Here is a quick and easy way to listen to my short discussion on KGO 810AM at 5:30pm with Chip Franklin from February 8th! Just kick back with cup of something warm and your device now to hear about the 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Competition results.
Are you ready to #GoMendo? Join me this weekend at the 13th Annual Aromatic White Wine Festival in Anderson Valley: A celebration of Alsace varietals from around the globe. (Formerly known as the Alsace Festival).
It all begins Saturday morning, February 24, with Educational Sessions, then the afternoon Grand Tasting with over 100 aromatic white wines, perfectly paired with locally prepared small bites. Followed by an evening Winemaker Dinner at Scharffenberger Cellars focused on locally sourced ingredients and perfectly paired with exquisite wines. Sunday February 25 commences the Winery Open Houses, at participating tasting rooms. See the list of wineries and purchase tickets HERE!
Some fine examples of past #GoMendo adventures!
An easy way to impress, make your reservations at Gravenstein Grill for this fabulous Pre-Fix Dinner for Valentines Day, next Wednesday, February 14th! Reservation required so please call 707.634.6142: Be sure to peruse the detailed menu options following!
Psst! If you cannot make it that night then plan to try Chef Simontacchi’s Signature Tasting Menu on any weeknight for $30 featuring signature & seasonal dishes using local ingredients. (See delicious examples way below!)
Valentine’s Day Menu
A morsel from Chef Simontacchi to whet your appetite
Soup or Salad Choices
Organic Local Mixed Baby Lettuce Salad with Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese Vinaigrette, Orange Segments, Almonds
Lobster Bisque with Meyer Lemon Creme Fraiche
Dungeness Crab Salad with Grapefruit & Avocado
Braised Wild Mushrooms with Creamy Mascarpone & Chive Polenta
Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna with Soba Noodle Salad & Citrus Soy Broth
Main Course Choices
Grilled Filet Mignon with Asparagus, Potato Gratin & Chimichurri Sauce
Swiss Chard, Caramelized Shallot & Pine Nut Ravioli with Meyer Lemon & Bellwether Farm’s Ricotta Buerre Blanc, Fennel Pollen
Seared Dayboat Scallop Saffron Risotto with Smoked Tomato Coulis
Assortment of Mini-Cookies
from Pastry Chef Hannah Meeker
5:00pm – 9:30pm
$65/person + Tax & Gratuity
During my Zinfandel Experience this year I ran into The Cork Dorks: This team consists of Adam Montiel and Jeremy West, part of a weekly program on The Krush 92.5. Take a little break to listen and watch this recounting of their ZAP adventure! (And yes, you will hear my voice in spots there as well. . .)
I will be making the rounds via airwaves to discuss the results of the 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Competition. So on Thursday February 8th, set your tuner for the following:
- KGO 810AM at 5:30pm with Chip Franklin
- KXSF (SFCR) 102.5 FM at 7pm with Steve King
- Or follow the links to listen online
To followup, the list of big winners will be posted in the Sunday issue of the San Francisco Chronicle on Feb 11 and the Grand Tasting of the winners will happen on Sunday, Feb 18. It is a great Valentine Day Weekend gift idea! Info is available at www.winejudging.com.
As some of you may know already, I spent the middle of January in the balmy climes of Miami. It is a ritual these past few years to participate in judging at the American Fine Wine Competition. Lucky for you as well that I have some splendid results for your perusal. This is a partial list, but you can check the AFWC website for final results in the next few days.
The 2018 Top Awards
CONGRATULATIONS TO THESE TOP WINNERS
BEST OF SHOW
Domaine Carneros 2011 Le Reve, Carneros ($110)
Fox Run Vineyards 2015 Riesling, Finger Lakes ($18)
Carol Shelton Wines 2013 Petite Sirah “Florence”, Dry Creek ($40)
Ferrante Winery Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, Ohio 2016 ($30)
BEST OF CLASS
Sauvignon Blanc: TIE!
Hoopes Family Vineyard 2016 $35
and Kelleher Family Vineyard 2016 $34
Chardonnay: Eleven Eleven Wines 2015 $95
Dry Rosé: Shadowbox Cellars 2016 $35
Pinot Noir: Mi Sueno Winery 2013 $55
Zinfandel: Brown Estate Chiles Valley 2015 $55
Cabernet Franc: Detert Family Vineyards 2015 $95
Merlot: Muscardini Cellars 2015 $60
Syrah: Klinker Brick “Farrah” 2014 $65
Red Bordeaux-style Blend: Ahnfeldt Wines “Quid Pro Quo” 2015 $59
Cabernet Sauvignon: Frank Family Vineyards Rutherford Reserve 2015 $95
Other Red Single Varietal: VIE Winery “L’Intruse” Mourvedre 2014 $45
Grenache VIE Winery “L’Imaginaire” 2014 $45
Other White Single Varietal: Reustle-Prayer Rock Vyds, Gruner Veltliner “Smaragd” 2015 $25
Other Red Blend: Buena Vista “The Sheriff” 2016 $40
While the trade portion gets going earlier in the week, you can still get the Zinfandel Experience with tickets to a few events that are not already sold out!
Flights: January 19, 10:30-1pm
Moderated by Joel Peterson, winemaker of Ravenswood Winery.
Aimed at the true wine aficionado with a keen curiosity, this seated seminar-style tasting allows attendees to experience the true character of Zinfandel through the eyes of experts.
Grand Tasting: January 20, 11am-5pm
The weekend’s main event is the Grand Tasting, where you will meet the winemakers at the most comprehensive showing of Zinfandels and blends in the world and experience a selection of sumptuous culinary samples from restaurants and winery chefs.
Winemaker Auction & Dinner: January 19
Unfortunately this event is already SOLD OUT. However, if you happen to be a lucky ticket holder be sure to look for my special Auction Package #20 and bid high! The live and silent auctions will showcase one-of-a-kind lots, rare bottles, and winery experiences with proceeds benefitting ZAP’s programming.
To start off the new year in style, below is the second segment of my notes and reviews of the top Oregon Rieslings I tasted in the second half of 2017. Most of these wines were originally tasted at Nick’s Restaurant in McMinnville, following the conclusion of the annual International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC). Besides myself and a small group of wine writers and sommeliers; other people at this event included Oregon Riesling Alliance (ORA) members Harry Peterson-Nedry of Chehalem Winery and Sheila Nicholas of Anam Cara Cellars, as well as Sally Murdoch of the Oregon Wine Board.
Needless to say, I can’t wait to taste the new releases in 2018. But if you feel intrigued by travel to the Oregon wine country to sample these wines over the next few months, I certainly recommend that you do! For more information about the Oregon Riesling Alliance and the upcoming Oregon Riesling Revival events, visit www.oregonriesling.net and www.oregonwine.com.
Airlie 2016 Dry Riesling, Old Vines, Willamette Valley. $20 / 93 pts
Known for its portfolio of hand-crafted boutique wines, this new release from the Corvallis-based Airlie Winery reflects the passion for Riesling shared by winemaker Elizabeth Clark and proprietor Mary Olson. Bright and elegant, this stylish medium-body wine opens up with alluring scents of ripe melons, honeysuckle, celery salt and fresh flowers. On the palate, flavors of green apple, lemongrass, cantaloupe, mineral and white pepper are balanced with a pleasurable combination of silky texture, crisp acidity, and a dry finish. www.airliewinery.com
Airlie 2015 Riesling, Willamette Valley – $16 / 88 pts
Intriguing scents of candied pineapple, lime, wild herbs and earth tones. Distinct flavors of ripe melons, citrus and hints of ginger and white soy leading to an acidic sensation that creates a tasty wine that is crisp, playful, and refreshing. Great buy for the price. www.airliewinery.com
Anam Cara 2014 Riesling, Nicholas Estate, Chehalem Mountains. $22 / 92 pts
Located near Newberg, Nicolas Estate has emerged as one of the great Riesling vineyards of the Chehalem Mountains AVA. Modeled after the classic medium-dry style Rieslings crafted in Germany and the Alsace region of France; the 2014 vintage was made with fruit from the original acre of vines developed by proprietors Sheila and Nick Nicholas in 2001 and a separate two-acre parcel on the estate that was planted in 2008. Big, bright and lively, the wine features attractive aromas of Meyer lemon, ripe quince, honeysuckle and a freshly opened jar of macadamia nut. In the glass, the citrus-driven flavors of fresh grapefruit, lime, lemon curd, sweet tarts, mineral and tangy acidity create a complex profile and a persistent finish. Pure refreshment in every sip. www.anamcaracellars.com
Aram Cara 2013 Riesling, Nicolas Estate, Estate Grown, Chehalem Mountains – $22 / 93 pts
Dynamic aromas of wild flowers, ripe stone fruits, melon, citrus and petrol. On the palate, the crisp and refreshing flavors of Anjou pear, green apple, cantaloupe and fresh quince are complimented with citrusy sensations of ripe lime and Meyer lemon, a hint of raw honey, and a long zesty finish. This wine recieved a Gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, which I judged as well. Therefore, besides being an instant crowd-pleaser; it is also very youthful and a great example of a Riesling that gets more elegant over time. www.aramcaracellars.com
Argyle 2015 Spirithouse Riesling, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley – $35 / 91 pts
As part of the Master Series at Argyle Winery, this flavorful, limited-release gem is made with fruit from the winery’s Lone Star Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills. To preserve the fresh and expressive flavors, the wine is fermented to dry and aged in neutral barrels. Delicate, with a beautiful light straw hue. The perfumed nose is filled with lively scents of spring flowers, ripe fruits, chamomile tea and fresh herbs. On the palate, the core flavors of ripe melon, white peach and lychee are balanced with a brilliant combination of elegant texture, tangy acidity, and long, dry finish. Refreshing, graceful and very food-friendly. Only 200 cases made. www.argylewine.com
Argyle 2015 Riesling, Nuthouse Vineyard, Estate Grown, Eola-Amity Hills – $30 / 88 pts
Crafted with fruit from three special blocks at the Nuthouse Vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills, this small-production Riesling was aged in 80% stainless steel and 20% neutral barrels. On the nose, the senses are energized with concentrated notes of exotic fruits, lemongrass, raw coconut, macadamia nuts and overall freshness. On the palate, distinctive notes of pineapple, cantaloupe and coconut are lifted with a lively mouthfeel, crisp acidity, and a spicy finish to heighten the experience. www.argylewine.com
Brandborg 2015 Riesling, Elkton Valley, Oregon – $16 / 92 pts
For a flavorful selection from Southern Oregon, try this new release from Brandborg Vineyards and Winery. This unique wine is a blend of premiere fruit from the Bradley Vineyard and the Anindor Vineyard, which are planted near the small farming community of Elkton and the Umpqua River in 1983. The Elkton clone, featured at both sites, is named after Ken Thomason Elkton, who planted the original Riesling vines in this charming region in 1972. On the nose, the wine features floral aromas of fresh jasmine, magnolia blossom, chamomile tea, lemongrass, honey and ripe tree fruits. In the glass, the medium-bodied flavors of pineapple, tangerine, exotic melon, lime, cucumber and spicy notes are masterfully integrated with a rich, round and waxy texture, a burst of crisp acidity, and a long tangy finish. www.brandborgwine.com.
Brooks 2016 Riesling, Old Vines, Willamette Valley – $20 / 93 pts Crafted with mature vines and a variety of intriguing Riesling clones planted in a special selection of microclimates and classic Willamette Valley soils; this bright, cheery and provocative wine offers abundant aromas of fresh wildflowers, white peach, apricot, fresh citrus, and lingering hints of petrol, beeswax and orange blossom. In the glass, the energetic fruit notes of ripe peach, white cherry and exotic melon are accented with layers of spicy and a bone-dry finish. Dry, classy and complex. www.brookswine.com
Brooks 2016 Riesling, Ingram Lane Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills – $26 / 94 pts
Developed by Bethel Heights Winery in 2008, the Ingram Lane Vineyard is planted in the signature volcanic soils of the Eola-Amity Hills. As a true interpretation of the site, this new release immediately leaps out of the glass with fresh floral aromas interlaced with vibrant notes of ripe stone fruits, zesty citrus, wild herbs, mineral, and spiced nuts. These delights continue on the palate with persistent flavors of green apple, papaya, tangy grapefruit, fresh lime, tangerine peel and clove, intertwined with crisp acidity, natural verve, and a rich, silky texture. www.brookswine.com
Brooks 2016 ARA Riesling, Old Vines, Willamette Valley – $38 / 96 pts
Although the “ARA” Riesling is named for the Alter constellation; here on earth, it’s really more of a “statement” wine focused on crafting a world-class Riesling with flavorful fruit from old vines and two classic soil types of Willamette Valley: volcanic basalt and marine sediment. In the glass, this enticing blend opens up with dazzling aromas of ripe stone fruits, melon, fresh citrus, wild herbs, and sea smoke. On the palate, the core flavors of ripe apple, pear and peach are accented with citrusy notes of lemon, lime, grapefruit, mineral and a kiss of oak. As these flavors expand, spicy notes emerge with underpinnings of crisp acidity and a long, graceful finish. Overall, a terrific introduction to the wonders of Oregon Riesling, and a great domestic brand to follow if you love Riesling. www.brookswine.com
Brooks 2016 Sweet P Riesling, Willamette Valley – $28 / 92 pts
Sweet P is a shortened version of the endearing nickname winery founder Jimi Brooks called his son, Pascal. Therefore, to preserve the purity of fruit, high acidity and the youthful attributes associated with mature vines planted on special sites, this medium-dry Riesling is fermented without the addition of yeast. The result is a complex wine that starts with heady aromas of white flowers, fresh melon, citrus and peach, enlivened with subtle nuances of honeysuckle and tangerine blossom. From there, the ripe and fleshy flavors of passionfruit, tangerine, white peach and Casaba melon mingle with spicy notes of ginger, cardamom and pumpkin spice. To add more depth, the layers of sweetness are balanced with refreshing acidity to create a fresh, vibrant finish that makes you want more. Pair with fresh cheeses, prosciutto & melon, spicy dishes, and savory tarts. www.brookswine.com
Chehalem 2015 Three Vineyards, Willamette Valley. $20 / 92 pts
Reminiscent of high-class Rieslings from the Old World with an Oregon twist, the Chehalem Three Vineyards Riesling is designed around capturing the complex flavors of three distinct estate vineyards—Stoller, Ridgecrest and Corral Creek—inside each bottle. This new release features fragrant floral aromas of jasmine, lemongrass, candied ginger, exotic fruits and slate. In the glass, the crisp and youthful flavors of green apple, sweet mango, papaya and accents of mineral and spice lead to an amiable sweet and tangy finish. The end result is a well-balanced wine that offers instant refreshment of the palate and lively flavors that pair nicely with a wide range of fresh cuisine. Terrific. www.chehalemwine.com
Chehalem 2015 Riesling, Corral Creek Vineyard, Chehalem Mountains $25 / 93 pts
Although he was not part of the original group of pioneers that planted the first Riesling vines in Willamette Valley in the 1970s, Harry Peterson-Nedry of Chehalem Winery has been one of the key leaders of the resurgence of Oregon Riesling movement over the past fifteen years. From the best blocks on the families Corral Creek Vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains, this fantastic new offering features tropical aromas interlaced with dazzling notes of candied fruit, honeysuckle, kerosene and wet stones. As the wine opens up, the complex flavors of white peach, poached pear, papaya, exotic melon and kiss of honey are balanced with a rich, smooth and viscous texture, zippy acidity, and a long, refreshing finish. In short, a dazzling example of a Oregon Riesling with a true sense of place in every sip. www.chehalemwine.com
Chehalem 2015 Riesling, Wind Ridge Block, Ribbon Ridge. $25 / 93 pts
As the name suggests, the Wind Ridge Block is located in a very windy section of the Ridgecrest Estate Vineyard, a high-elevation site in the Ribbon Ridge AVA. For that reason, the berries have a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity when they are picked. From the warm 2015 vintage, this new release with lofty floral aromas and generous flavors of candied mango, papaya and tangerine peel are further enhanced with underlying notes of fresh herbs, spice, mineral, and a long, seamless finish. Delicious now, the wine will continue to develop for years to come. www.chehalemwine.com
Cristom 2016 Riesling, Tunkalilla Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills – $22 / 96 pts
Situated next to one of the classic Cristom Pinot Noir vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA; the Riesling blocks at the Tunkalilla Vineyard were developed by Brian and Ann Crosen in 2005. On the nose, this new release features fragrant floral aromas, accented with hints of ripe melons, beeswax, mineral and wild herbs. As the wine opens up, the lovely flavors of ripe peach, melon, golden delicious apple, raw coconut and citrus rind become more complex, concentrated and tangy. The end result is a world-class Riesling that is sophisticated, sexy, and definitely worth exploring in more detail. www.cristomvineyards.com
Elk Cove 2016 Estate Riesling, Willamette Valley – $19 / 93 pts
Crafted by talented winemaker Adam Campbell and the staff at Elk Cove Winery, near the quaint hamlet of Gaston in the northwestern segment of Willamette Valley; this elegant, food-friendly wine opens up with enticing aromas of fresh stone fruits, wild sage, honeysuckle, mineral and lime. The flavor profile is packed with lively notes of tart apple, ripe pineapple, candied mango, green tea, white pepper and fresh acidity, leading to a long crisp and refreshing finish. An easy Riesling to fall in love with—especially for the price. www.elkcove.com
Lemelson Vineyards 2015 Dry Riesling, Estate Grown, Willamette Valley – $19 / 91 pts
Made with the fruit from the certified organic Meyer Vineyard on the hillside above Dundee, this dazzling new release from Lemelson Vineyards features aromas of lemon zest, dried flowers, ginger and ripe stone fruits. On the palate, the ripe and enchanting flavors of crisp green apple, tart pear and ripe pineapple are accented with notes of fresh lemon, Kaffir lime, mineral and a burst of racy acidity leading to a lean, dry finish. In addition to drinking great on its own; this is also a great wine to pair with fruit-based salads, shellfish, Vietnamese cuisine, and other delicate dishes. Great value too. www.lemelsonvineyards.com
Love and Squalor 2014 Riesling, Willamette Valley – $20 / 86 pts
Need to get in touch with mother nature? If so, try this deep, vibrant and mature wine from Portland Wine Company. Made with premium fruit from older Riesling vines, this intriguing wine starts off with fresh and funky aromas of waxy fruits, dried flowers, lemongrass and tart citrus. In the glass, the flavor profile is anchored with ripe tropical fruits, mango, papaya and jack-o-fruit, as well as sweet and tangy notes lemon drops and key lime pie. While this creative wine is a departure from the more bright and fresh styles of Oregon Rieslings, it definitely offers plenty of personality, intensity and plenty of dense flavors that are tart and savory, instead of sweet and cloying. Pair with gourmet salads with tangy dressings, grilled veggies, stuffed mushrooms, Jamaican Jerk Chicken, roasted goat, and other styles of spicy cuisine. www.portlandwinecompany.com
Love and Squalor 2014 Sunnyside Vineyard, Willamette Valley – $20 / 85 pts
From the famed Sunnyside Vineyard planted near Salem in 1971; this stately single-vineyard designate wine opens up with vibrant notes of sweet and sour fruits, ripe citrus, earth, and exotic flowers. The flavor profile is layered with ripe stone fruits, raw sugar cane, honey and fresh herbs. Austere, intriguing, and an interesting pairing to try with rich cheeses, fresh mussels and fine Asian cuisine. Only 25 cases made. www.portlandwinecompany.com
Ponzi 2015 Riesling, Willamette Valley – $22 / 92 pts
Representing the 45-year anniversary of Ponzi Vineyard, one of the pioneer brands of Willamette Valley; the Ponzi 2015 Riesling is a true charmer to the senses. On the nose, the beauty and natural energy of this wine comes through with vibrant notes of ripe stone fruits, fresh jasmine, fresh herbs, tangy citrus and graphite. While zesty flavors of white peach, ripe apricot, lemon and tart lime pie provide the fruit core, the fresh acidity and delicate texture carry through to a long, satisfying finish. Fresh, elegant and full-bodied, it’s a great Riesling to serve with goat cheese, fresh seafood, and richer, spicier dishes. www.ponzivineyards.com
Rain Dance 2016 Estate Riesling, Nicholas Vineyard, Chehalem Mountains. $22 / 89 pts
Taste-tempting scents of white flowers, ripe fruits, melon and lemongrass lead to refreshing flavors of ripe apple, lime and grapefruit, creamy texture, and lingering finish. Fun, fresh and approachable. www.raindancevineyards.com.
Yamhill Valley 2014 Riesling, McMinnville – $18 / 91 pts
The original Riesling blocks at Yamhill Valley Vineyards near McMinnville were planted on their own roots in 1983 and 1985. Therefore, as this wine deliciously demonstrates, there are advantages to having mature vines. As a very approachable medium-bodied Riesling, the flavors are framed with charming aromas of magnolia blossom, fresh cantaloupe, lemon and delicate Asian spices. Ripe, lively and expressive flavors of apple, tangerine, mango and lemon are balanced with a succession of sweet, tangy and creamy nuances leading to a clean finish. Lovely, complete, and convincing to the very last drop. www.yamhill.com
As much as I enjoy writing about new wine trends, I’m always happy to hear about the resurgence of classic grape varieties that suddenly come back in style after years of being overlooked. One of the exciting cases in point is the recent Oregon Riesling Revival.
With a rich history dating back over 2,000 years, this noble white grape is known for its fragrant aromas, complex flavors, and a wide range of stylish world-class wines crafted with varying levels of sweetness, bright acidity, and balance. After gaining notoriety in Germany, the love for this grape spread to Austria and the Alsace region of France before becoming a very productive varietal planted in premiere winegrowing regions in the New World over the past century.
In Oregon, it’s a journey that began when University of California Davis graduate Richard Sommer planted the first Riesling vines in the Umpqua Valley near Rosenburg in 1961. A few years after Sommer released the debut of the 1963 Riesling under his Hillcrest Vineyards label, a new series of pioneer winegrowers began planting the varietal further north in the cool climate region of Willamette Valley.
In the 1970s, this trend was helped along by the growing popularity of sweet wines in the US marketplace. As a result, Riesling accounted for nearly a quarter of Oregon’s total wine production by the early 1980s. But when the focus began to shift toward the exciting new plantings of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris later that decade, a large percentage of Riesling and other aromatic white grapes like Gewurztraminer, Muller Thurgau and Pinot Blanc were either pulled out or the fruit was used to make simple white wines or sold on the bulk market.
Around fifteen years ago, the rebirth of the varietal in Oregon began when a new wave of vintners, growers and winemakers with a passion for Riesling banded together and eventually formed the Oregon Riesling Alliance. In 2009, my first encounter with this energetic group came when vintner Harry Peterson-Nedry of Chehalem Winery, a ORA member, invited me and Master of Wine/Master Sommelier Doug Frost to a secret pop-up dinner at the luxurious Joel Palmer House in the quaint town of Dayton in Willamette Valley. Since there was no discussion about the theme of the dinner and the event happened on the eve of the annual International Pinot Noir Celebration, Doug and I were convinced that the seven winemakers participating in the dinner would bring their latest Pinot Noir gems to share with us. Therefore, we were very excited when the mysterious wines hidden in brown bags turned out to be magnificent offerings of fine local Rieslings. On top of that, we were able to taste these finely-crafted wines along with delicious dishes created by rising star Chef Christopher Czarnecki, who had just taken over his family’s business at the Joel Palmer House in 2008. Needless to say, it was an enlightening evening that Doug and I will never forget!
For these reasons, it gives me great pleasure to say that the Oregon Riesling movement has gained much more momentum since that memorable night. Furthermore, the restoration of old vineyards and the development of new sites has resulted in the increase of Riesling vines planted in the state to 749 acres, with more room to grow. Better yet, with the help of better farming practices and access to a wider range of Riesling clones from Germany, France, Italy and Argentina, the quality to fruit is at its highest level as well.
Same is true in the cellars, where a growing number of Oregon producers are now using a new series of innovative techniques to capture the character of the grapes and pure expressions of the vineyards in the finished wines. This attention to detail includes everything from picking the fruit at higher levels of acidity and less sweetness; using more native yeasts and controlling the temperature during fermentation; preserving fresh, fruity flavors and adding more texture to the finished blends with the use of stainless steel tanks, neutral oak barrels, larger barrels or puncheons and concrete eggs; and keeping the best lots separate to make more limited-release single-vineyard designate wines. While the majority of these hip, modern-style of Oregon Rieslings are dry or medium-dry; there are plenty of tasty offerings of medium sweet and sweeter styles that balanced instead of being too sugary or cloying.
With these thoughts in mind, below is Part 1 of my list of favorite Oregon Rieslings I’ve tasted over the past six months. Besides being crisp, clean, elegant and very food-friendly, the affordable price points of $16-$36 make these wines that much more tempting, and another reason to visit the great winegrowing regions of Oregon!
#SawyerSomm: Thrilling Oregon Rieslings of 2017, Part I
More than any white grape varietal, the flavor profile of a well-made Riesling can offer a true sense of place. That is especially true in Willamette Valley, the well-respected winegrowing region south and southwest of Portland, which encompasses a wide array of microclimates, soil types and elevations that can produce very distinctive flavors. A few months ago, the Oregon Wine Board and the Oregon Riesling Alliance were nice enough to provided me and a handful of other wine writers with a rare opportunity to sit down with four passionate winemakers/proprietors—Lynn Penner-Ash of Penner-Ash Winery, Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Wines, Bryan Weil of Alexana Wines, and our gracious host James Frey of Trisaetum Vineyards and Gallery in Newberg, OR—to taste through a stylish assortment of world-class wines they make with Riesling grapes grown in Willamette Valley. Here is a collection of the “#SawyerSommReviews from that fantastic experience.
Penner-Ash 2015 Riesling, Willamette Valley – $24 / 93 pts
Following her love for Riesling, gifted winemaker Lynn Penner-Ash made this elegant white wine with pristine fruit from a series of well-respected vineyards located in the northern section of Willamette Valley. In the glass, the personality of these special sites come through with attractive scents ripe pear, orange blossom, oolong tea, ginger and fresh honey. On the palate, the gracious flavors of ripe pear, green apple, apricot and pineapple are underscored with crisp acidity, creamy texture, and hints of spice leading to a lip-smacking finish. Clean, crisp, elegant and dry, it’s a rockstar Riesling that over-delivers for the price.
Penner-Ash 2015 Old Vine Riesling, Hyland Vineyard, McMinnville – $35 / 96 pts
With 200 acres of vines planted at 600-800 feet in the foothills of the Coastal Range near Dundee, the Hylands Estate is one of the largest and most historic vineyard sites in Oregon. Lynn Penner-Ash is one of a handful of winemakers lucky enough to work with the Riesling blocks that were planted on a unique outcropping of ancient basalt soil in 1971. On the nose, the terroir-driven aromas of fresh gardenia flowers, ripe stone fruits, lychee and zesty citrus are enhanced with intriguing notes of orange peel, honeycomb, juniper berries and savory spices. In the glass, the delicious flavors of ripe white peach, Anjou pear, key lime pie, ginger snaps, mineral and roasted hazelnuts are balanced with a brilliant combination of silky texture, tangy acidity, great length, and a seamless finish. Elegant, refined and ageworthy. This is a great representative of the Oregon Riesling heritage and the priceless personality of a special site, all in one!
Alexana 2016 Estate Riesling, Revana Vineyard, Dundee Hills – $32 / 95 pts
Located in the Dundee Hills appellation, the Revana Estate is home to 55 acres of vineyards planted in a unique mixture of sedimentary silt and stones; volcanic stone and clay; and bedrock comprised of sedimentary and basalt below the surface. This new release of the Alexana 2016 Estate Riesling comes from a three-acre parcel on the south-east corner of the property, which provides plenty of cool breezes in the afternoon that help preserve the natural acidity in the berries. The result is a lovely aromatic gem with alluring scents of freshly picked stone fruits, honeysuckle, fresh lime zest, wet stones, and a hint of kerosene. In the mouth, the thirsty-quenching notes of green apple, lychee, lemon and grapefruit are balanced with a rich texture, structure, and a long, crisp and tangy finish. www.alexanawinery.com
Trisaetum 2016 Estate Riesling, Ribbon Ridge – $32 / 96 pts
With captivating scents of ripe tropical fruits, fresh citrus, honeycomb, tangerine blossom and sandstone, there is no doubt this is a lively and complex Riesling from the moment it hits the glass. On the palate, expressive flavors of ripe guava, papaya, lemon-lime and fresh quince are integrated with layers of subtle spices, creamy texture, and a tingly, mineral-driven finish. Flavorful and sophisticated, it’s a wine that gets better with more time in the glass and the cellar. www.trisaetum.com.
Trisaetum 2016 Estate Riesling, Wichmann Vineyard, Dundee Hills – $32 / 93 pts
Guided by smooth texture, natural acidity and a touch of sweetness; this elegant Riesling opens up with lofty aromas of fresh white flowers, ripe melons and candied fruits layered with attractive hints of honeysuckle, lemon verbena, white pepper and wet stones. These dazzling notes carry over to the palate, where sophisticated flavors of ripe pineapple, tangerine, mango and Meyer lemon lead to a long, dry finish that makes you want more. Lip-smacking goodness in every sip! www.trisaetum.com.
Trisaetum 2016 Coast Range Estate Dry Riesling, Yamhill-Carlton – $32 / 94 pts
Located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, the vines at Trisaetum Coast Range Estate are planted on old volcanic soils dating back 45 million years. Therefore, the character of the site immediately pops with mineral-driven aromas interweaved with more fragrant notes of spring flowers, citrus and fresh stone fruits. On the palate, delicious flavors of white peach, poached pear, papaya and raw honey are balanced with a burst of perky acidity, a touch of French oak, and a bone-dry finish. Great presence from start to finish. www.trisaetum.com.
Montinore 2015 Reserve Riesling, Montinore Vineyard, Willamette Valley – $22 / 93 pts
From the Montinore Estate, a Demeter Certified Biodynamic vineyard near Forest Grove, comes the latest offering of the winery’s Reserve Riesling. With a lovely light golden hue, this complex wine opens up with fragrant scents of exotic fruits and zesty citrus mixed with more savory nuances of wild herbs, green olive and anise. In the glass, the tangy, fruit-driven flavors of ripe peach, passionfruit, fresh guava, grapefruit and lemon harmonize with hints of fresh thyme, forest floor, and spicy accents. Sassy, savory and oh so refreshing! www.montinore.com
Montinore 2015 Riesling Sweet Reserve, Montinore Vineyard, Willamette Valley – $18 / 91 pts
If you are looking for a little sweetness in your Riesling, Montimore has you covered! On the nose, this medium-sweet wine is brimming with aromatic notes of ripe tropical fruits, candied pineapple, fresh lime, beeswax and spring flowers. The core flavors of crisp apple, fresh lychee, ripe peach and lemon are punctuated with hints fresh ginger, mineral, and savory spices. Sweet, but perfectly balanced with bright acidity and a soft, graceful texture. www.montinore.com
Stay tuned for Part II of my
Oregon Riesling reviews for 2017!
Sending seasons greetings to you all with hopes for INCREDIBLE things in the new year! I am looking forward to continuing my work at Gravenstein Grill, new wine classes at Feast It Forward, several trips including my first to China, pursuing publication of my appellation book, a blog upgrade (heads up!) and lots of quality family time. So enjoy friends, food and of course good wine over this winter holiday and embrace your own upcoming possibilities .
Many cheers to 2018! Christopher