A Racy Riesling Anchors a Family Day at Sea

Ravines Finger Lakes Riesling Dry 2008
Dana Nigro
Posted: November 6, 2012

The images of all the hurricane-destroyed boats along the Jersey Shore and the Raritan Yacht Club, where my mother used to go as a girl to stroll along the docks and dream of the day when she could own a boat of her own, were painful—boats that had been taken out of the water for the winter piled on top of each other, broken open, dumped on nearby highways and railroad tracks. I couldn't help but think of the last day we went out on the water this year and why people persist in owning a boat despite the jokes that it is a hole in the water into which you pour money.

The late September day was stunningly perfect: one of those Crayola Blue skies with a first-grader's drawing of puffy, white clouds, and temperatures just cool enough to need a windbreaker when you're underway, yet warm enough to otherwise leave your arms bare to soak up the sun you know will be so scarce in a few weeks. Barnegat Bay was calm and half-empty, the summer weekend crowds gone off to soccer practice and football games, the waters open enough so I could practice steering in the wind, making slow, wide circles without too much fear of getting in another boater's path.

After admiring egrets stalking their prey amid the sea grasses, we meandered over to one of Mom's favorite coves, where my novice-sailor husband anchored perfectly on his first try, to snack on grapes, cheese, hummus and tapenade. Knowing Mom loves Sauvignon Blanc, I cracked open a bottle of Cloudy Bay Marlborough 2010, which, even in plastic wineglasses, shows why the early New Zealand leader still merits its continued renown. At the end of the day, while hosing off the boat, we watched a school of small fish ruffle the shallow water behind the dock, making rapid, long S-curves and U-turns in unison, pursuing something we couldn't see.

For dinner, we headed over to my parents' most-frequented area restaurant, one of those places with friendly service from longtime waitstaff, always-decent-if-not-ambitious food and a fantastic view of boats bobbing at the dock while the sun turns the waves orange-rose. We opened the Ravines Dry Riesling 2008, from one of the top producers in the Finger Lakes, a bottle we had picked up the last time we had visited their tasting room on Keuka Lake.

Racy, with taut, mouthwatering acidity, the Riesling opened with stony aromas and flavors, expanding into juicy lemon, firm white peach and white nectarine, with lemongrass accents brought out by my dish of ginger shrimp (90 points from me, non-blind). With a few years of bottle age, it was beginning to show subtle notes of petrol—what I first learned to call that telltale aroma of Riesling's maturity, even if the term is falling out of favor because it might sound unappealing to those who haven't learned that a whiff of diesel-engine fumes mixed with saltwater air means wind-in-your-face freedom and a deep sense of calm that can carry you through troubled days later on.

WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting note for the Ravines Finger Lakes Riesling Dry 2008 (90 points, $17).

• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated Finger Lakes Rieslings.

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