By Chuck Hill
Wines of the Week Archive
We have found many wines from the west coast that are good examples and offer degrees of varietal character. There is some disagreement among tasters as to whether some aspects of Riesling's character should be rewarded. Notes of petrol, resin and piney scents are considered flaws in most wines, yet with Riesling it is part of the package and moves the wine scores higher rather than lower. Is this proper? Purists think so.
Sweetness of Riesling wines is a constant source of confusion for consumers. The label naming of "Dry Riesling" has helped somewhat, though this year we have had some "dry" Riesling wines that were distinctly off-dry if not sweet. The International Riesling Foundation (IRF, drinkriesling.com) has initiated a Riesling sweetness scale that they are encouraging wineries to use on their labels. Wineries place the mark on the scale so consumers can find it on Riesling wines in the store and have a little better idea of the wine's sweetness level.
Wedding Dance Riesling is "springtime in a bottle," showing aromas and flavors of rose petal, ripe peach, mineral, apple, pear and more. One taster remarked, "this wine has all kinds of complexity..." The palate is off dry and is balanced by crisp acidity with citrus notes on the finish. It was a runaway favorite in our most recent Riesling flight - and superb with crab cakes.
Just behind the Riesling above, but way ahead of the crowd, Ponzi Riesling shows the complexity that winemaker Luisa Ponzi brings out from each vintage. Look for aromas of honeydew melon and pear with notes of spice and floral perfume. The palate offers delicate flavors of melon, pear and citrus with a finish of flinty mineral and orchard blossom.
The Hogue Cellars has been known for quality Riesling wines for almost 30 years taking advantage of the wide selection of grape sources for the varietal in the Columbia Valley. Ripe pear and apple character define the aroma of the wine with hints of petrol and citrus zest. The palate is off dry to slightly sweet with rich flavors of pear and apricot. The wine is an excellent sipper or accompaniment to crab cakes or spicy Asian cuisine.
Some Riesling wines border on being almost too dry. When wines age, they often "dry out" with apparent sugar levels declining and acidity taking the forefront. Such wines should be paired with rich food preparations or lighter foods in rich sauces where the acidity can work to brighten the impression. Lazy River Dry Riesling is such a wine and offers appealing aromas and flavors of melon, white peach, earthy herb, mineral and a hint of petrol on the finish.
This Dry Riesling is a good value and found a favorable following in our tasting. Aromas of peach, pear, honeysuckle and floral perfume lead to an off-dry palate of pear drop candy and honeyed almond. The finish lingers on the palate in such a way that some tasters thought it cloying. Paired with crab cakes, the wine showed well.
Firesteed Riesling is a perennial favorite in this tasting and offers great complexity, partly due to sourcing of grapes from both the Willamette Valley and Rogue Valley of Oregon. The nose offers classic Riesling notes of pear and white peach with vivid backup of lemony citrus, rose petal and cardamom. The palate is dry to off dry with rich flavors of stone fruits and citrus yielding to mineral on the finish - an excellent choice to pair with your crab cake efforts.
Montinore Vineyards of Forest Grove, Oregon is led by Rudy Marchesi and his daughter Kristin. Rudy was the longtime vineyard consultant to the property and became proprietor in 2005. Kristin is now the Managing Director. The winery's Almost Dry Riesling offers aromas of apple and pear leading to a crisp, dry palate featuring citrus flavors with a finish of white peach.
As the original blue-bottle winery in Oregon, Bridgeview took the Blue Moon moniker into the wine-in-a-box category. If you are hosting a crab cake dinner, you might consider this value-priced Riesling for your go-to pour. Aromas of apple, pear and honeysuckle lead to an off-dry palate with nice fruit flavors and a crisp finish.
Convergence Zone Cellars
Located in the Puget Sound "Convergence Zone" (a weather phenomenon that affects the area northeast of Seattle), CZ Cellars is the project of Scott Greenberg who appreciates the metaphor of "converging" different grapes, vineyards and winemaking styles to produce his wines. Dewpoint is a very dry Riesling offering aromas and flavors of citrus, apricot and herbal mineral. The finish is quite crisp and demands a food accompaniment - crab cakes are a good choice.
Even though this wine is sold out at the winery, we like to promote wine education in Washington State. College Cellars is the non-profit teaching winery of the Center for Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla Community College. Fruit for the student-made wines is often donated by area vineyards, and the resulting wines can be great values. This wine poured in a glass is disturbingly clear (often a sign of overuse of SO2) but shows classic Riesling aromas and flavors of peach, apple and pear with notes of citrus and spice.
Wines from other areas:
This wine is labeled as medium sweet and has a pleasantly low alcohol content of just 10%. Blue slate in the vineyard soil above the Mosel River gives the wine its name and the marketing efforts carry through to the elegant blue bottle. Aromas and flavors of spicy pear, apricot, vanilla and earthy mineral make for an excellent accompaniment to almost any light meal.
This wine hails from the Edna Valley AVA, just south of San Luis Obispo, California, in the broader Central Coast AVA. While the Edna Valley made its fame producing wines of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Claiborne and Churchill has made a dry Riesling from area fruit for 28 consecutive vintages. Look for bright citrus aromas of grapefruit and limoncello with notes of peach and earthy mineral. On the palate the wine is almost excruciatingly dry with citrus, mineral and herbal flavors - needs food.
The back label of Barefoot Riesling offers an appropriate description of the wine and Riesling in general: "refreshingly sweet." Indeed, this bargain Riesling is lightly sweet with pleasant aromas of apple and pear with a hint of dusty mineral and a touch of citrus on the finish.