morten in his tasting room. First, we did barrel tastings of the 2018 vintage – very good Rieslings are waiting to be bottled. Then, we tried the 2016 and 2017 vintages where you already got a good idea of how much potential is waiting here. Especially the Argentsinger vineyard offers a complexity that can easily be compared to the German Grosses Gewächs or the French Grand Cru level. Deep, crisp, elegant and super mineralic.
Finally, Morten invited us to try some older vintages. And these wines truly blew us away. Already, the 2010 of his Dry Riesling gained so much balance and character over the nine years, without losing any of it’s grip and elegance. But the 2007 Argentsinger was the clear winner – unbelievably rich and straight, complex and deep, powerful and elegant. If you ever get the chance to buy Ravines wines from older vintages you should not hesitate to try them. Truly high-level American Riesling.
Tasting room at Seneka Lake
400 Barracks Rd
Geneva, NY 14456
Tasting room at Keuka Lake
14630 State Route 54
Hammondsport, NY 14840
Visit website of winemaker Ravines Wine Cellars.