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Tasting Report: 2009 Red Newt Riesling Circle Label

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Red Newt Cellars is a small Finger Lakes producer of mostly Rieslings.  Like many smaller production regions, the wines from the Finger Lakes often have a hard time delivering value on par with higher production regions of the same grape varieties.  In the case of Riesling, German wines are the standard and domestically Washington state (and Chateau Ste Michelle specifically as the largest single producer) are the giant wine-producing gorillas to compete with.

You can find a number of Finger Lakes Rieslings around the $15-$20 price point, but there's a big difference between $10 and $20 on a retailer shelf.  And you can get a fine bottle of German Riesling in this range.  With the introduction of the Circle Label in 2008, Red Newt changed the game by ramping production levels and delivering a Finger Lakes Riesling for $11.99.   But how was the wine?

Determining how sweet or dry a Riesling will taste based on the label can be tricky.  One wine labeled "Off Dry" might not be as sweet as we'd like or vice versa.  And even if we become familiar with what levels of residual sugar we like, the interplay of acidity and alcohol with the sugar can influence our overall impression of a wine.  What's needed is a "sweetness index" so to speak.

I first heard of a Riesling index when Dr. Ernest Loosen and Bob Bertheau from Chateau Ste Michelle were in town presenting their wines at Blanchards West Roxbury a couple of years ago.  On the back of the Red Newt label is this standardized Riesling Taste Profile from the International Riesling Foundation.  I think it's a handy quick-reference to help determine whether a given wine aligns with each of our ideas about how sweet a Riesling should be and this one promises to be "Medium Sweet"- and to my palate it was.

Here are my thoughts on the wine:

2009 Red Newt Cellars Riesling Circle Label
2,100 cases produced (for the 2008 vintage)
11.7% Alcohol
$11.99

Aromatically impressive with peach and citrus on the nose.  Lemony on the palate.  Neutral finish- nicely devoid of any off-putting flavors.  Nice weight: Not too syrupy heavy and not too thin.  Towards the sweeter side as advertised, but finishes clean.  I liked it. 

88/100 WWP: Very Good

Further Reading:
Purchased at Bin Ends Wine.

Check 'em out:
Red Newt Cellars Winery & Bistro
Hector, NY 14841
607-546-4100
On Twitter: @CircleRiesling
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