Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Glories of Riesling (Part Three) - The New World

In my two previous posts on Riesling (here and here), I wrote about the two most classic origins of Riesling from the Old World - Germany and Alsace. This post will deal with some favorite examples of Riesling from the New World, namely Australia, New Zealand and California.

Whenever you speak about Riesling, you think of Germany and Alsace for their beautiful expressions of this grape, whether dry or sweet. They have been producing these wines for centuries, so vine age plus knowing the best sites to plant the grape along with experience - the best teacher of all - have combined to make these two areas reference points for Riesling.

I have yet to discover a region or country that produces as many great examples of Riesling as do those two lands, but the Clare Valley in Australia comes close and in my mind, has been the home of some truly classic Rieslings. The finest example of this variety I have had outside of Germany and Alsace has been the Grosset "Polish Hill" from Clare Valley, 100 miles north of Adelaide. I've never enjoyed the good fortune of visiting there, so I have to rely on the firm's website about this wine, which describes the vineyard as having "silt and shallow shales over a thin crust of clay and gravel." Proprietor Jeffrey Grosset has been making this wine since 1981 and I recall quite well the lovely petrol and lime aromas, as well as the richness on the palate and texture of the wine. This is truly a great Riesling.

For this post, I tasted another excellent Clare Valley Riesling from Kilikanoon (review below); I also tasted Rieslings from Western Australia, namely from the Margaret River and Frankland River Regions. The wines I tasted from Leeuwin Estate and Frankland Estate were very different in style, but both excellent. I was particularly pleased with the structure and minerality of the latter's wines.

I was also delighted with another Riesling from Down Under, namely the Greywacke 2011 from the Marlborough district in New Zealand. Greywacke is the winery of Kevin Judd, who achieved fame a while back as being the winemaker at Cloudy Bay. Kevin has always made brilliant examples of Sauvignon Blanc, but his Riesling is just as memorable.

From America, I've been very impressed with the Rieslings from Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington. There are two principal releases from this producer, one the Cold Creek Vineyard offering and second the Eroica. The Cold Creek Vineyard is planted to numerous varieties - red and white - and it is quite warm, so you might not think a site that is the source for excellent examples of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc would be home to lovely Rieslings, but that indeed is the case. The Eroica wine is a collaboration between Chateau Ste. Michelle and famed Mosel producer, Dr. Ernst Loosen. This is a beautiful wine, a Riesling of marvelous complexity and charm.

There are a few beautiful Rieslings from California as well. Mendocino County, north of Sonoma, is a cool climate ideal for this variety; especially recommended are the examples from Handley and Greenwood Ridge from Anderson Valley and Esterlina from Cole Ranch.

As for Napa Valley, Trefethen Vineyards has been producing a delicate, dry Riesling for years and then there is the legendary Stony Hill Riesling, which has become somewhat of a Holy Grail for Riesling lovers.

The Finger Lakes region of upper New York State is home to more than 60 producers of Riesling. There are all styles made here with varying quality levels, but the best are excellent. For this post, I tasted a Riesling from Ravines Wines Cellars and was quite pleased.

Tasting notes:


Leeuwin Estate Riesling "Art Series" 2013 (Margaret River) - Light yellow; aromas of peony, melon, petrol and elderflowers. Medium-full with very good concentration. Cleanly made, this has impressive persistence and varietal focus. Lengthy finish and lively acidity. This should drink well for another 3-5 years - excellent. ($16, a notable value). Imported by Old Bridge Cellars, Napa, CA.

Frisk "Prickly" Riesling 2013 (Victoria) - I've enjoyed this Riesling for a few years now; the name comes from the fact that the wine has a prickly sensation on your tongue. Pleasing aromas of melon, white peach and elderflowers. Medium-bodied with tasty ripe fruit and a nicely structured finish with tangy acidity. Irresistible now, best fresh, but can be enjoyed over the next 3-5 years. ($10) Imported by Old Bridge Cellars

Kilakanoon Riesling "Mort's Block" 2012 (Clare Valley, Watervale)
Straw/light yellow; delicate aromas of melon, lime and peony. Medium-full with very good concentration. Elegant wine with excellent varietal character. Very good persistence and acidity. Nice typicity - perhaps not as rich as some vintages, but a nice wine for enjoyment now and over the next 2-3 years. ($20) Imported by Old Bridge Cellars.

Frankland Estate Riesling "Netley Road Vineyard" 2012 (Frankland River Riesling, Western Australia): I tasted three different offerings of Riesling from this producer. The first two, the "Poison Hill Vineyard" and the "Isolation Ridge Vineyard" are very good with excellent varietal character and persistence. The "Netley Road" is the finest of the three. Brilliant straw, aromas of petrol, lime and a hint of talc powder. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Rich mid-palate, elegant entry on the palate. Lengthy, well-structured finish with excellent persistence, lively acidity and a delicate streak of minerality. Wonderful complexity and varietal character. Enjoy now (I'd love this paired with crab) or wait for greater complexities to come to the front. Peak drinking in 7-10 years. ($35, only 6000 bottles produced). Imported by Quintessential, Napa, CA.

New Zealand

Greywacke 2011 (Marlborough) - Straw/light yellow; lovely aromas of lime, elderflowers and green apple. Medium-full with very good concentration. Vibrant acidity, excellent persistence and wonderful varietal purity with just a touch of minerality. This was the most delicious Riesling I tasted for this post. I opened it and enjoyed a few ounces each night for more than a week; it was as fresh and as tasty after a week open as it was when I first tasted it. Beautiful wine - well, done Kevin Judd! ($25) Imported by Old Bridge Cellars.


Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling "Cold Creek Vineyard" 2012 (Columbia Valley) - Beautiful straw/light yellow with delightful aromas of white peach, apricot, lilacs and chamomile. Medium-bodied with excellent concentration. Generous mid-palate, very good acidity, impressive persistence and ideal varietal purity. Absolutely delicious with perfect balance, this has just a trace of sweetness, which is balanced by the acidity, leaving a clean, satisfying finish. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years - if you can wait that long! ($18, an excellent value). (Information on the wine here).

Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen Riesling "Eroica" 2012 (Columbia Valley) - The grapes for this wine are sourced from eight different vineyards in Washington, including Horse Heaven (Columbia Valley) and Viewcrest (Yakima Valley). Straw; lovely aromas of lime, white peach and a hint of pineapple. Lovely mid-palate and balance - very exquisite - with lovely varietal purity. Very impressive Mosel-styled Riesling with very good acidity and a nice touch of finesse. This is slightly drier than the Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Riesling. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years. ($20, a fine value). (Information on the wine here).


Handley Cellars Riesling 2012 (Anderson Valley) - Straw/light yellow; attractive aromas of yellow peach, Anjou pear and magnolias. Medium-bodied, this has good varietal character, good persistence and a lightly sweet, but not cloying finish. A delicate, uncomplicated style of Riesling meant for consumption over the next 1-2 years. ($22) 

New York State

Ravines Wine Cellars Riesling "Argetsinger Vineyard" 2010 (Finger Lakes) - This vineyard was planted 25 years ago and is comprised of limestone soil. Floral aromas - peony and lilacs with a note of honey. Very good concentration and freshness. Very good acidity; off-dry finish. Elegant with a nice sense of finesse. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years. ($25)

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