Review: Kemmeter Wines – Finger Lakes, NY

Official Review by The Traveling Winers

1-Kemmeter WinesThe story behind Kemmeter Wines is one of a passionate relationship. A relationship between man, land and vines. It is one that goes back to the old world and the year 1438, and it is a story that we are fortunate to be able to share.

Naming the baby

Johannes Reinhardt. The creator. The purist. The dreamer.

Johannes Reinhardt

Johannes Reinhardt

25-Kemmeter WinesSince 1438 in Frankonia, Germany, his family has been toiling in the fields, growing vines that produce fruit expressing the land beneath, and making wines that reflect their dedication. The family estate and family name was Kemmeter, and is the name of Johannes’s paternal grandmother. Paying respect to his lineage, Johannes is carrying on the family tradition by bestowing the name to his own boutique winery, and displays the family crest proudly on the labels of his wine. In Johannes’s words:

“Naming the baby was not an easy piece. What you see here are the dreams and visions and hopes for many years. Has been fermenting in my stomach, on paper for many years, but the name of the winery wasn’t easy. I did envision seeing my own name on the label, but it became clear that I wanted to pay respect to where I am coming from.”

Having grown up in a family of farmers and winermakers, Johannes was constantly surrounded by the vocation and developed his own dedication to the craft. He spent many years honing this craft, obtaining formal education and working in numerous wineries throughout Germany. The year 1999 brought Johannes to The Finger Lakes region of New York, where he spent the year working at Dr. Konstantin Frank’s, another viticulturist and winemaker from Europe. In one short year, he found himself as winemaker at Anthony Road Wine Company, working there for many years and now serving as their consultant winemaker.

2016-08-04_11h11_43In 2013, the time had finally arrived to realize his long-time dream. In August of that year, Johannes and his wife, Imelda, opened Kemmeter Wines tasting room. Johannes told us that his number one rule for the tasting room is that “people should relax and have a good time…enjoy themselves”. He went on to say that he doesn’t want anyone to feel obligated to “buy”. This is very kind and humble, but we’re here to tell you that once you taste his wine it would probably be a difficult feat to not pull out your wallet. We came home with three bottles.

Artistry begins in the vineyard

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Kemmeter Wines vineyards

And now for the “purist” part. We use this term to describe Johannes, definitely not referring to a self-righteous, sanctimonious attitude because he could be no further from that definition, but to describe his unwavering belief that great wine and the artistry of winemaking starts in the vineyard. Although the process of winemaking and the winemaker’s knowledge and experience are a key role in the overall creation of a great wine, he believes that

“the vineyard provides the foundation for a good wine, not the winemaker. The winemaker can basically mess it up.”

He goes on to say that the winemaker should have

“as good as possible of an understanding of what kind of fruit they are working with to make decisions that are respectful of the fruit.”

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Johannes using his blackboard in the tasting room to illustrate “free-run”.

And finally, he sums it all up by saying:

“Bottom line, here we focus too much on winemaking and not enough on grape growing.  The wines that stay in the bottle for 10 to 15 years are the wines made in the vineyard, not in the cellar. Be the artist in the vineyard.”

And he practices what he preaches, too. He currently has 2 1/2 acres of vines that he tends to with a fatherly hand. He told us that the vineyard planting was pushed back a couple of times because, like most new entrepreneurs on a shoestring budget, the finances were not available for all of the pre-work that needed to happen before the vines could be planted. First, there were the drain tiles for the vineyard that needed to be placed in order to provide appropriate drainage for the vines. And next was the fence that was necessary to keep away the deer, which are so prominent in this area, and to protect the crop once planted. And just like any good father, only once these two items were in place, would Johannes begin to toil the land and plant the vines.

Rieslings….Johannes style

At the time of our visit, the only varietal that Johannes used for his wines was Riesling, coming from three different vineyards in which he has complete faith in their growing practices. His wines were, in our opinion, some of the best Rieslings we have put in our mouth.

9-Kemmeter Wines

2014 Sonero – This particular version was extraordinarily soft and mellow, having a smooth acidity that was very intentionally created. Johannes explained in detail how this was accomplished by using the last 25 – 30% of the press. He explains that he would do a free run (after fermentation, the juice that is separated from the solids, before pressing the solids for additional liquid) of the first 70 – 75% of the grapes and use this portion for the vineyard-labeled wines (listed below). The last 25 – 30% would be pressed, separating the remaining wine from the solids. Johannes points out that the free run wine naturally has more acidity than the pressed wine and is due to a chemical reaction. You see, grape juice/wine contains “tartaric acid” and just like in its name, has a low pH and therefore is acidic. However, there are certain chemical compounds that can combine with tartaric acid to increase the pH making it less acidic, one of which is potassium. And guess where potassium is found most abundantly in a grape? You got it. In the skins. So when the last quarter of the tank is pressed, the pressure on the skins releases potassium which then interacts with tartaric acid, making the wine less acidic, and voilà, you have Sonero.

2014 White Pine Riesling – Johannes called this wine his “teenager”, referring to its sassiness of increased acidity which with time will only become more calm and smooth to the palate.

2014 Sheldrake Riesling (Medium-Dry) – This wine was still more lively with acid than the Sonera, but definitely more tame than the White Pine. In fact, Miki said that “it feels like there is almost no acid at all” and Johannes replied with “I take that as a compliment!” Johannes explains that he feels this is due to the maturity of the vineyard, as Sheldrake is about 10 years older than White Pine. He goes on to say that the complexity of the wine, due to the maturity of the vineyard, supports the acid.

2016-08-04_10h33_122014 Sansan – Named after his lovely wife, Imelda, with a personal note on the back of the label, this Riesling is a sweeter version made from 100% noble rot (a naturally occurring mold that causes grapes to dehydrate and therefore concentrate their sugars). He tops this lovely bottle off with a wax-sealed cap that enhances its beauty, as any smart husband would do! Classy and delicious.

Planning your visit

39-Kemmeter WinesAs we said, this is a small operation and intentionally so, as Johannes cherishes the time spent with each and every guest in his tasting room. Tastings are only done by appointment so don’t forget to call ahead. Also, bring your wallet because we are convinced that you will want to buy a bottle or two even though you certainly won’t be pushed in that direction from Johannes. But on top of that, Johannes does something very special.  He does NOT charge a tasting fee, however, if you would like to contribute some dinero for your tasting, he donates 100% of the monies to help orphaned children.  A great story that we will save and allow you to ask Johannes personally during your visit. Please, do tell him The Traveling Winers said “All the best!”



Tom Joe
“Hops ‘r Better” Winer

Intense. This is how it felt through the entire tasting.  A stool was provided, but I sat on the edge as I listened to Johannes describe not only the wine and its history, but the stories of his life, his journey to get to this point. Riveting.

“Hippie” Winer

The 2014  Sonero Riesling was a really nice wine.  Good clarity in the glass and the lovely bouquet that you expect from a great Riesling.  We had it with friends, cheese and cold meats.  Perfect.

“This Is The Life” Winer

Yes another example of what “This is the Life” means to me.  Johannes has a passion for the grape, the wine, the land.  He holds firm beliefs in how the vineyard should be cultivated with the ultimate hope of producing the best the land has to offer.  He expresses these beliefs to others, practices these beliefs in the vineyard, and holds true to these beliefs without wavering. Conviction to the end.

“Timeless” Winer

More and more I’ve come to enjoy a good glass of Riesling and the Sonero 2014 was another example of why.  The flavor was smooth and satisfying.  The color was very clear and caught the light the way I like it.  The finish was excellent and left me wanting another glass.


2-Kemmeter Wines  5-Kemmeter Wines  10-Kemmeter Wines  17-Kemmeter Wines  20-Kemmeter Wines  21-Kemmeter Wines  22-Kemmeter Wines

The Winer’s Experience

Johannes opened the door and invited us in (as he did for every guest) to his 100 sq ft newly built tasting room, simply decorated, elegantly presented and provided an intimate environment for the story he was about to unfold. Young 2-year-old vines line the drive leading up to the small tasting room.  The scenery is very peaceful. Carhartt’s claim as the smallest tasting room in the world now has a contender. We have discovered the Kemmerter tasting room, at a mere 100 sq ft! Simple, purposeful, elegant. Designed for a max of 1-2 groups at a time to encourage an intimate experience.
You will only find Reisling in this tasting room, as Johannes originates from Germany with a family history of wine making since the 1400’s. As we know, Germany = Reisling! Purposefully one-on-one.  Johannes is intent on making sure that each visitor has their own unique experience. His #1 rule is ‘enjoy yourself’! Johannes concentrates his efforts in the vineyard first to produce the best fruit the ground can deliver.  Then, using his honed wine making skills, sculpts the best wines from that years’ yield.

Vineyard & Winery Information

 Kemmeter Wines 1030 Larzelere Road, Penn Yan, NY 14527
By appointment only. Thurs – Sat(call, text or email)
No No Free
No No This is a very small boutique winery.  Tasting by appointment only. Very personal experience with the wine maker.


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