Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard is situated on the west side of Seneca Lake in the heart of the Finger Lakes region of New York. The Finger Lakes are comprised of seven lakes of varying character, formed as a result of the last Ice Age. The remaining terrain is a collage of soil types, elevation changes, and mesoclimates, making the region an optimal setting for diverse vineyard sites.
Seneca Lake, the deepest of the glacial lakes, provides a beautiful backdrop for our three unique vineyard sites – the HJW Vineyard, the Josef Vineyard and the Magdalena Vineyard. More important than its beauty is the temperature-moderating effect this massive body of water provides during the Fall, Winter, and Spring seasons. The Finger Lakes’ long growing season often draws comparison to other cool-climate wine regions such as the Mosel Valley in Germany, the Loire Valley in France, and cooler parts of New Zealand.
To ensure that our wines embody the best expression of our vineyards, three elements must come together.
First, vineyard site selection is absolutely critical. Each site has a specific combination of soil type and mesoclimate, giving grapes particular flavor profiles. It can take a lifetime to truly understand the best sites within a region, and at Hermann J Wiemer Vineyard, trial-and-error over the decades has yielded results. Our practices have allowed us to isolate and highlight the specific and very distinct terroirs of our three vineyard sites. For example, the HJW Vineyard, our original site adjacent to the winery, with its shallower, more gravelly soil and a substantially cooler micro-climate (up to 3 degrees cooler) yields a more austere style of Riesling. Conversely, the Magdalena Vineyard, with deeper Honeoye soil and warmer temperatures (amongst the warmest in the Finger Lake), yields a more lush, fruit forward style of Riesling.
The second element of distinctive wine is viticulture practice (how we maintain our vines and fruit in the vineyards). Sustainable viticulture ensures minimum intervention on the vines. At Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, we use no chemical fertilizers. Instead, we plant cover crops and apply organic material, including composted horse manure, to build the quality of our soils. By cultivating under our trellises, we have eliminated the need to use herbicides. Absence of herbicides ensures a thriving environment for micro-organisms and healthier soils with more biological diversity. Finally, by removing leaves around the grape clusters after fruit-set, we increase airflow and strongly reduce the possibility of mildew and pest pressure.
The third element includes our traditional winemaking practices. Our winemaking practices are only possible because of what we do in the field. Our viticulture practices yield clean and healthy fruit. It is this fruit that allows for natural fermentation in our tanks, using the yeast occurring naturally on the grape skin (rather than yeast added to the tanks to catalyze fermentation) . With natural fermentation, our wines spend 7-8 months in the fermentation tank to ensure a truly balanced wine. Healthy grapes also allow for lower sulfites levels in the wine. We craft wines in very small lots to isolate the subtleties between different vineyard site blocks within vineyards, different clones within varieties, and different pickings dates. Consequently, the winery utilizes up to 17 different smaller fermentation tanks in order to showcase different characteristics in the wines.
All these careful considerations are part of our ongoing quest to reach what James Wilson (1999) called an “agronomic art-form”. Our practices result in Finger Lakes Rieslings that can be produced nowhere else, wines in which the perfect balance of acid and fruit express the true sense of the Hermann J Wiemer Vineyards.
The Magdalena Vineyard is located 10 miles north of the winery on Route 14. Planted in 1999, this 24-acre vineyard is an impressive site offering expansive views of Seneca Lake. The different soil types vary from rich Honeoye silt loam to eroded hillside gravel. The vineyard blocks were planted in coordination with the changing soil types to capture the different flavor profiles of each block and grape variety, and were grafted with the highest-quality clonal material that Hermann could find.
The site of the Magdalena Vineyard was chosen for its significant mesoclimate. Not only is this one of the warmest sites in the Finger Lakes, it also is one of the most protected from winter injury. These unique characteristics result from the site’s elevation, soil composition, proximity to the Lake, making it an ideal location for crafting world-class wines.
The Josef Vineyard is also 10 miles north of the winery, just south of Magdalena. While this vineyard site displays a similar mesoclimate to Magdalena, the Josef Vineyard wines differ remarkably due to the slope, soil type, and average age of the vines. The Vineyard rests on a 6% slope with deep honeoye silt loam soils, producing wines that exemplify the elegance of our Dry Riesling with the ripening capabilities for Late Harvest and TBA. The Josef Vineyard features 30-year old plantings of Riesling and Chardonnay, as well as a one-acre block of Gewurztraminer planted in 1967 – the oldest planting of all New York Vineyards.
In 1977, the Taylor Wine Company planted this vineyard with vines grafted by Hermann. Since then, Hermann kept his eye on this site noting the consistent ripening and protection it offered the Riesling vines. In 1996, Hermann purchased the Josef Vineyard, which has now become the backbone of our Riesling production.
The HJW Vineyard site was planted in 1976 at the same location as the winery and represents Hermann’s first planting of Riesling and Chardonnay. This vineyard is defined by its thin, gravelly topsoil, yielding low-vigor vines and expressively vibrant wines that capture minerality from the soil. It was 20 years before Hermann located another site that complimented the flavor profile and quality level of these original plantings.
The HJW Vineyard is situated one mile from the Lake at an elevation of 800 ft, making it a considerably cooler site than both the Magdalena and Josef Vineyards. Due in part to the cool mesoclimate and gravelly soils, the wines portray an unprecedented minerality and acid structure that allows for excellent aging potential. The HJW vineyard is farmed under strict sustainable viticultural practices and is consistently some of the highest-quality fruit we harvest.