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  • Jancis Robinson
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  • Jancis Robinson
4 Feb 2014

As a true believer in the potential of New York's Finger Lakes region, I am delighted by the news that two high-profile incomers from either side of the Atlantic are planning a joint venture there.

Winemakers Paul Hobbs of Sonoma, a well-travelled winemaker, and Johannes Selbach of Selbach Oster in the Mosel, Germany, announced yesterday the purchase of a 65-acre property on the east side of Seneca Lake (pictured). The vineyard, for which preparation is already underway, will be planted from next year, mainly with Riesling.

Paul's brother David Hobbs, who has lived in Rochester in upstate New York for some time, will oversee daily operations of the new venture. Details of long-term plans, including a wine brand name, are yet to be determined.

Paul Hobbs' eponymous winery is in Sebastopol, California, but he has made wine in Argentina, Armenia, California, Canada, Chile, France, Hungary and Uruguay. He is quoted as saying, 'After an extensive two-year search, I am pleased to have found the right property, and Johannes is the right partner to launch this new brand. Fine German Riesling, more than any other wine, influenced my own interest and love of wine.'

Hobbs and Selbach first met when Hobbs visited Selbach-Oster in 1998, through an introduction arranged by importer-distributor Michael Skurnik. They kept in touch over the years, and discovered they shared a mutual desire to explore the Finger Lakes. Said Selbach, 'I was immediately interested when Paul approached me with the idea of producing first-rate Rieslings in the Finger Lakes AVA. I first visited the area in the 1980s, and have been back a few times since. I see many similarities in Seneca Lake to the Mosel Valley, including steep slopes, low-pH soils comprised of shale and slate, and a cool growing season which is moderated by the lake. I believe the combination of California and Mosel knowledge allows tremendous potential for super-premium Rieslings.'

Hobbs grew up on a farm in upstate New York, and prior to moving to California in 1975 to study winemaking, he had planned to return home to build a winery with his father. 'After almost 40 years, this feels like a homecoming, and I couldn't be more thrilled!' he said.