By Chuck Hill
Wines of the Week Archive
My tastings for 2012 have revealed that Riesling is definitely evolving into a different style than has been produced in the Northwest, and beyond, for the last 30 years. Dry and off-dry wines have more acidity to balance the fruity, sweet palate and this bodes well for sipping, although I feel Riesling is still best as a wine accompanying lighter meals.
After a selection of dinner Rieslings, I offer you some late-harvest wines that will satisfy your sweet tooth.
This brand is a recent addition to the Long Shadows portfolio with the hats representing the nine winemakers participating in the Long Shadows project. Several wines were first assembled from wine that didn’t find its way into the signature bottlings of each participant. This Riesling is sourced from The Benches in the Horse Heaven Hills and Underwood Mountain Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge. Citrus lovers will enjoy the bright aromas of lemon and grapefruit zest with floral and stone fruit notes. The palate offers flavors of pears, peaches and honeysuckle.
As part of Allen Shoup’s Long Shadows program, German winemaker Armin Diel (Schlossgut Diel) produces this wine from each vintage. Grapes are sourced from Long Shadow’ Sonnet Vineyard at the Benches, the Phil Church Vineyard in the Yakima Valley, and small parts from Weinbau and Dionysus Vineyards. The wine is slightly drier than Kabinett style, offering aromas and flavors of white peach, jasmine and flinty mineral – a classy accompaniment to crab cakes and other delicate sea foods.
Kung Fu Girl
Winemaker/entrepreneur Charles Smith is in love with the Riesling that comes from Evergreen Vineyard in the Ancient Lakes area of the Columbia Valley AVA. Each year he makes this fabulous Riesling and sells it throughout the country to rave acclaim – and the clever label doesn’t hurt either. Another winner with the 2011 vintage, look for aromas of apricot, mineral and lime zest with an off-dry palate of apples, peaches and citrus flavors and a zippy crisp finish.
Three Rivers Winery
Grapes for this wine came from the renowned Bacchus Vineyard near Pasco,
Washington in the Columbia Valley. Harvest was delayed by cool
weather, giving the Riesling additional hang time to gain complexity and
structure. The wine offers the full monty for Columbia Valley
Riesling, bursting with aromas of apricot, lychee, tropical fruits and
ripe peach. The palate is slightly off-dry with juicy stone fruit
flavors tamed by ample balancing acidity.
This is the first wine made by Brooks from grapes grown at the Bois Joli Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills. The aroma speaks of Oregon Riesling with bright apple and pear mingling with sweet melon and honeysuckle. The palate offers crisp acidity and green apple flavors to accompany lighter meals or summertime sipping.
The Mercer and Hogue families are partners in this winery venture making quality varietal wines in Washington’s Yakima Valley. The two clans are pioneers of the area with histories going back over 125 years. This Riesling is sourced from the Brooks Vineyard, planted with Geisenheim clone 239, a late-ripening variety that is among the last to be harvested each fall. Aromas of apricot, peach and orchard blossom lead to a slightly off dry palate with flavors of citrus, peach and pear and a crisp finish.
Wine Out West
This new brand honors the history of the Mercer Estates Families (see above) whose creed, “Respect the Land,” reflects the fact that farming and ranching has sustained the families for four generations. This appealing wine offers aromas and flavors of peach, tangerine, mineral and honeysuckle – refreshing with lighter summer fare of all types.
Technology executive Bill Holloran moved to Oregon in 1999 and pursued his goal of making fine wine by purchasing the Le Pavillon Vineyard and hiring Jay Somers to craft his wines. More vineyards have been developed and Mark LaGasse has come on as assistant winemaker. On the nose, this wine shows ripe peach and mineral notes with hints of vanilla and honeysuckle. The palate offers crisp acidity and flavors of apple, white peach and flinty mineral. A value-priced Riesling is offered under the Stafford Hill label.
Wines from other areas:
This value-priced Aussie Riesling is a great sipper for summer featuring
citrus and tropical fruit aromas and flavors. Not exceptionally
complex, but very clean and balanced to accompany crab cakes and other
Late Harvest Wines
Time was when most people thought of Riesling, they thought of sweet wine sipped from tiny, colored wine glasses in the parlor after dinner. Indeed, some of the finest late-harvest wines in the world are made from Riesling and have ample sweetness and intriguing aromas and flavors. To make these wines, Riesling grapes are allowed to hang longer on the vine to achieve extra ripeness and possibly gain some complexity from infection by the “Noble Rot,” botrytis cinerea. Longer time in Mother Nature’s fickle care often results in loss of viable fruit, thus the high cost of the wines that succeed.
Though vanity most often prevents me from letting wineries tell their own stories, I appreciated the concise description of this wine from Milbrandt Vineyards: “When conditions are right, we delay the harvest on a small portion of our Riesling until the grapes are frozen solid on the vine. The result is a gloriously rich wine with flavors of honeysuckle, apricots and a dash of sweetness tempered by structure and minerality.” A perfect description of the wine with only a few notes to add: harvest brix (sugar in the grapes) was 41° and the press was damaged while trying to extract the thick, syrupy juice.
Alas, this wine is sold out at the winery though there may be a few bottles left in wine shops or better grocery stores. Grapes were harvested from Lewis Estate Vineyard (see my first Riesling article for brief description), and this wine was made leaving 8% residual sugar and just under 9% alcohol. Look for aromas of tangy mineral, apricot, vanilla and roses with flavors of buttered apricot crisp, ginger tea and peach butter with brown sugar.
What a charming and clever wine to try and fool this humble wine writer! If I had been served this wine blind, I would have pegged it for a late-harvest Gewurztraminer. The wine is not over-the-top with sweetness, but instead is gently balanced on the palate offering lychee, Earl Grey tea, orange blossom, tropical fruits, pear and honey. Nice complexity in both aroma and flavor make for a great sip to accompany light biscuits or pastries, or delicate cheeses.
Cluster Select is the equivalent of the German classification “Auslese” where selected overripe grape clusters are picked, leaving less ripe clusters on the vine to continue their journey toward greatness. The greatness achieved for this wine included Best of Show at a prestigious wine competition and for Navarro Winery of the Year. Aromas of apricot, honey, marmalade and tropical fruits lead to a rich palate of peach, pineapple, rose petal, vanilla and a balancing mineral acidity.
Riesling grapes grown at Kiona’s Red Mountain vineyard have been winning awards and impressing wine lovers for decades. The increased age of the vines just adds to the complexity and quality transferred into the finished wine. Aromas of citrus, apricot, spicy floral perfume and honey lead to flavors of sweet peach, apricot, baking spice and flinty mineral.
Montinore Estate offers several Riesling wines and they span a sweetness range to please almost every palate. This late-harvest style exudes the tropical touch with aromas of pineapple and grapefruit mingling with notes of peach, honey and orchard blossom. Sweet citrus and tropical fruit flavors lead to a clean and crisp finish that suggest pairing with spicy Asian cuisine.