Riesling remains wonderful from deliciously dry to satisfyingly sweet

May 24, 2019 

  • Wine ratings

    All rated wines are tasted blind then placed in the following categories:

    Outstanding!

    These wines have superior characteristics and should be highly sought after.

    Excellent

    Top-notch wines with particularly high qualities.

    Recommended

    Delicious, well-made wines with true varietal characteristics.

    Prices are suggested retail.

  • Riesling by the numbers

    Here’s a look at the numbers behind the wines tasted for this article.

    Total wines judged: 62

    Percentage of "Outstanding!" wines: 42

    Percentage of "Excellent" wines: 43

    Percentage of "Recommended" wines: 11

    Average price: $21

    Average alcohol: 12.1%

    Median residual sugar of “Outstanding!” wines: 12 grams or 1.2%

    Total cases represented: 438,627

    American Viticultural Areas represented: 17

    Wines by AVA: Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley (3), Chehalem Mountains (3), Columbia Gorge (3), Columbia Valley (18), Dundee Hills (1), Elkton Oregon (2), Eola-Amity Hills (4), Horse Heaven Hills (2), Rattlesnake Hills (3), Snake River Valley (2), Southern Oregon (1), Umpqua Valley (3), Wahluke Slope (1), Walla Walla Valley (1), Washington (1) Willamette Valley (6) and Yakima Valley (8).

Cab is king now, and the rise of rosé has been meteoric. And while the market has softened for Riesling, no one in the Northwest does it bigger and better than Chateau Ste. Michelle.

“Since Day 2 of my job as Chateau Ste. Michelle winemaker, which included walking Riesling vineyards with Ernst Loosen, I have been enamored with the variety,” Bob Bertheau said via email. “Washington state has such a unique climate that includes very cold Octobers, allowing Riesling to retain all that beautiful natural acidity that is its backbone.”

In fact, no one in the world produces more Riesling than Chateau Ste. Michelle, which serves as the stately ambassador for the noble grape of Germany and partner with Mosel producer Loosen on Eroica. It carries a Catch-22, however. The historic Woodinville, Wash., winery has set the bar so well in terms of quality and value that it’s difficult for others to carve out much space in the marketplace. Some have even abandoned the grape.

After all, how do you compete with the Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling, which retails for $10? And the 2017 vintage emerged as the No. 1 entry in this tasting of 62 Rieslings in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

The string of accolades for Bertheau’s program includes the 2016 Platinum Judging for Wine Press Northwest when the 2015 Dry Riesling was the top wine of the entire tasting. Not far behind and also earning Platinum was the Chateau Ste. Michelle 2014 Columbia Valley Riesling - a $9 bottle with a massive production of 1.04 million cases.

“To the outside world, that Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling and the Kung Fu Girl Riesling by Charles Smith represent Washington Riesling,” said Kent Waliser, director of vineyard operations for Sagemoor Farms in the Columbia Valley. “But because all the small brands essentially stay here, consumers in Washington are sitting on all the innovative styles that are coming from here. With the addition of the different Riesling clones, the flavors are more interesting. And more winemakers are dabbling with harvest dates and acidity levels to create Rieslings of complexity. Those that don’t can be a little monochromatic.”

As delicious as it is, the landscape for Riesling has changed significantly since 2014 when Washington winemakers crushed more of it – 50,500 tons – than any other grape in the state. Back then, it accounted for 22 percent of the state’s overall wine grape industry. And Chateau Ste. Michelle has scaled production. For example, there were 818,813 cases of the Columbia Valley Riesling made from the 2017 vintage. That represents a drop of 21 percent, which creates an effect that’s more than a ripple throughout the state.

“We did have great growth for 15+ years that has tailed off a little,” said Bertheau, who landed at Chateau Ste. Michelle in 2003. “We are also just coming to the end of the first generation of vineyard knowledge and combining that with a new generation of wine drinkers, I think Riesling has an extremely bright future.”

Last year, Riesling finished at 38,300 tons, down 24 percent from four years ago. Cabernet Sauvignon production was at 74,400 tons crushed. And now, Chardonnay has edged out Riesling as the leading white grape grown in Washington. Overall, Riesling amounts to 15 percent of all wine grape tonnage in the state.

There’s a similar story in Oregon, where Riesling is a distant third behind Pinot Gris and Chardonnay when it comes to white varieties. Despite an overall increase in vineyard acres of nearly 12 percent, acreage dedicated to Riesling in Oregon tumbled from 782 acres in 2016 to 540 acres in 2017, resulting in a staggering 43 percent drop in production from 3,095 tons to 1,778 tons, accounting for just 2 percent of the state’s harvest. The 2018 Oregon Winery and Vineyard Report is expected to be released later this summer.

In 2014, Allan Brothers Fruit in Naches, Wash., purchased Sagemoor Farms, a constellation of historic vineyards largely near the Columbia River between the Wahluke Slope and Pasco, Wash. Until the emergence of grape growing in the cooler Ancient Lakes to the north, Sagemoor plantings — which now include Gamache Vineyards — were a breadbasket for Ste. Michelle’s Riesling program, including the Eroica. Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the Eroica project with Loosen.

“Five years ago, we had 105 acres of Riesling just at Weinbau,” Waliser said. “I probably had pretty close to 200 acres of it or about 20 percent of our total acreage. Now, we’re probably at less than half of that, and what I have left is not on solid footing. I’ve got to find new avenues.

“Growers can’t afford to keep Riesling in the ground because they can make more money planting something different,” he continued. “I’m trying to save blocks of Riesling from 1973 and 1983. I hope I don’t have to pull them out, but I don’t know if there are enough people who care. That’s a tough one.”

Winemakers relish the opportunity to work with as many sites as possible, so the “kid in a candy store” analogy applies, but consumer interest — which drives corporate decisions made by marketing analysts and accountants at large producers — have altered the landscape for Riesling.

Some of that stems from the stereotype that all Riesling is sweet. This tasting of 62 examples in the Northwest showed that is not the case. In fact, the median residual for the “Outstanding!” entries is 1.2 percent residual sugar, and the industry continues to educate consumers by using the International Riesling Foundation’s Taste Profile. That simple scale on the bottle indicates the level of sweetness and now appears on more than 30 million bottles of Riesling in the U.S.

The market is there for richer styles of Riesling, evidenced by the Chateau Ste. Michelle 2017 Harvest Select Sweet Riesling, a $10 example that checked in at nearly 5 percent residual sugar with a production of more than twice that of the Columbia Valley Dry Riesling.

“Once people can figure out how to get through the wonderful problem that Riesling can be made in so many different styles we can all forge ahead,” said Bertheau, a graduate of University of California-Davis’s winemaking program. “The International Riesling Foundation Taste Profile scale has helped, but it still takes all our effort to educate the consumer as to what we have to offer and what they might want. I also think that we as winemakers are getting a little more creative in the cellar as well.”

Across the street in Woodinville from Chateau Ste. Michelle is Columbia Winery. The historic brand was purchased by E. & J. Gallo in 2012, and at this point, Canadian-born winemaker Sean Hails only produces about 600 cases of Riesling each year for the Woodinville tasting room, done dry at about 0.5% residual sugar. Historically, the Columbia Winery Cellarmaster’s Riesling ranked among the state’s most popular after the late David Lake, a Master of Wine, decided to bottle a particularly tasty lot that accidently finished at 6 percent RS. Production of the 2005 edition, which marked Lake’s final vintage at Columbia, stood at 88,000 cases.

“The Cellarmaster’s Riesling was sweet, and when Gallo bought it, that went away,” Waliser said. “They just weren’t going to do it that way.”

Covey Run, a sister winery of Columbia’s and another large producer of Riesling, was shuttered by Gallo. Covey Run’s talented winemaker, Kate Michaud, now heads up Double Canyon, which does not have a Riesling program.

“I work with about 13 customers now for Riesling, and they all are relatively small,” Waliser said. “The largest two are Arbor Crest and Long Shadows.”

Waliser partners with Walla Walla’s Ali Mayfield on two distinct styles of Riesling under the young Wines by Sagemoor brand. He is understandably optimistic. In the short term, there’s news of a trade tasting this summer in New York that will feature a select group of Riesling producers from Washington. Many of those East Coast sommeliers and wine buyers are well-acquainted with Eroica and the work that Gilles Nicault has done with the Poet’s Leap Riesling at Long Shadows.

“Eroica and Long Shadows led the way and opened the door, but what’s going to happen next is all going to start with a few hundred cases of Riesling in tasting rooms,” Waliser said. “There are more people trying to make Riesling, some of them in 50- and 100-case lots, so it will all start over and still under the range of the big umbrella of Ste. Michelle. l think Riesling will hit again in the future as people turn more toward vineyard-designates for a sense of place and experiment more with picking dates and clones. There are a lot more interesting choices, and if we can slowly repopulate wine lists at restaurants with Riesling, that would help.”

Bertheau points out, “We are now making an Eroica XLC (extended lees contact) that is sitting on gross fermentation lees for two years in an oak tank. Purity of fruit is always a Riesling hallmark, but experimentation with different styles and finding the audience to appreciate it will be rewarding as well.”

Waliser, who oversees old vines at Bacchus, Dionysus, Gamache and Weinbau, donates Riesling grapes to Washington colleges that teach winemaking, and he took that a step further.

“The variety is not going to go away, and the best days for Riesling in Washington are in front of us because we have the climate and we’ve already found some sites,” he said. “I’m waiting for someone to stick Riesling in one of those high-elevation sites in the Walla Walla Valley to the south and see what happens. Experimentation will go on.

“We’re only 50 years into this, and that’s just a flash,” Waliser continued. “Look at all the young people in their 20s who are in the industry now. Give them 40 years and see where Riesling will be. I won’t be around to see it, but it’s been exciting to be able to prime the pump.”

Bertheau, recently promoted to senior director of winemaking for all of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, seems to have placed his prized Riesling program in ideal hands with David Rosenthal, now the white winemaker for Ste. Michelle.

“Bottom line, Riesling has been and will continue to be a hallmark for the state and certainly Chateau Ste. Michelle – cycles of ups and downs are inevitable,” Bertheau said.

Panelists for this tasting were Gregg McConnell, editor, Wine Press Northwest, Kennewick; Andy Perdue, wine writer, The Seattle Times, Richland, Wash.; Mike Rader, panelist, Great Northwest Wine, Kennewick; Ken Robertson, columnist, Wine Press Northwest, and Kent Wailser, director of vineyard operations, Sagemoor Farms, Pasco, Wash.

OUTSTANDING

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2017 Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley • $10 Best Buy! The No. 1 wine in this judging continues to set the bar at many levels for Riesling in the U.S. While it is nicknamed as “Baby Eroica” because of a somewhat similar tasting profile to the iconic Eroica, the tandem of Bob Bertheau and David Rosenthal leave considerably less residual sugar on their Columbia Valley Dry Riesling. This bottling finished at 0.6% residual sugar vs. 1.6% for the 2017 Eroica, although the latter offers more total acidity (8.4 vs. 7.5). The 2017 Dry Riesling continues its own tradition with a clean and classic nose of Bosc pear, white peach and lemon. Across the palate, it’s a Riesling lover’s dream in its blend of tree-ripened nectarine and orange flavors that finish with lemon/lime and a lick of peach pit for complexity. One judge described it as “damn-near perfect,” while another called it “magical.” Enjoy with crab, scallops, mild cheeses, Asian dishes or Indian curries. (95,000 cases 12.5% alc.)

College Cellars of Walla Walla 2018 Bacchus Vineyard Riesling, Columbia Valley • $18 Winemaking instructor Tim Donahue and his pupils produce some of the best wines in the Northwest, and their work with Riesling from venerable Bacchus was the most fascinating of the judging. Students on this project were Audrey Burr, George Doolan, Ben Morken and Andrew Ponton, and they created a 50/50 field blend of the fruity Geisenheim 198 clone and mineral-driven Neustadt 90 clone. According to Kent Waliser, who oversees Bacchus as part of Sagemoor Farms, no other customer of his had blended those two clones before. The winsome nose would particularly appeal to lovers of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with its gooseberry to go with Limeade, grapefruit and guava. Inside are Bosc pear flavors within a marvelous texture of Pink Lady apple skin that carries into a sip of Arnold Palmer and jasmine, backed by a long finish of white peach that settled at 1.8% residual sugar. It’s yet another reason to visit the on-campus tasting room and wine shop. (60 cases, 11.5% alc.)

Brooks Wines 2017 Brooks Estate Vineyard Riesling, Eola-Amity Hills • $32 Thanks to matriarch Janie Brooks Hueck, it can be argued that no winemaker on the West Coast geeks out and gets to play with as many presentations of Riesling as Chris Williams at Brooks near Salem, Ore. And he doesn’t need to walk far from the panoramic tasting room to check on these vines. Its nose is remarkably fruity and floral with a whiff of honey that leads to an intense structure of ripe stone fruit on the palate. Refreshing kumquat acidity provides plenty of tension for the 1.4% residual sugar, making for a wild ride that might be described with an oxymoron - a dry ice wine. (200 cases, 12.5 % alc.)

Jones of Washington 2017 Riesling, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley • $10 Best Buy!There’s no surprise when a wine by Victor Palencia rises to the top of any judging, particularly with aromatic whites. The nose of watermelon, lemonade and flecks of minerality essentially give away its Ancient Lakes roots. On the attack, it’s racy and lively with honeydew melon, kiwi fruit, pear and apple, backed by river rock and fresh mint. The finish is bone-dry, despite the 1.6% residual sugar, so there’s no denying this wine’s ability to age with grace. (1,948 cases 12.9% alc.)

EXCELLENT

Goose Ridge Vineyards 2018 Estate Riesling, Columbia Valley • $18 At some point in the not-too-distant future, look for this Riesling to list “Goose Gap” as its American Viticultural Area, and Andrew Wilson is poised to make headlines with it. Intense and dense aromas of melon, lemon and yellow rose petal lead to flavors of cantaloupe, white peach and starfruit. Mandarin orange acidity and a lick of apricot pit deals with the residual sugar of 1.7% (344 cases 12.4% alc.)

Long Shadows Vintners 2017 Poet's Leap Riesling, Columbia Valley • $20 Famed German producer Armin Diel created the Riesling template at Long Shadows for founder Allen Shoup, and Gilles Nicault recently has taken over the direction of Poet’s Leap while expanding the Nine Hats tier. He continues to rely on his relationship with Sagemoor Vineyards and maintains a trocken style that’s deliciously mouthwatering. White peach, lemony and wildflower aromas come with a faint whiff of petrol, which are followed by a beautifully flavorful blend of rosewater, Meyer lemon and nectarine that’s capped by Mandarin orange. This checked in at 1.5% residual sugar. (4,800 cases, 12.5% alc.)

Anam Cara Cellars 2013 Nicholas Estate Riesling, Chehalem Mountains • $22 Among the Willamette Valley’s leaders with Riesling, Nick and Sheila Nicholas have sold some of their fruit to the likes of Alexana, Argyle, Brooks, Elk Cove and King Estate. This Riesling was produced prior to selling much of their vineyard to the Austin family in nearby Newberg, and it is standing the test of time in dry fashion. Crazy chemistry of pH 2.96 with a total acidity of 9.9 helps explain why it remains loaded with Honeycrisp apple, stone fruit and minerality, all backed by a luscious and mouthwatering profile that demands you drink more. (250 cases, 12.1% alc.)

Gård Vintners 2014 Lawrence Vineyards Riesling Ice Wine, Columbia Valley • $60 Walla Walla winemaker Aryn Morell has been making wine for the Lawrence family since 2010, and this age-worthy nectar led the way among the examples of sweet Riesling in this tasting. Clone 9 fruit pulled on Dec. 1 spent nine months in twice-used French oak barrels, and the profile could be mistaken for a British Columbia icewine. Hints of botrytis join honey, apricot glacéed and butterscotch in the nose. Rich flavors of caramel, butterscotch and banana carry into a finish of nougat, and the fluid comes with ample acidity for the 19% residual sugar. The listed price is for a 375-milliliter bottle. (142 cases 11.8% alc.)

Brooks Wines 2017 Bois Joli Vineyard Riesling, Eola-Amity Hills • $24 Fruit from 30-year-old vines just north of the town of Amity, Ore., remains a mainstay in Chris Williams’s portfolio, and at 2.6% residual sugar, this slots in as a real crowd-pleaser. Layers of nectarine, butterscotch and honey are precisely balanced by bright lemon acidity. Suggested pairings include white fish, scallops, crab, barbecued pork or a spicy bowl of pho. (300 cases, 12.5% alc.)

Côte Bonneville 2017 DuBrul Vineyard Estate Riesling, Yakima Valley • $22 Dr. Hugh Shiels acquired one of the Yakima Valley’s oldest Riesling blocks, which date to 1982, when he and Kathy bought their property in the Rattlesnake Hills in 1991. Even though these vines struggle in the poor soil, their daughter, Kerry, skillfully crafts the berries into one of Washington’s most delicious examples of Riesling year after year, doing so in a style that leans toward German spätlese. Enticing aromas of kiwi fruit, cherry Pixy Stix and apricot lead to an entry of peach, Bartlett pear and lavender. The combination of 4% residual sugar and low alcohol with refreshing acidity gives it a remarkably beautiful mouth feel. (250 cases 10% alc.)

Indian Creek Winery 2018 Riesling, Snake River Valley • $16 Idaho’s Treasure Valley built its reputation with Riesling, and Mike McClure is carrying on his late father-in-law’s tradition of quality at Indian Creek. Aromas of Asian pear, Golden Delicious apple, anise and slate lead to rich flavors of Mandarin orange and Kern’s Peach Nectar that are framed by Nellie and Joe’s Famous Key West Lime juice. Its remarkable complexity amid 2% residual sugar is capped by hints of minerality, jasmine and rosewater. They pair their off-dry Riesling with pasta and lightly spiced fish dishes, and it will be showcased at the celebration of Maj. Bill Stowe’s life on May 26. (200 cases 12.4% alc.)

Lone Birch Wines 2016 Riesling, Yakima Valley • $12 Best Buy! A decade ago, the Airfield Estates family created their bargain-minded Lone Birch brand, which they named for the landmark tree at their 830-acre vineyard. Marcus Miller, a graduate of Walla Walla Community College’s winemaking program, presents this in an off-dry style that’s loaded with Bartlett pear, vanilla cream and jicama, joined by a charming bit of petrol in the farewell. (1,272 cases 11.8% alc.)

Silver Lake Winery 2017 Roza Riesling, Rattlesnake Hills • $14 Best Buy! One of Woodinville’s oldest wineries had the prescience to lock up vineyards in the Roza, one of higher-elevation sites in the Yakima Valley, and Bill Ammons, who trained under Brian Carter and Cheryl Barber-Jones, creates another nicely priced off-dry Riesling from Washington. Fun aromas of peach blossom, mango and honey are matched on the palate as plenty of acidity joins tones of anise and mango in the finish. (2,165 cases 12% alc.)

Brooks Wines 2017 Ara Riesling, Willamette Valley • $38 With his Ara, Chris Williams entered a most invigorating example of Riesling in the tasting, and it’s billed as perhaps his most prized effort. No wonder that the 2006 Ara became a part of the second course for Barack Obama’s first state dinner at the White House in 2009. Fascinating aromas of cotton candy and yellow grapefruit transition into taut flavors of Granny Smith apple, Asian pear, blood orange and apricot skin. Finished at just 3 grams per liter of sugar (0.3%), it’s reminiscent of a stony Austrailian Riesling, one worthy of buying a case and charting its progress over the course of a decade. (300 cases, 12.8% alc.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2016 Ethos Reserve Late Harvest Riesling, Columbia Valley • $40 Ethos denotes the reserve tier for Chateau Ste. Michelle, and Bob Bertheau and David Rosenthal keep close tabs on the Horse Heaven Vineyard near Columbia Crest to encourage and manage the development of botrytis in certain blocks that will concentrate flavors and sugars for the November harvest. What results is a rich, juicy and complex example of Riesling that screams for French vanilla ice cream. Apricot jam, lemon zest, white pepper and mint aromas become flavors reminiscent of nutty baklava, baked pear and apple pie. The skillful presentation of acidity akin to blood orange offers more than enough to balance the 30% residual sugar. (148 cases 7.5% alc.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2017 Harvest Select Sweet Riesling, Columbia Valley • $10 Best Buy! To those who say Americans don’t like sweet Riesling, Bob Bertheau would politely disagree. So would fans of his Harvest Select, a program developed a decade ago to slot in just a bit sweeter than the Columbia Valley Riesling. On the International Riesling Foundation’s Taste Profile scale, this is listed as “medium-sweet.” And yet it comes across as far from cloying and not necessarily indicative of the 4.5% residual sugar because of the lingering lemon/lime acidity to balance the theme of Ambrosia fruit salad. In terms of this tasting, it should be the easiest to find and ideal to pair with spicy Asian food. (232,000 cases 10.5% alc.)

Elevation Cellars 2017 Imperium Riesling, Columbia Valley • $20 Fruit from Lawrence Vineyard in the Frenchman Hills along the Royal Slope showed up throughout this snapshot of top Rieslings from the Northwest, and Woodinville winemaker Steven Stuart worked with Josh Lawrence and his 1,700-foot elevation Corfu Crossing planting for this bottling, which earned a gold medal at last year’s Cascadia International Wine Competition. Mandarin orange, allspice and lychee aromas evolve into flavors of peach and nectarine as blood orange acidity provides delicious balance to the 1% residual sugar. (250 cases 13.2% alc.)

David Hill Vineyards & Winery 2017 Estate Riesling, Willamette Valley • $20 Some of the oldest vines in the Northwest produced one of the top Rieslings in this tasting as Justin Van Zanten works with Geisenheim clones planted by Charles Coury on his own rootstock in 1965, just south of the Forest Grove, Ore., tasting room. This sip of history is lively, crisp and refined as notes of Bosc pear, quince and kumquat leave room for dusty minerality and a bite of a Granny Smith apple that deals with the 1.2% residual sugar. (350 cases 11.1% alc.)

North by Northwest 2015 Riesling, Horse Heaven Hills • $12 Best Buy! King Estate’s tier from Washington state hits the mark on many levels with this Riesling from the historically hot vintage off The Benches Vineyard, a site now controlled by Precept Wine in Seattle. Brent Stone, a Washington State University alum making wine for this Oregon icon in Eugene, has locked in delicate aromas of facial powder, river rock, peach blossom and lemon. Layers of stone fruit flavors and candied apple roll across into a delicious finish of Meyer lemon and light petrol as the residual sugar hangs in at 0.6%. (8,100 cases 13% alc.)

Pacific Rim Wine 2016 Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley • $12 Best Buy! California iconoclast Randall Grahm planted biodynamic Riesling vines in the Horse Heaven Hills on a site that looked down on Lewis and Clark soon after they left the Snake River. In 2006, Grahm launched Pacific Rim in West Richland, Wash., and the focus on Riesling continues beyond its 2011 sale to Banfi Vintners. It’s a well-integrated example of Germanic-inspired Riesling with the theme of lime, Asian pear, Granny Smith apple and orange peel, which comes across more dry than its 0.8% residual sugar might portend. (4,900 cases 12.5% alc.)

Pacific Rim Wine 2015 Solstice Vineyard Riesling, Yakima Valley • $18 A cooler and venerable site planted in 1980, Solstice Vineyard along Snipes Round is managed by Jim Willard, and the winemaking team of Steven Sealock and Nicolas Quillé displayed their passion for dry Riesling with this single-site expression. Dusty lemon, honey and lime aromas are striking, and there’s delicious purity of fruit inside with Bosc pear, Golden Delicious apple and lavender to finish. (215 cases 13% alc.)

Brooks Wines 2017 Brooks Estate Vineyard Sweet P Riesling, Eola-Amity Hills • $28 On the International Riesling Foundation Taste Profile scale, the Sweet P checks in as “Medium Sweet,” and there’s some significant sugar at 4.5% left, but Chris Williams brings it home. Lemon peel, jasmine and a whiff of petrol usher in flavors of honey, apricot preserves and jasmine, backed by nice minerality. It’s a big and juicy wine, and it might be among the most age-worthy in the judging. (300 cases, 12% alc.)

Williamson Vineyards 2017 Dry Riesling, Snake River Valley • $12 Best Buy! The Williamson family attended the 2016 Riesling Rendezvous, an international seminar staged in Seattle for many of the world’s top producers of Riesling. They took notes and agreed to let their longtime winemaker and friend, Greg Koenig, lead them down the dry path of Riesling. Indeed, it checks in at 0.3% residual sugar. For this product of estate vines on Idaho’s famous Sunnyslope, Koenig used the German yeast Stienberger to unveil the dusty minerality and focus the lemon/lime citrus aromas. There’s more lemon/lime and Mandarin orange on the palate, backed by cleansing acidity and a lick of Lemonhead candy for a lovely finish. Suggested pairings include shellfish, coconut curries, grilled chicken and asparagus. A month after this tasting, it was voted as the top Riesling at the 2019 Cascadia International Wine Competition. (110 cases 13.5% alc.)

Reustle - Prayer Rock Vineyards 2016 Estate Cuvée Riesling, Umpqua Valley • $21 Stephen Reustle is the U.S. expert on the Austrian grape Grüner Veltliner, so it makes sense that Stephen Reustle shines with Riesling, too. It accounts for less than 4 acres across his 40-acre estate north of Roseburg, Ore., and he presents it with the precision we’ve come to expect from the 2017 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year. Done in a German trocken style, it’s citrusy rather than tropical as lemon, starfruit and jicama come to mind. There’s a pleasing fleshiness of cantaloupe and honeydew melon on the midpalate, which is backed by an attractive finish of lemon and jasmine. (448 cases 13.2% alc.)

Trella Vineyards 2016 Riesling, Umpqua Valley • $21 One of the Northwest’s top talents with cool-climate varieties, Terry Brandborg is the winemaker behind the Williams family in Roseburg, Ore., and Riesling from their 7 acres in the Callahan Mountains foothills already is yielding greatness. At three years of age, there’s a touch of petrol behind the aromas of Uncola. Inside, Asian pear, Granny Smith apple and honeydew melon are met by delicious acidity to balance the kiss of sweetness. (50 cases 12.5% alc.)

Goose Ridge Vineyards 2016 Estate Riesling Ice Wine, Columbia Valley • $50 One of the sweetest Rieslings is this tasting also goes down as one of the best. Andrew Wilson has the luxury of working with Monson family fruit in the proposed Goose Gap American Viticultural Area near Richland, Wash., so he was able to take it at the precise moment he wanted, which was Dec. 14, 2016, at 42 Brix. After a two-month fermentation, it finished out at nearly 25% residual sugar, leaving him with a heavenly nectar that opens with aromas of honey, apricot glacéed and spice. It’s syrupy and rich with tropical fruit, ample acidity and a finish of Bananas Foster. The listed price is for a 375-milliliter bottle. (173 cases 10.2% alc.)

Eric Degerman is co-founder and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.

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