I visited 21 wineries during my 2022 Finger Lakes trip. While many of these venues truly stood out, I felt it easier to simply wrap most of them into a single trip report than blog about all of them separately.
But I’m making an exception for Kemmeter.
In an area where huge tasting rooms were the norm, where many wineries have food options and great views, it might seem odd that my favorite was 6-person maximum tasting room that is only open Thurs-Sat, 1:30 PM-5:30 PM (they may open for additional appointments by request). Yet it was hands-down my favorite winery of the entire trip, which is even more conspicuous for a place that is almost deliberately under the radar.
That’s because great visits aren’t just about great wine – although many were found here. This was the only location where I actually met the winemaker, who guided us through a tasting coupled with a great deal of wine education.
Having the winemaker personally conduct the tasting wasn’t Kemmeter’s only unique feature. This was one of the smallest wineries of my entire trip; all of Kemmeter’s fruit comes from 6-acres of estate vines. “Stay small and do the best you can” explained owner/winemaker/vineyard manager Johannes Rienhardt, which seems to summarize his operating philosophy.
This ‘stay small’ mentality is a direct reflection of his schedule. Johannes spends 80% of his time in the vineyard and 15% in winemaking, leaving only 5% for the tasting room. This is why the tasting room is open only 3 afternoons a week and can accommodate only 6 guests at a time.
Johannes talked about his background as he poured, starting with how he was supposed to run the family business back in Germany but after some family disagreements he ultimately took his own path. He found a job with Dr. Frank, returned to Germany for a bit, then decided to come back to the US.
We sampled 5 wines:
- NV “Trio” Pinot. This wine had some aromatics, plus was soft and fruit-driven. Johannes explained the decision to make a non-vintage wine based on how every year has its unique strengths and weaknesses, so he decided to blend different years to make the best wine he could. Really liked this!
- Rosé (100% Pinot Noir). Another winner (and bought a bottle that was consumed that night). This has a strong argument for best pinot of my trip.
- 2021 Riesling from the “2014 Vineyard”: Lemon on the palate and a wonderful nose. Very aromatic and perhaps the single best wine of my entire trip. It was a dry wine (only 1.5 sugar) but it struck me as off-dry. Johannes attributed this to the density of the wine, which changed the flavor profile from tart/green to lush, giving the illusion of sweetness. The 2014 Vineyard also has more organic matter, lesser silt in the loam and more clay influence.
- 2021 Riesling from the “2016 Vineyard”: Lemon on the palate, only 0.7 RS. I really enjoyed it, not quite as much as the 2016 Vineyard but still it was excellent. It tasted very dry, something the winemaker attributed to the soil being shallower and having more silt influence. This warms up the soil, promoting ripeness.
- 2021 Pinot Blanc: Clean, fresh, peach notes.
Johannes also had us play ‘guess the off-dry riesling’ and I guessed wrong. Turns out the two are grown on different types of soil and one location produces riper fruit, which gives the dry wine the illusion of sweetness. He definitely fooled me but it was a great learning experience.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the dumplings. His wife is the chef; it’s best to order first and pick them up after the tasting.