Swedish Hill Cabernet Franc-Lemberger 2006

Noticeably light when poured, this wine doesn’t offer up much in the way of anything to smell other than suggestions of tomato leaf. Taste-wise it’s a real dog, with unpleasant, leafy, green, underripe flavors leading to a flat, almost sour, disappointing finish; with aeration, it improves somewhat to offer up something like a synthetic cassia and wild strawberry combination, but it’s still just not quite there.Let me at least praise the winemakers’ decision to leave well enough alone and not drown this wine in residual sugar; it is decidedly dry in and could be passed off as a lesser Loire red in a pinch. However, it doesn’t strike me as possessing any sense of place or even much of a reason for existing: at sixteen bucks a bottle, this wine is redonkulously overpriced. If you’re going to spend this much on wine, might as well get two bottles of Washington lemberger instead (which tends to be much more enjoyable thanks to the warmer climate) or an actual Loire wine (which at least will probably have some minerality and perfume there as well). I really, really don’t see the point of this wine at all – at least not at this price point.Swedish Hill
Price: $16
Closure: Cork

Swedish Hill Finger Lakes Riesling 2007

I’ll confess that the only reason I bought this wine is because it’s from New York. I know, don’t laugh. Thing is, pretty much every book that’s published about wine in the USA has to mention non-West Coast wineries at some point – I assume largely because those markets are pretty darn big, so you don’t want to upset anyone from New England by not mentioning that winery on Long Island that does cab franc or the relatively old New York wineries up on the Finger Lakes that have been growing riesling for decades. To make a bad guess at an Australian equivalent, it’s like writing a book on Australian wine without mentioning wineries in Roma, Queensland or the Swan Valley near Perth: sure, there’s not much there (Houghton excluded), but you just include it out of tradition.

Or so I thought.

This wine is a surprise to me: the nose is entirely varietally correct, with a very pretty beeswax and honey combination that’s the equal of any fine riesling out there. No, it’s not to the heights of a Schlossgut Diel or a Trimbach, but it’s absolutely fine, better than anything from Idaho and more than a few cheesy California rieslings. There’s crisp acidity nicely balanced by a touch of sweetness; it’s all ripe enough (check) and if the finish is a little short perhaps, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it at all.

At ten bucks or so, it isn’t smashing value (those Idaho riesling are only five or so), but it’s far from overpriced too. It also manages to walk the fine line between a wine everyone will like (because it’s delicious and a touch sweet) and wine that pretentious snobs will like too (because it’s varietally correct and tasty, too). In short, this is an unqualified success.

Sadly, I now wonder what a high end New York riesling might taste like – and living in California as I do, my chances of ever seeing that in a shop are basically nil. (This wine came from wine.woot.com – kudos to them for thinking outside the West Coast box for a change. If they ever have Missouri Norton wine, I’d probably spring for that too.)

Swedish Hill
Price: $10
Closure: Cork