This weekend, I had a change to visit Sheldrake Point Winery in New York's beautiful Finger Lakes area. Sheldrake Point is one of the most picturesque wineries I've ever visited, with rows of grape vines sloping gently down towards deep blue Cayuga Lake, the fall foliage resplendent in the background.
I was lucky enough to get to sit down with Sheldrake Point's winemaker, Dave Breeden, and sip quite a few great wines. My favorite wine of the many great wines that we sampled was Sheldrake Point's 2008 Late Harvest Riesling. And no wonder: it was named the best sweet Riesling in the world at the 2010 Canberra International Riesling Challenge in Australia. The cool climate of the Finger Lakes district makes for ideal Riesling-growing conditions, and Sheldrake Point really takes advantage of this, producing a large number of Rieslings and Gewürztraminers, which are similar both in taste and required growing conditions.
Now, I'll admit first off that I'm not usually a fan of sweet wines. In fact, I've never before tried one that didn't remind me of grape juice. But Sheldrake's 2008 Late Harvest Riesling really changed my mind. Yes, this is a sweet wine, and very sweet at that, with a 20% sugar content. But sweet is certainly not the first word that comes to mind when you're sipping this wine. What does come to mind is that elusive quality winemakers are always striving for: balance. There's a fruity apricot and apple taste and sweet, sensuous honey flavor perfectly balanced by a bright, citrusy acidity and a spicy, slightly peppery finish. This is a dessert wine that you'll want more than one glass of.
So if you love sweet wines, rush out and buy a case of this immediately. And if you're like me and think you hate them, pick up a bottle of Sheldrake Point's 2008 Late Harvest Riesling and give it a chance to change your mind.