By Evan Dawson
You don’t need two decades of the same wine in your cellar to host a vertical tasting. Even three vintages can offer a fun and educational experience. Here’s how to get started.
If you want to host a vertical but don’t have the wines, you’ll have to track down some library bottles. In the Finger Lakes, Riesling is typically released less than a year after it’s produced, and many wineries sell out rather quickly. A good vertical will be structured in one of two ways.
First, you can focus on one winery. You’ll need to find a winery that offers older wines for sale, and in the Finger Lakes, that’s not easy to find. It’s not impossible, however; you might try Wiemer, Fox Run, or Ravines, for example. Those wineries have all offered library Rieslings for sale at one time or another. Be warned that library wines often come at a premium price simply because there aren’t many bottles left. There’s no harm in simply calling a winery and asking about older bottles. You might be surprised. If you stick with one winery, try to come up with at least five vintages to taste.
Second, you can focus on multiple wineries. Choose three wineries and track down three of their Rieslings. A tasting of 2009, 2010, and 2011 will reveal vastly different character from vintage to vintage.
A vertical can offer some of the most enjoyable presentations. If you have the glassware, pour a taste from each wine in advance, so when your guests sit down they’ll have a stunning visual display. You’ll notice that the conversation will begin before the wines are tasted; everyone will be analyzing the colors!
Part of the fun in laying bottles down is dreaming up interesting ways to share them in the future. If a vertical tasting appeals to you, choose several of your favorite wines and lay down at least one bottle each year. (If you can, try laying down two or three.) Eventually you’ll have the opportunity to put together a party that everyone will want to attend. But this approach takes willpower–don’t be afraid to use a permanent marker and write a date on each bottle. That will remind you not to touch it until you’ve decided it’s time!
Photo by Stephanie Lucas Houck