2021 Hillock & Hobbs, Dry Riesling, Lake Seneca, Finger Lakes Region, New York.
I tasted this wine, not blind, but only knowing it was a Finger Lakes New York dry Riesling, and was really impressed with the quality and purity, before taking a real hard look at the label and winery name, after which I had a light bulb moment as I realized this was Paul Hobbs’ Lake Seneca project, that I had first heard about 10 years ago. Hobbs, who I met about 20 years ago, makes an elite set of Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Sauvignon under his Paul Hobbs from vineyard sites in Carneros, Sonoma Coast, Russian River and Napa Valley, including the famed Beckstoffer Vineyard, all of which receive high critical acclaim. This was my first experience with his Hillock & Hobbs label, named for his parents Joan Hillock and Edward Hobbs, and I loved the stony nature of this Dry Riesling and its beautiful aromatics and crisp/steely details, it shows lively layers of zesty lime, white peach, subtle tropical notes, muskmelon and quince, along with bitter herbs, gun flint, verbena, rose petals and tart apple skin. The grapes come from vines set on the southeastern banks of Seneca Lake and the Hillock & Hobbs estate vineyards’ steep slopes, with a combination of blue slate, glacial till, limestone and glacial shale soils, all hand tended and picked to assure perfect quality. Hobbs whole cluster pressed the Riesling and fermented and aged it exclusively in stainless steel with about 9 months on the lees, which allows for loads of varietal character and a bit of texture.
Paul Hobbs, who was the first American winemaker at Opus One in Napa Valley, began his starred wine career when his family began selling grapes to nearby wineries in the Finger Lakes, and while attending college at Notre Dame, his father Edward Hobbs persuaded him to pursue wine, which led him to UC Davis, where Paul naturally developed an interest in Riesling, particularly those from Germany, which he considers his first love. So after making some of California’s best wines over the last few decades, Paul decided to return to his roots and get involved in making wines from New York’s Finger Lakes region, which was taking off as place to find great American dry Rieslings. There were rumors of a Hobbs interest in Lake Seneca over 10 years ago, with whispers he was consulting with famous Mosel winemaker Johannes Selbach of Selbach-Oster, on a joint project. Hobbs purchased a property there in 2013 and began the planting of 25 acres of vines, this process was not too easy, blasting holes into the slate proved difficult, only just now being completed. The estate is located right on the Lake and near the hamlet of Hector Falls, which Hobbs thought had similar features to the Mosel with intense mineral rich rocky soils, nice sloping hillsides and a climate that allows Riesling to thrive and produce ripe fruit with terroir influence and good acidity. This pale gold 2021, the second release from Hillock & Hobbs, is a very exciting wine, joining some of my favorites from the region, such as Hermann J. Weimar winery, Ravines and Red Newt, and I look forward to following this label!
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive