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The Riesling Grape

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About Riesling

(Synonyms: Beregi Riesling, Beyaz Riesling, Biela Grasevina, Dinca Grasiva Biela, Edelriesling, Edle Gewuerztraube, Feher Rajnai, Gentil Aromatique, Gentile Aromatique, Gewuerzriesling, Gewuerztraube, Graefenberger, Graschevina, Grasevina Rajnska, Grauer Riesling, Grobriesling, Hochheimer, Johannisberg, Johannisberger, Karbacher Riesling, Kastellberger, Kis Rizling, Kleigelberger, Kleiner Riesling, Kleinriesler, Kleinriesling, Klingelberger, Krauses, Krausses Roessling, Lipka, Moselriesling, Niederlaender, Oberkircher, Oberlaender, Petit Rhin, Petit Riesling, Petracine, Pfaelzer, Pfefferl, Piros Rajnai Rizling, Pussilla, Raisin Du Rhin, Rajinski Rizling, Rajnai Rizling, Rajnski Ruzling, Rano, Reichsriesling, Reissler, Remo, Rendu, Reno, Renski Rizling, Rezlik, Rezlin, Rezlink, Rhein Riesling, Rheingauer, Rheinriesling, Rhiesling, Riesler, Riesling Bianco, Riesling blanc, Riesling De Rhin, Riesling Echter Weisser, Riesling Edler, Riesling Gelb Mosel E43, Riesling Giallo, Riesling Grosso, Riesling Gruener Mosel, Riesling Mosel, Riesling Reinskii, Riesling Rhenan, Riesling Rhine, Rieslinger, Rislinenok, Rislinok, Rizling Linner, Rizling Rajinski, Rizling Rajnai, Rizling Rajnski, Rizling Reinskii, Rizling Rynsky, Roessling, Rohac, Rossling, Rosslinger, Ruessel, Ruessling, Russel, Ryn-Riesling, Ryzlink Rynsky, Starosvetske, Starovetski, Szuerke Rizling, Uva Pussila, Weisser Riesling)


Riesling grapes Map showing the Rhine river.

Riesling is a white-wine grape originating in the Rhine Valley of Germany. It is generally considered one of the dozen and a half or so of world-class white-wine grapes (those in boldface in the varietals list to the left of the page); in fact, many wine experts would class Riesling the greatest wine grape in the world, ahead of such red superstars as Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon—despite which it gets little respect in the U.S., being widely regarded as simply cheap, simple, sweet plonk.

The Riesling grape is naturally a very high-acid grape, which means that when properly vinified, it can not merely withstand bottle age, but continue to develop and improve, sometimes for many decades. The high acid, combined with high natural sugars, makes possible a very evenly-balanced wine, which can well display the rich and deep flavors also natural to the grape.

Riesling wines are typically highly aromatic, with complex and profound floral scents in the nose, which also appear in the taste. Moreover, it is a wine that is quite apt at displaying the much-prized quality of terroir (at least when respectfully vinified). Curiously, fine Rieslings also exhibit a quality commonly described as "petrol", which does not sound at all appetizing but which somehow, in Rieslings, manages to be so (though some wine drinkers are so repelled by the idea that mention of it as a Riesling characteristic is being downplayed by makers, some of whom eeven strive to minimize or eliminate it, despite the harm they thereby do to the overall flavor, character, and age-worthiness of their wines).

Riesling is very rarely blended, and almost as rarely sees any oak (save occasionally some "neutral" oak). It is never made as a "woody" wine.

The biggest problem Riesling presents to the consumer is its sweetness: not how sweet it is or isn't, but knowing how sweet it is or isn't. Rieslings can be and are vinified everywhere from bone dry (especially in Alsatia) to dessert-sweet (many German wineries produce a veritable host of Riesling bottlings, differing chiefly in their sweetness), and it was long a problem for shoppers, even with a bottle in hand to inspect, to try to determine which sort they might be dealing with. Especially for Old World Rieslings is this difficult: Goethe famously remarked that "Life is too short to drink poor wine," leading Martin Amis to wittily remark something to the effect that a German wine label is another thing life's too short for. Fortunately, in recent years an organization called the International Riesling Foundation came up with a uniform sweetness-labelling scheme that now adorns many bottles of Riesling. Its essence is four levels of sweetness: Dry; Medium Dry; Medium Sweet; and Sweet. But if you encounter bottles not so labelled, here's a clue: look at the alcohol content. If the alcohol is 11% or under, the wine is definitely off dry; if it is 13% or above, the wine is dry; if it is from 11% to 13%, the sweetness is probably proportionately along the spectrum ("probably" because other factors influence the perception of sweetness in a wine).

(Recall that alcohol is produced by the fermentation of the sugars in the raw grape juice; the more alcohol there is in the final wine, the more of the original sugars that were fermented away. There is a good, detailed discussion of the sweetness of Rieslings at the German Wine Lover site, and another at the StarChefs site.)

Note that label notes other than those set forth by the IRF are chancey guides at best; many an American-made Riesling labelled "dry" would go best with the dessert course. Nor are the classic Germanic "ripeness" terms (Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, and so forth), even if you memorize them, much help, because the ripeness only indicates the potential of the grapes—a given vintner can vinify a given lot of grape juice as he or she pleases, making (for example) a "Spätlese" that is actually drier than a "Kabinett", though the Spätlese juice was originally higher in sugars. In the end, the consumer must, if there is no IRF mark available, go by the alcohol content and, ideally, by the reputation of the wine (which requires some foresight and study). Even if you have an appetite for all levels of sweetness, you still want to know which one you're going to get on a given day.

Rieslings are today made all over the world, over a huge range of both style and quality. In the U.S., its history has been a sad one. An early flood of Rieslings, made simple and sweet and cheap, firmly planted the image of Riesling as a cheapo wine; today, winemakers who want to make wines that live up to the potential of the grape fight an uphill battle, because many consumers simply will not pay more than a few dollars for a bottle of "that cheap goop". The tide is starting to turn, but progress so far is glacial. (Those of an age will recall the same thing having happened to the excellent noble grape Chenin Blanc.)

Riesling does well in cool climates, thriving where other "noble" grapes might struggle, and so has ben popular in regions with limited climatic possibilities for wine. Probably the most important Riesling sources today are, more or less but not exactly in this order, Germany, the Alsace region of France, Austria, Australia and New Zealand, the U.S., and Canada, though those are far from all. There is no definite pattern associating style with region, but broadly speaking the middle-European makers tend to go for dry Rieslings, while new World makers tend to style a bit off dry. The regional wines also vary a deal owing to the differing soils in which they are grown, the wine being, as already noted, excellent at conveying terroir. Not many makers are producing the great Rieslings that want one or more decades of aging to approach their full potential, but there are probably more Alsatians of that sort than in the other regions.

If one relies on Wikipedia, these are (always painting with a very broad brush) the regional characteristics:

  • Germany: "transparency" in flavor and presentation of terroir; balance between fruit and mineral flavors.

  • Alsace: mostly very dry with cleansing acidity and a thick body that coats the palate.

  • Austria: generally thick bodied with a strong clarity of flavor and rich aroma; typically a long finish that includes hints of white pepper.

  • Australia: an oily texture and citrus fruit flavors in their youth, with a smooth balance of freshness and acid as they age.

  • New Zealand: lighter and more delicate wines.

  • U.S.: there are intramural variations—New York State, an effervescent light body with a similarly light, mellow flavor, dynamic though rarely robust; California, softer, fuller, and more diverse flavors than a typical German Riesling; Washington State, crisp lightness with an easily detectable peach and mineral complex.

  • Canada: especially rich and bright.

Again a caution: those are rough rules of thumb with, no doubt, countless exceptions.

Factoid: Riesling has its own producer society, the International Riesling Foundation, whose web site is a useful resource on the subject.

Some Descriptions of Riesling Wines

  • Wikipedia

    "In cool climates, (such as many German wine regions) Riesling wines tend to exhibit apple and tree fruit notes with noticeable levels of acidity that is sometimes balanced with residual sugar. A late-ripening variety that can develop more citrus and peach notes in warmer climates (such as Alsace, parts of Austria). In Australia, Riesling is often noted for a characteristic lime note that tends to emerge in examples from the Clare and Eden Valley in South Australia. Riesling's naturally high acidity and pronounce fruit flavors gives wines made from the grape immense aging potential with well-made examples from favorable vintages often developing smokey, honey notes and aged German Rieslings, in particular, taking on a 'petrol' character. . . Riesling wines are often consumed when young, when they make a fruity and aromatic wine which may have aromas of green or other apples, grapefruit, peach, gooseberry, honey, rose blossom or cut green grass, and usually a crisp taste due to the high acidity. However, Riesling's naturally high acidity and range of flavo rs make it suitable for extended aging. International wine expert Michael Broadbent rates aged German Rieslings, some hundreds of years old, highly. . . On release, certain Riesling wines reveal a striking petrol note[17] (goût de pétrole in French) which is sometimes described with associations to kerosene, lubricant or rubber. While an integral part of the aroma profile of mature Riesling and sought after by many experienced drinkers, it may be off-putting to those unaccustomed to it, and those who primarily seek young and fruity aromas in their wine."

  • About.com

    "Riesling wines can be highly aromatic with apple, peach and pear at the forefront mixed with delicate floral undertones and often honey and spice on the nose. On the palate, Rieslings echo the apple, pear and peach along with citrus and tropical nuances. Rieslings tend to pick up a noticeable "minerality" from their native soils, explaining why hints of slate or limestone can be exhibited."

  • Wine Folly

    "Tasting Riesling starts in your nose. It's one of the most aromatic grape varieties in the world. The primary fruit aromas in Riesling are nectarine, apricot, honey-crisp apple and pear. Besides just fruit, you'll often smell things like honeycomb or even to a chemical aroma similar to petrol/gas. Believe it or not, it's these weird smells that wine enthusiasts go gaga over. Riesling is very high acid, almost to the level of a tart fruit juice like lemonade."

  • International Riesling Foundation

    "Most rocks when ground to smithereens do not have much taste or flavor. Nevertheless, few would dispute that Rieslings grown from differing soil profiles often exhibit extremely different organoleptic characteristics. Because of the lack of interference of other elements – malolactic fermentation, oak, elevated alcohol levels, etc. – one can very easily learn to distinguish the flavor of Riesling grown on schist as compared to slate or limestone. Because Rieslings are grown in such minimal soil on the steep slopes of the greatest vineyards in Germany and Austria, they must derive their moisture from exploring the fissures of the fractured subsoil, mining for water. Vines grown under these extreme conditions, as well as older vineyards (with the deepest roots) will tend to exhibit the highest degree of minerality. It is also believed by some that the putative elevated mineral content of Riesling is implicated in the wine's prodigious longevity."

  • Food and Wine

    "German Rieslings balance impressive acidity with apple and citrus fruit flavors, and range from dry and refreshing to sweet and unctuous. Alsace and Austrian Rieslings are higher in alcohol, which makes them more full-bodied, but they are quite dry, full of mineral notes. Australia's Rieslings (the best are from the Clare Valley) are zippy and full of lime and other citrus flavors. Those from Washington State tend to split the difference, offering juicy, appley fruit and lively acidity, with a hint of sweetness. Rieslings are extraordinarily versatile with food."

  • Total Wine

    "At its best, it offers fabulous floral aromas with crisp and highly flavorful pineapple, apricot, honey and citrus fruit flavors. Known for its crispness, or acidity, even sweeter style Rieslings are not overly thick and syrupy. . . Riesling might be the opposite of Chardonnay in style, lighter in body and rarely put in contact with oak, but is more than equal in terms of versatility and complexity. In Alsace, it produces crisp and dry wines for everyday drinking to the truly complex higher end wines, also dry, often needing 5 to 10 years of aging to truly capture the essence of what this grape variety can achieve; Washington State produces similar style."

  • Wine Searcher

    "Riesling is conspicuously absent from the core wine regions of France, Spain and Italy. . . Riesling vines cover the steep, slate-rich hillsides above these famous [German] rivers, and are used to make crisp, refreshing wines with pronounced acidity. On the other side of the Rhine lies Alsace, once German but now part of France. Here, Riesling is the most important wine grape variety in terms of both quantity and (arguably) quality. Alsace Riesling has its own individual style, richer and more generous than those made in Germany. . . Austria also produces a large quantity of Riesling, most notably from its eastern Wachau and Kremstal regions. This is made mostly in drier styles . . . The high quality Rieslings now made in Australia's Clare and Eden valleys have proved this with particular competence. Most notably, Clare Valley Riesling has emerged as a style in its own right, with crisp, citrus-scented acidity and aromas of toast and honeysuckle. Just across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand is also making high quality Riesling in each of its South Island regions, while South Africa's Riesling is also showing promise."

  • Drink Wine

    "Riesling's great attribute is that it combines high natural acidity with tremendous fruit concentration, in both aroma and flavor. Thus, it can produce low alcohol wines of great character, at every level of residual sweetness, wines with incredible aging ability. Riesling's other hallmark is its beautifully expressive bouquet, which suggest flowers, green apples, and honeysuckle blossoms."

  • Wegmans

    "It comes down to a combination of good acidity, fruit, and low alcohol. Acidity is what gives some punch to flavor, like lemon on a fillet of sole. It also refreshes the palate and keeps your taste buds awake. Riesling has it in spades. But if it were all bracing acidity, Riesling wouldn't be that enjoyable. Fortunately, there's wonderful fruit to balance things out. Finally, most Rieslings are lower in alcohol than many wines, an important factor when pairing with spicy food since too much alcohol accentuates spice. Higher alcohol also makes a wine feel heavy and can overwhelm food. There's one other distinguishing Riesling characteristic; they're "clean". In other words, the wine's quality and flavor is determined in the vineyard, not by the flavor of a barrel it's fermented in (Riesling sees very little oak). As a result, a sense of place and time is present in every glass."

Some Rieslings to Try

(About this list.)

Owing to the variety of types and regions, our list is rather longer than usual—yet still took a lot of pruning to get to size. We have included two examples each from eight Riesling regions, three lying in the U.S. That still must miss a number of regional variations in the overseas sources, but it's something to be going on with. By and large, we have favored drier versions in making the list, but there are still a fair number of off-dry samples, too.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
  • Josef Leitz Drachenstein "Dragonstone" Riesling, $14 - $20.
         ($13.94 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    The latest installment of a proverbial hit, Leitz’s 2007 Rudesheimer Drachenstein Riesling Dragonstone continues (as its full name demonstrates) to come from a single vineyard, one from which by now Leitz takes a significant percentage of the crop. There has never been a better example of the electric intensity and uncanny balance Leitz is able to achieve in this site between taut, invigorating acidity and a high level of residual sugar that comes off as barely sweet. Zesty lime, peach, pink grapefruit, and red currant ally themselves to cinnamon spice, salts, and wet stones, and finish with simultaneous penetration and delicacy. Enjoy this great value anytime over the next 3-4 years.

    Citrus nose with slate, beeswax and petrol hints. Medium-bodied with firm acidity – well balanced. Lemon, apple and honeysuckle on the palate. Classic profile. Moderate length – crisp and refreshing finish – lovely. Drinking well now – not for aging.

    ♣ Wine Advocate (date unknown), 90 points

    ♣ Wine Spectator (date unknown), 88 points

    Fruity, showing touches of richness, with plenty of honeyed notes to the peach, ripe apple and pear tart flavors. Cream and spice notes envelop the finish.

    Fruity, showing touches of richness, with plenty of honeyed notes to the peach, ripe apple and pear tart flavors. Cream and spice notes envelop the finish.

    The Leitz Dragonstone Riesling hit just the right note with our band of TWAV tasters. . . The wine retails for about $20 and has to be one of the top values in German Riesling. . . For me, balance is the key with Riesling. I’m a fan of dry Riesling, but some sweetness is okay as long as it is balanced with acidity. The Dragonstone is balanced indeed with flavor notes of lime and peach. It has a nice round flavor, but stops short of being overly sweet. This is low in alcohol with a mere 9.5%. You get refreshment without regret.

    At 45 grams of residual sugar, this year’s rendition is drier than some recent installments and once again displays the remarkable ability of Riesling especially from certain sites to simply swallow up any sense of sweetness. Luscious yet tart peach, cherry, and rhubarb are seem suffused with salt, crushed stone, and shrimp shell savor in this bright, invigorating, irresistibly enticing and far from simple Riesling. Hints of inner mouth floral perfume and the piquancy of peach pit add further depth to what has consistently counted as among the world’s most remarkable Riesling values. Thus far, Dragonstone seems to keep well for 6-8 years, though I realize that few wine lovers will have the interestor the will power to test this assertion.

    The Dragonstone by Leitz is not as sweet but has an intense flavor of fruit, especially noticable is the grapefruit with a hint of lime. Other fruits in this wine that I make up this full bodies Reisling is peach and red currant along with cinnamon spice. But leans heavily toward the pink grapefruit being the most noticable.

  • Robert Eymael Mönchhof Ürzig Wurzgarten Kabinett Riesling, $16 - $23.
         ($22.64 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    The Mönchhof style tends towards richness and sweetness, and this wine is no exception. That said, it’s not overdone, blending the lightness of flower-shop greenery with notes of berry and citrus. Finishes long, with echoes of pineapple and crushed stone. 90 points

    Light yellow in color, the wine is similar to the Estate Riesling, displaying a beautiful floral bouquet, accented with apple, peach, spice and slate. The pure fruit is slightly sweet and showing more concentration and richness and a longer finish –- Highly Recommended Plus.

    ♣ Wine Spectator (February 2012), 91 points

    This has an enticing lushness and good concentration to its Bosc pear, Fuji apple and black currant flavors. Racy acidity backs it all up and carries through to the rich, spicy finish.

    Lush, decadent ripe stone fruit aroma with a delicate floral note; rich and concentrated with lovely ripe honeyed fruit flavors.

    Our best value was the Ürziger Würzgarten from Mönchhof, which showed great balance between fruit, minerality and acidity.

    Scents included oil, vegetables, apples and pears. We tasted the vegetables, oil and sugar on a heavy palate. It was very floral, with tastes of spiced pears and pineapples. My panelists were split on whether they liked this wine. Tasting somewhat like a gewurztraminer, this wine was heavy with good acids.

    Peach, apple and quince with some lime on the finish and zippy acidity. A great wine for the price

  • Trimbach Riesling ("classic"), $11 - $27.

    Some quotations and facts:

    This 2009 Riesling seems a particularly fruity rendition, more forthcoming and less minerally-austere than this wine can sometimes be when young. The compelling aroma suggests tart citrus, wet stone and floral perfume. In your mouth, the wine is bone dry and at first seems mouth-filling and soft, until the wine’s high acidity registers in the mid-palate. Flavors of lime, apple and peach are vivid; the wine also has plenty of minerality but for now, those characteristics are lurking along the edges rather than revealing themselves front and center. The wine is crisp but its texture suggests oiliness, lending the wine far more substance than most dry, crisp whites. When I tasted this wine blind, I actually considered for a split second that it could be contrived, because of its improbable combination of lightness, fullness and pronounced flavor. (It has exceptional balance of the sort that a technically-oriented winemaker would aim to achieve.) I mention this to say that it was, literally, incredibly good. As delicious as this wine is now, I have no doubt that it can develop nicely in the bottle for three or more years, because Trimbach’s Rieslings are famous for their longevity. 90 points.

    The 2010 Trimbach Riesling begins with a very pleasant aroma of tropical fruit and a bit of almond along with some floral notes. Tasting the wine reveals rich tangy fruit (granny smith apple, lemon and quince) with lots of depth. It also has a wonderful texture with a zesty minerality and crisp acidity. The wine is definitely dry, but still fruity. It ends with lots of tangy, zesty, salty fruit that lasts for a long time on the dry, clean finish. A Bulk Buy once again!

    ♣ Wine Advocate (date unknown), 87 Points

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (November/December 2010), 87 Points

    ♣ Wine Spectator (November 2009), 91 Points

    Trimbach Riesling is a great wine at any price. . . The bottle lasted three days – and the may have even more longevity if I wasn’t so heavy-handed with the sample pours. On the first day it was citrus, spice and gasoline. Yes, gasoline. When you see tasting notes that say “petrol” this is what they are tasting. Eric Asimov of The New York Times exhorts American wine writers to stop using the word, because when was the last time you said, "I need to put petrol in the car?" And the gas component in the wine was delicious. On day two and three the gasoline had evaporated, leaving a glass of citrus and stone fruit.

    The Trimbach 2007 Riesling – from purchased fruit – boasts unusually high (7.9 grams) acidity that translates into positive brightness of lemon and pineapple, and finishes with invigorating and lasting suggestions of citrus rind bittersweetness, tingling pineapple, and chalk dust.

    Trimbach's 2010 Alsatian Riesling delivers exceptional citrus character with classic stone fruit, deep minerality, and a dry, refreshing finish. Lively acidity, clean cut flavor, remarkable balance, and a bit more weight on the palate result in a classic Riesling from Alsace.

    Pale bright yellow. Restrained aromas of ginger, caraway seed, underripe pineapple, flowers and crushed stone, with a riper note of peach emerging with air. Dense, juicy and penetrating, with good texture and weight for a basic bottling. Finishes a bit warm, but there's no shortage of flavor here.

    This subtle Riesling offers a finely woven mix of white peach and crushed pine needle flavors, with hints of brine and smoke. There's racy acidity, but it's well-meshed, and a mineral note lingers on the delicate finish.

    Pure, subdued aromas of citrus peel, flowers and menthol. Pure and intense for this basic-level riesling, with good grip to the very dry flavors of white peach, lemon, flowers and minerals. . . Finishes with good length and focus.

  • Trimbach Reserve Riesling, $19 - $32.

    Some quotations and facts:

    A really delicious dry Riesling from Alsace, with exuberant lemony fruit, showing a hint of apricot richness, but otherwise it’s really dry and citrussy. Lovely purity and freshness here – it reminds me a bit of a top Australian Riesling in style. 89/100

    [D]rinking these wines, it’s impossible for your attention not to get sharply drawn in and focused, suddenly aware that you’re in the presence of greatness: something worthy, something refined. . . . While their prestige collection wines are the stuff sommeliers lust over, their "standard" line known as the "Réserve Range" equally ably shows off just how skilled the family is. These Alsatian varietals walk with their shoulders back and their chins up — structured, poised, impressively balanced. Because the Trimach family has been running the show in Alsace for 13 generations, immaculately maintaining the house’s signature style of purity and vigor.

    ♣ Wine Advocate (May 2011), 90 points

    ♣ Wine Spectator (November 2010), 92 points

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (date unknown), 88 points

    A medium-bodied Riesling, structured with firm acidity and closely knit flavors of lemon peel, Granny Smith apple, lemongrass and stone. Shows good intensity, but in a well-honed package, with a lingering, smoky finish. Needs time in the cellar.

    Pale gold in colour, with a complexity on the nose I rarely encounter in a white - trademark petrol scents are followed by lemon/lime, green apple, white flowers and freshly cut grass. Enchanting! On the palate this dry Riesling was very well balanced with nice acidity and effervescence in the mouth. A great match for sausages, this could pair well with some simple seafood dishes as well. One of my favourite whites, I will hunt you down!

    Lemon oil with fusil and smoky accents pungently scent the Trimbach 2008 Riesling Reserve, which shares with its lower-rung “classic” sibling a palpable sense of high extract and a piquant and slightly austere expression of things herbal and mineral as well as stimulating cut and brightness. There is an exhilarating refreshment and the promise of sufficient stamina to be worth following for at least ten or a dozen years.

    Taut, limey, lemony fruit here. Very precise, fresh and lemony. Dry and clean. 88/100

    I LOVE this style of Riesling -- fragrant, lean, so crisp as to be zingy, bone dry yet with wonderfully ripe Riesling fruit. Very much in the classic Trimbach style. Very pale bright gold. Classic Alsace Riesling nose of piercing green apple, tea, and powdered granite, it features crisp, bracing, intense flavors of fresh-crushed green apple juice poured over lemon drenched stones. Very tight now, this wine will age effortlessly for another 4 years or so. Not as full and ripe a style as a lot of Alsace producers are now trending toward, this really is a classic wine.

  • Weingut Leth Felser Weinberge Lagenreserve Wagram-Donauland Riesling, $13 - $22.

    Some quotations and facts:

    Medium green-yellow. Inviting fragrance of pineapple and passion fruit drizzled with lime blossom honey. These aromas open generously in the mouth and are joined by peach, mango and grapefruit zest. Refreshing acidity is nicely integrated into the wine's medium body, but the finish could use more length. Leaves behind traces of honey, wet rock and citrus fruit.

    Medium green-yellow. Captivating aromas of ripe peach, apricot, pineapple, apple blossom and lime zest. Racy acidity toys with the sweet extract and wet-slate minerality adds nuance. Mouthwatering finish.

    ♣ Wine Spectator (date unknown), 89 points

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (date unknown), 90 points

    ♣ Falstaff Wine Guide [German] (date unknown), 93 points

    The Felser Weinberge have a gravelly soil with high iron oxide content, giving the soil a reddish tint. The 2009 Riesling has a floral aroma with a very dominant pear character. The pear is also quite pronounced on the palate, but balanced by more minerality. Medium length with a spicy and floral finish, which nicely echoes the aroma.

    Leth 2006 Riesling Felser Weinberge (90 points)
    Notes: Nose: caramelized apricot nose, slight botrytis, apple pie, limestone minerality, toast. Palate: roasted chestnut, peach pie (Ken, 95 points)
    Notes: Color: straw. Aroma with notes of diesel fuel and some other untoward quality not readily drinkable. Acid low, alcohol high, generic in flavor (Matt, 80 points)

    Spicy and floral, amazing wine.

    A lively, light, dancing wine that is lifted by acidity, white fruits, crisp currants and a touch of pepper. Enjoyable, fresh, vibrant and great as an apéritif. 87 points

    [T]he Leth 2009 Riesling Reserve Felser Weinberge was stunning with the zucchini blossoms. Here, zinging acidity trumps the residual sugar you find in Mosel (Germany) Rieslings . . . This wine is bone-dry, crisp and refreshing, and ideal for the more intense and spicy flavors . .  But with a restrained 12.5 percent alcohol (however higher than the typical alcohol content you find in sweeter, German Rieslings), I didn't hesitate to order a second glass to quench my thirst after scarfing down those zucchini blossoms.

    The nose is subtle showing ripe pear, some waxiness, a hint of spiciness and petrol minerality. Open knit and slightly sweetish on the palate with a bit of lemony acid on the finish. Excellent length. This was my last bottle, and it is starting to lose its vibrancy. [2000 vintage] My Rating: 92 when first drunk in 2002, now down to 90 [in 2004].

  • Graf Hardegg Niederösterreich vom Schloss Riesling, $16 - $20.
         ($22.84 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    Our favorite was the 2008 Graf Hardegg vom Schloss, the only wine in the tasting designated Niederösterreich. It’s a vague, generic appellation that applies to the wine because its region, Weinviertel, officially permits only grüner veltliner among white wines. Well. This unsanctioned wine was exactly the sort of exciting, inspiring, refreshing, mineral-laden wine that comes to mind when I think of Austrian rieslings. It was also, at $19, our best value.

    From vineyards around the Hardegg castle, this is a ripe, soft Riesling that has both delicious acidity and a round character. Lemon, pineapple and white fruits come together in a wine that only just hints at a steeliness. 89 points

    ♣ Falstaff [German wine magazine] (September 2013), 88 points

    I liked this wine. It was light with a balanced citrus vs fruit taste. Very refreshing and really wanted some food.

  • Jim Barry "The Lodge" Riesling, $14 - $20.
         ($14.94 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    Already singled out as a trophy winner at Brisbane's capital city show judging, this wine is classic gear. It's grown on one of Clare's highest hills and superbly crafted to highlight tight lemon florals and juice characters. As with many this year, it's also tweaked with flavours of yellow grapefruit dusted with caster sugar. It's all about balance and more-ish crispness. Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 'Rising above'

    [It is] a steely, bone-dry, textbook example of the region’s style. It could use a little air to stretch out and its intense citrus and mineral character bodes well for at least another five to seven years of aging.

    OK, this was my favourite riesling all 2012 summer. It’s a ripper in my books. Very light straw colour. Almost clear. Complex aromas of typical Clare Valley lemons, but with white flowers, apricot/peach and even lychee too. Those fruits cross over to the palate, but with a wonderful minerality and a hint of fennel. A Riesling at the top of its game. Will age too.

    Really fresh and expressive. Bold with high acidity and limey intensity. A precise, focused Riesling. 89/100

    It’s still fruity, especially on the nose but amidst the amply proportioned hit of flavour is one hell of a mineral backbone, unwavering resolve and captivating length. Pert passionfruit, cumquat and lavender vie for attention alongside lemons, grapefruit and lime as you take a sniff. I’m ready for it this year and the palate is more classically steely. Unlike the 2012 none of us will mistake this as anything other than dry. It’s spicy and very chalky through the back-end. I like the amount of complexity without any corresponding loss of purity. Traditional Riesling made exciting once more. Sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the wheel – you just need to have access to the right site and know how to treat it. While I’m happy to slug some of this back now my money would be on it outperforming its predecessor in the cellar. 94+

    Lemon lime aromatics with a little hint of burnt tire and some straw-like, honeyed nuances. On the palate there's this ultra clean, very sharp lemon flavor that is persistent, along with a little petrol and fig flavoring. All in all, a decent, traditional Clare Riesling which will be good with oysters over the next 3-5 years.

    Some waxy, almost Paraffin aromas of minerality. B ut quite fresh lime zest notes too. Fresh, dry, very zesty palate with lots of freshness and zest. Delicious, but not showing the complexity of the [also tasted] 1999 at this stage. 91/100.

    Initially this was very closed. Closed, phenolic and more chalky, more drying and more serious in every way compared to [Barry's] Watervale. Yet over several days the lime juice came to play revealing a firm, brooding, acid driven Riesling of chalk and swagger, ripe fruit underpinned by a core of almost blunt and powerful chalked lime Riesling fruit. Many will prefer the Watervale for drinking now, and I don't blame them either - this needed two days of being open in the fridge before it flashed its good bits, with a more stout fruit expression than the juicy Watervale. It's a more serous propisition though and the sort of wine that you keep looking at and silently (or not so silently sometimes) remarking 'jeez that's a good wine'. 18.5/20, 94/100

  • Pikes Traditionale Riesling, $17 - $27.

    Some quotations and facts:

    Opened in a bracket of five 2013 Clare Valley Rieslings, and tasted pretty quickly, on the basis that first impressions are usually the most important ... Slight bottle stink then jasmine, lemon and lime with a juicy burst of citrus flavour set in a firm and lightly chalky/slatey palate. Doesn’t lose its way at any stage on its journey to the back of the palate – lemon tang and spice to farewell. Crunchy, tasty and authoritative all at once. A winner.' 94/100

    The 28th consecutive release of this wine and it seems only last week I raved about the 27th. Gorgeous, perfumed aromas of lime, orange blossom and apricot lead to more citrus flavours with a light touch of tropical fruit. Concentrated and subtle, it’s dry and chalky, with a vein of citrus acidity that offers racy drive and power, along with a long finish. Delicious. 5/5

    ♣ Canberra International Riesling Challenge (2013), Trophy 'Best Australian Riesling' w/Top Gold & 96/100 score

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (date unknown), 92 points

    ♣ Wine Spectator (date unknown), 91 points

    The '12 vintage had one overarching feature of high quality riesling in its traditional strongholds of the Clare and Eden Valleys, yet its expression varied considerably from one maker to the next. Here lime juice flavours leap out of the glass, coating the mouth, yet supported by fine acidity.

    Pale lemon with high floral notes, citrus and pineapple on the nose. Minerally palate with approachable acidity, lively lemon-lime peel freshness with good depth of passionfruit richness. Racy and fresh on the finish.

    Bright straw. Vibrant, mineral-accented aromas of orange, pear skin and white flowers, with a gingery topnote. Dry and sharply focused, offering incisive citrus fruit and floral flavors that are underscored by chalky minerality. Finishes dry and long, with resonating orange zest and jasmine qualities. 12% alcohol here.

    Elderflower, lime cordial, savoury and baked lemon nose. Very stylish wine that is really well proportioned. Loaded with flavour and beautiful purity, this is tropical, lively and refreshing. Alc: 12%. (19.08 points)

    Light and silky, with pretty pear and quince flavors set on a delicate frame that lets the finish play out with finesse. Shows depth and delicacy.

  • Villa Maria Estate "Private Bin" Riesling, $10 - $19.
    (New Zealand)

    Some quotations and facts:

    There is just a touch of sweetness in this off-dry wine, which stays fresh and crisp from start to finish. Floral aromas lead to mouthwatering lime, Granny Smith apple and lemon zest flavors. If you think you don't like Riesling, try this one.

    Wine of brilliant, green yellow colour and medium viscosity on the rim. In its pleasant quiet aroma we can sense delicous fruity tracks of mellowed citrus fruit and autumn floral bouquet. Taste is nicely balanced juicy with pleasant acid and lime aftertaste. 88 points

    ♣ Wine Advocate (date unknown), 86 points

    ♣ Wine Spectator (date unknown), 91 points

    ♣ Air New Zealand Wine Awards (2010): "Champion Riesling" & "Champion Open White Wine"

    ♣ Spiegelau International Wine Competition (2012), Gold medal

    Floral, candy nose. Dry wine, lovely backbone of acidity, slightly sweet impression. Well balanced, succulent and very drinkable. Top value.

    This has an appetising mineral-citrus aroma with some crisp herbaceous notes – lifted and intense, but also showing off a gentle floral whiff. The palate is crisp and rounded, the tangy citrus palate and floral aromatics leading to a lovely, long finish. Dry as a bone, it is very enjoyable. Highly recommended.

    New Zealand is better known for its exuberant Sauvignon Blancs, but it also makes some impressive Riesling. This is a bit fuller bodied than [another reviewed], with quite rich melony fruit backing up Riesling’s trademark liminess. Perfect for sipping on its own and also a versatile partner for a wide range of dishes. Very good/excellent 90/100

    New Zealand Rieslings, unlike Australian ones, are typically made in a lightly sweet style, and this citrusy, lively example, from vineyards in the Awatere and Wairau Valleys of Marlborough, is true to form.

    Ripe and juicy smelling with classic citrus and honeysuckle, this dry zingy, pale coloured Riesling is delicately zesty with apple and lime fruit nicely balanced by the merest suggestion of sweetness with a bright finish and a lasting tingle of freshness. Fabulous value.

  • Pegasus Bay Winery Riesling, $14 - $30.
    (New Zealand)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Bright straw-yellow colour with light lemon-green hues. This has a very fulsome [sic] and softly voluminous, but finely packed bouquet of exotic floral notes in a complex amalgam of limes, honey, toast and marmalade, showing excellent integration. Refreshing nuances of minerals emerge in the glass. Medium in sweetness, bright honied, lime and floral flavours are complexed by exotic jasmine, apricot and flinty flavours along with waves of toasty detail. The fruit is well-concentrated and rounded and smooth in the mouth, but enlivened by a little CO2 prickle and underlying brisk acidity. The palate has linearity with a little textural thread that carries the flavours through to a very long finish featuring honey and florals. This is a rich and exotic medium Riesling with citrus, honey and minerally flavours and some toasty complexities. Serve as an aperitif and with Asian fare over the next 4-5 years. 18.5/20 (*****)

    Lovely aromatics: lime, honey, melon and herbs. Off-dry palate is full textured with lime, melon and spice notes. Very rich and exotic, showing real purity. 93/100

    ♣ Wine Advocate (September 2007), 93 points

    Medium Riesling in a typically weighty "Pegasus Bay" style with appealing lime, mineral, floral and tree fruit/peach/nectarine flavours. Complex, balanced and appealing wine that is showing the benefit of a little bottle age but will respond well to a few more years development. 93/100 (*****)

    Pegasus Bay takes a minimalintervention approach to its wines. The Rieslings are made with the German Spätlese style in mind, and this entices with a medium-dry palate of delightful, peachy fruit and aromas of waxy lime, grapefruit and baked peach sweetness. Mouthwateringly fresh. 18.5pts/20 (95/100pts)

    Meanwhile the 2006 Riesling is a thrilling wine with touches of honeysuckle and limestone on the nose and a palate distantly related to the likes of JJ Prum or Willi Schaeffer. Although winemakers Matthew Donaldson and Lynette Hudson look as if they have just got in from an all-night rave, they are presently producing some of New Zealand’s most exhilarating, Burgundy inspired white wines, their reds suffused with earthy flavors. They are demonstrating the potential of the Canterbury wine region and constitute one of New Zealand's best producers. Their whites are exhilarating and seem best between a year in bottle and around five years.

    In the antipodes it seems that Tasmania and New Zealand in general have an edge when it comes to Rieslings incorporating significant amounts of residual sugar. Other places may throw their hat in the ring over time but at the moment the pace setters are fairly clear. Expressively perfumed. This has luscious, nigh full-bodied generosity but the acidity keeps it balanced and singing. No overt sherbety sugar characters here – although I suspect there is some botrytis…which I think adds complexity in this case. Mangos, honey, jasmine, lime marmalade and stone fruits, each clearly defined before a sure-footed, gently spiced and mineral driven conclusion provides that final flourish. 93 points

    Pegasus Bay’s classic 2010 Riesling was a rich, voluptuously full-bodied medium-sweetness wine. The nose had notes of honey, which carried through onto the palate along with a slightly sweet, nutty maasdam cheese character, quince jelly and orange zest.

    Peg Bay continues to push the ripeness envelope on its Rieslings. The 2006 is honeyed and rather sweet, with baked apple flavors at the core, surrounded by hints of spice and apricot. Lime-like acids seem a bit strident on the finish right now; give it a couple of years in the cellar. 90 points.

    Deciding on the best riesling in New Zealand is extremely different as there are many wonderful examples. My pick for top riesling in the country is from Pegasus Bay in the Waipara region just north of Christchurch. Pegasus Bay has in fact been ranked one of the top five wineries in New Zealand by wine guru, Robert Parker. Pegasus Bay Riesling is an extremely classy wine. It is usually made in an off-dry style and has a medley of flavors, including peach, nectarine and lime. It begins to show its best after three or four years in the bottle.

  • Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling, $12 - $15.
    (New York State)
         ($13.74 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    The four dry Rieslings from this decade included a recently bottled 2008 wine, as well as vintages from 2007, 2005 and 2001. All four reflected the same basic aroma and flavor elements: pleasant aromas of peaches and pears, and peach and apricot flavors accompanied by a mineral quality. Fred Frank attributed the "minerality" of these wines to the higher acid, lower pH soils of the vineyard site on Keuka Lake. The 2008 was a "baby" wine, with a crisp acidity, good balance and long finish. It will undoubtedly smooth out as it settles into the bottle and acquires some bottle age. The 2007 was rounder and more mouth-filling, with a long pleasant finish. The flavors of the 2005 were more complex and subtle, but also less intense, which may be related to the lower total acidity level in this wine. . . The only wine we tasted from the 1990s was the 1991 Dry Riesling. It was hard to believe this wine was 18 years old. It was aromatic with rich, complex flavors; a full, round mouthfeel and a long complete finish, where all the elements carried through as the caudalies (lingering aftertaste) gradually diminished. It was definitely a highlight of the tasting, and solid proof that Rieslings in the Finger Lakes can age well. The 1991 vintage was another hot, dry year, and that weather pattern may help to produce wines that have the ripeness and structure to mature with exceptional grace.

    [It] offers intense aromas of grapefruit and lime are accented by notes of citrus blossom, wet river rock, smoky gun flint and just a touch of botrytis. The palate is more peachy, but still shows bright citrus fruit — mostly grapefruit — and a minerally vein that runs from start to finish. Crunchy acidity provides great focus and verve. The medium-long finish is dry, but not harshly so. I’d like to taste this wine again in 6-12 months. The acidity may integrate a bit more, which wouldn’t be a bad thing.

    ♣ International Riesling Foundation (2013), Best Dry Riesling trophy

    ♣ Riverside International Wine Competition (2013): Chairman's Award (Unanimous Gold); Best of Class

    World renowned wine writer Tom Stevenson in his Wine Report rated Dr. Konstantin Frank the “Greatest Wine Producer in the Atlantic Northeast” five years in a row, from 2005 to 2009! In 2009 alone, the company has been awarded 45 gold medals thus far, their Rieslings and Gewurztraminers having gained almost half of them. Wine & Spirits magazine awarded their 2007 Dry Riesling 93 points, and their 2007 Semi-Dry Riesling 90 points! These are some of the highest scores ever achieved by a New York state winery! In 2006 Robert Parker rated their 2005 Dry Riesling a 90 and their 2005 Riesling Reserve an 89+! Wine Spectator awarded their 2005 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay an 88! And Hugh Johnson in his 2009 pocket guide insists that Dr. Frank “continues to set the pace for serious winemaking…Excellent Riesling, Gewurztraminer…” They have been featured on NBC Today Show. But what about the wines? Well, their Riesling and Dry Riesling are exceptional.

    Our favorite was the 2012 dry riesling from Dr. Konstantin Frank, now run by Frederick Frank, the grandson of the founder. It was energetic, harmonious and deep, and it was also our best value at $16.

    By far, my favorite was the Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling. There was a nice wet stone minerality, with hints of citrus on the nose. The acidic quality also came through on the nose. The palate was full and lush with tart green apples, lemons and the wet stone again. I enjoyed this and paired it with maple-mustard glazed Salmon. The sweet/savory mix was HEAVENLY!!!

    When I tried this Riesling first in March of 2013 I liked it: its crisp and pronounced aroma of lemon and grapefruit with that mineral whiff, I really liked it. I thought the acidity to be quite balanced, although I did mention in my notes that it was "a bit scratchy". Now, 6 months later I am tasting this Riesling again and I am rather disappointed. I still like its crisp citrus aroma and its gentle attack of black pepper, but the palate misses the balance that this wine had when I tasted it for the first time. The acidity clearly dominates now and since there is really not much to balance it the 2012 Dry Riesling tastes a bit thin. No ripe nor lasting fruit flavors that would add some flesh to it. Although 2012 was a relatively warm vintage, almost too warm for Riesling - but then cool nights in the fall helped retain the acidity in the grapes. Dr. Frank's 2012 Dry Riesling shows plenty of the cool nights of 2012 but very little of the warm summer months. It's not a bad wine, but not my favorite from this producer.

    Frank, now deceased, is credited with bringing world-class, award-winning winemaking to the Finger Lakes. The family winery still produces some of the finest in the state. This entry level wine charms with orange zest, citrus notes and a refreshingly brisk acidity.

    The $12 Riesling at our table, which transformed a simple lunch into a small feast, was produced in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Vineyards 2006 Estate Bottled Dry Riesling, grown along the banks of Keuka Lake, made the food taste sooooo good, and made us smile with every refreshing sip. I’m letting you in on a currently not-so-well-kept secret: Some of the finest Riesling wines in the New World – especially dry and semi-dry versions, but also some rare and wonderful sweet Rieslings – are to be found in the Finger Lakes American Viticultural Area (AVA), specifically along the banks of Keuka Lake and Seneca Lake.

  • Hermann J. Wiemer Dry Riesling, $12 - $23.
    (New York State)
         ($19.94 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    Surprisingly, I tasted my first Wiemer Riesling just about a year ago and again a few months ago I enjoyed a few glasses of the 2010 Dry Riesling, so I was very elated to find this one [2011] available so soon. Aromas of orange zest, some citrus and a little grapefruit were very aromatic, but I failed to get any of the mineral aromas I have become accustomed to in Finger Lakes wines. There was a hint of that mineral in the mouth with lots of grapefruit and some sugar plum and key lime pie. A very soft mouth feel and an extraordinary long smooth finish. Not your typical Finger Lakes Riesling, but a World Class Riesling. . . [T]he Hermann J. Wiemer 2011 Dry Riesling is a standard that will be hard to beat. Very Highly Recommended.

    As we recall, 2012 was a fairly warm vintage albeit with very cool night temperatures during the fall which helped retain the acidity in the grapes. Medium intensity of stone fruit aroma with a strong sense of minerality. Ripe and clean. Dry on the palate, medium alcohol and body. Medium(+) acidity. Medium intensity of yellow apple flavor, citrus and stones. Medium(+) length. What would be the right word - accomplished? The 2012 Dry Riesling tastes as if it had already spent a year in bottle. It is quite refined and perfectly balanced, even has an elegant touch of bitterness on top of the ripe fruit flavors. A very, very enjoyable Riesling under $20.

    This pale yellow colored Riesling opens with a mild tangerine like bouquet with a hint of banana. On the palate, this wine is light bodied, balanced and very east to enjoy. The flavor profile is a gentle green pear with hints of mild peach and white pepper. The finish is dry and its flavors fade away nicely. This dry styled Riesling is very food friendly.

    Apple, floral blossoms with lemon and lime on the nose. The palate starts with bright tangerine, lemon flavors followed by crisp green apple notes on a backbone of crushed rock. A firm mineral, citrusy acidity lasts through to the finish which is long and lingering. A beauty, so refreshing and just the slightest hint sweet (0.9% RS) to add a pleasant richness to the palate. Mouthwatering to the last drop which you are sad to see go. This one is worthy of a case buy if I can find it.

    Fred Merwarth, the talented winemaker who took over from the founder a few years ago, produces a highly consistent and delicious range of rieslings, using a natural and well-reasoned approach that gives the wines a clear and crisp expression, faithful to the German style that has characterized the winery since the beginning. This 2009 Dry Riesling is . . . from a vintage that produced structured, high-acid wines. It is another successful cuvée, with a beautiful citrusy and slightly floral nose, great freshness and yet a lot of substance, mineral character and weight. Hard to resist now, it will develop well over many years. Highly recommended.

    [I]t had a sleek texture and translucent golden hue with a flavor that strikes me as indulgently ripe with the fine precision of their earlier harvested Riesling. A foot in both worlds, a flavor in another place entirely. In a good way, though, with a honeyed edge brimming with orange zest and a persistently peachy undertone all alongside a zippy acidity keeping us on our toes in the wee hours of the night. An easy drinker, like the rest, somewhat stilted in complexity for now and a bit harsh, but I’m confident that this can only improve with time. Its airy, acidic nose with mineral-heavy, saline base notes tantalized me more than its flavor, but it still carries the classic Wiemer Riesling profile of lime, apricot, orange, and salt. A wonderful combination if done well.

    Winemaker Fred Merwarth makes seven different rieslings, including two single-vineyard wines, a late harvest, a TBA-style, a Reserve and then two "regular" bottlings. This is one of those "regular" wines, and it's delicious. It seems silly to call it "regular" really. The nose is somewhat floral with light petrol notes, but it's dominated by that classic peach-lime-wet stone combination I've noticed in many of the Finger Lakes' best rieslings. If you want to know what "a typical Finger Lakes riesling" smells like, this is it. The feather-light palate is alive with citrusy acidity -- more than many 2007s -- that more than balances the .9% residual sugar. Peach and lime flavors dominate here, with white flowers and super-subtle sweet herbs behind. The petrol notes from the nose are barely noticeable on palate, but there is a terrific minerally vein throughout. A long, peachy finish ends with a citrus zest note. I don't want to overuse the word "classic" here, but this is a classic Finger Lakes riesling, and it's very well priced. (4 out of 5 | Delicious, Distinctive )

    It has really nice structure that presents the flavors of the Riesling grape in a very nice way. A lot of German Rieslings are more unctuous almost syrupy that is good but I enjoyed this style a lot. . . I would agree that they do very well at producing a wonderful wine that that has "hints of lime and orange blossom on the nose set the stage for a succulent palate of apricot and grapefruit" that has "a beautiful texture that carries into a long, lingering finish."

  • Chateau Ste. Michelle "Eroica" Riesling, $15 - $19.
    (Washington State—there is now also a more expensive Eroica "Gold".)
         ($16.64 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    Taking its accustomed place at the head of the class as it has in so many past vintages, this latest rendition from Chateau Ste. Michelle and Ernst Loosen is a remarkable wine of impeccable balance and stunning depth. Slightly sweet and buoyed by fine fruity acids, it smells of honeysuckle, white peaches and minerals and follows with long, compact, layered flavors that presently only hint at the richness to come. Top-notch Riesling is capable of great beauty and complexity with age, and, we have no doubt that the greatness lurking here will gradually become more and more evident with time. GOOD VALUE 95 points

    ♣ Wine Advocate (June 2008), 91 Points, Smart Buy

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (June 2008), 90 Points

    Bright and juicy, with bracing acidity against lightly sweet, expressive pear, apricot and quince aromas and flavors, remaining vibrant as the finish persists.

    I don't like to play favorites, but I can't help but gush over today's bottle, the 2011 Eroica Riesling, a superlative vintage from Washington state. Begat out of a partnership between two prominent Riesling producers (Dr. Loosen of Germany and Chateau Ste. Michelle of Washington state), this Washington-bred white marries the best qualities of the pair, resulting in a complex and eminently drinkable wine. Its intensely crisp and fruity perfume (think citrus and white peach) is well balanced by lingering minerality and moderate acidity on the tongue. While this bottle isn't cheap per se, it's an excellent value, and a bottle that I'd happily pay more than its moderate price tag for.

    [It] is up-front accessible and suitable for easy sipping. A cooler growing season rendered a piercing acidity – core to any quality Riesling – that extends an inviting hand to food pairings and boosts intensity in the glass. There’s enough limey tartness and minerality to round out the grape’s cloying tendencies, delivering it from the too-sweet rap that fixates a lot of drinkers. That’s not to say it’s an experiment in austerity. Not even close. While there is a lean frame to the wine, it unfurls with ripe aromas, fruit and a spicy bite.

    The 2007 Eroica Riesling, made in collaboration with the Dr. Loosen estate in Germany’s Mosel region, is light to medium straw-colored with fragrant aromas of spring flowers, mineral, and honeysuckle. Crisp and just off-dry, in a Kabinett style, it delivers flavors of melon and pineapple. The wine is balanced and vibrant and may well evolve for several years in the manner of a top German Mosel Kabinett. It can be enjoyed now and over the next 5-7 years.

    Pale greenish straw yellow. Aromatic with white peach and floral notes on both the nose and palate. Dry and medium-bodied with very crisp acidity. Well-balanced with a very long, refreshing finish. Residual Sugar: 1.66% Quality: 4 stars (out of 5) QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)

    From a dynamite vintage [2007] this is the delicious off-dry Riesling offspring born of a partnership between two prominent Riesling estates, Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington and Germany's Dr. Loosen from the famed Mosel wine growing region. Guaranteed to be a palate pleaser from start to finish, the Eroica Riesling brings beautiful balance, unmatched elegance and food-friendly acidity to every sip.

    I’ve tried the Eroica Riesling a few times before — it’s consistent ever year. There’s definitely more residual sugar in this wine than in [a comparison Old World] Riesling, though. I swim upstream on Riesling, and prefer a bone-dry style, so my nod went to the [Old World Riesling]. The nose on the Eroica is more subdued, a big whiff of peach cobbler. Flavors are green apple and key lime pie with trace mineral notes. Well balanced acidity.

  • Long Shadows Vintners Poet's Leap Riesling, $15 - $27.
    (Washington State)
         ($19.24 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    Riesling is Washington's most produced white wine after chardonnay, and no winery does it better year after year than Long Shadows. Located in Walla Walla, this unique producer brings together a group of the world’s most renowned winemakers, who each make a single wine from Washington fruit. The Poet’s Leap Riesling comes from Armin Diel, proprietor of the Germany's acclaimed winery Schlossgut Diel. Working with Long Shadows' resident winemaker Gilles Nicault, Diel selects fruit from a diverse set of vineyards from across the Columbia Valley, adding layers of complexity to the resulting wine. The 2012 vintage of Poet’s Leap Riesling—more than half of which comes from Sonnet Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills—shows Washington fruit at its best, with bright aromas and abundant stone fruit and mineral flavors. It’s just off dry, with a zing of acidity, which makes this riesling a great choice at the dinner table—or all by itself on a hot summer day.

    This Northwest partnership between industry vet Allen Shoup and Nahe maestro Armin Diel has again found its groove after some stylistic wandering. That talc aspect that signals its high-desert roots (Shoup's own Sonnet vineyard, plus sites like Dionysus and Weinbau), accenting ripe pear, brine and sweet nectarine. The vivacious nature, with just a hint of sugar, shows a benchmark precision for Washington Riesling.

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (December 2012), 89 points.

    This shows lively acidity, with ripe but tart fruit and an alcohol leveljust slightly above 12%. The grapes used were sourced from the Benches (German clones) and old vine plantings at Dionysus. It's a lush Poet's Leap, lightly tasting of honey, and loaded with pretty flavors of Meyer lemon, ripe orange, and candied pineapple.

    Now Washington State Riesling has always been good, but Diel manages to pack layers of character in Poet's Leap showcasing new world fruit with old world minerality. Poet’s Leap starts with a sweet bouquet of floral and fruit impressions. Peach and apricot rise from the glass in a mouth-watering tease. I anticipated a sweet wine but find the sugar to be modest, present yes, but expressing itself in lively fruit characters more than sweetness. The wines acidity brings me back to salivation and entices me to take sip after sip. There is a wet stone character underneath this crisp beauty that reminds me of the smell of flagstone just after it rains. Together all of the individual charms of this wine fill the glass in perfect unison.

    This time at opening, the wine was steely, it reminded me of polished steel. It was crisp, bright with wonderful minerality. It was not austere, it was tantalizing. Wow! After 2 days in the refrigerator, it was even better. Tonight, it was beautifully integrated, sublime, full of introspection. Pale gold in color, with a lively aroma of soft petrol, nectarine, toast and river rock. Bright, round and spiky flavors front palate, crisp, with lovely apple-pear and honey flavors mid-palate, exiting with a refreshing tart finish of granny smith apple and hard peach. Long mid-palate finish. This is a beautiful wine – and a wonderful expression of a Washington Riesling.

    Pale straw-yellow. Pungent aromas of peach, orange zest and ginger, plus a hint of petrol. Brisk and a bit spritzy, with unabsorbed CO2 currently giving the middle palate a slight bitter edge. But this minerally, spicy riesling finishes long, tactile and dry, with noteworthy vibrancy.

    Light and fresh, with a peppery edge to the pretty apple and pear flavors. Lingers gently and enticingly.

  • Trefethen Riesling, $11 - $25.

    Some quotations and facts:

    The wine was dry and absolutely delicious and a big surprise to me. Like a good Austrian riesling, it’s for lovers of gravelly, minerally flavors rather than overtly fruity wines.

    A vibrant, fresh take on honeydew melon, lime zest, kiwifruit and apple flavors, with a racy finish. Drink now.

    The 2012 Trefethen Dry Riesling was fermented and aged in stainless steel. It is a classic dry Riesling: Bright in its focus, crisp and dry, notes of jasmine, orange blossom and lime on the nose that lead to floral flavors on the palate, delightful acidity and minerality, with a clean, lasting finish. Dan Berger: "Classic Riesling aroma with a trace of jasmine spice, bright and lilting. Always a phenomenal wine...." At the 4th Riesling Rendezvous, the 2010 Trefethen Dry Riesling, was one of the 20 wines of the International Riesling Tasting (Dry), which was a blind tasting. Neil Pike [see "Pikes Traditionale Riesling", above] reviewed the wine: "Classic wine, citrus, a lot of texture, a bit of pair flavors, we are in the New World I think."

    Very pale gold in color, this dry riesling from Trefethen is California riesling at its finest. Very Fragrant on the nose, with aromas of peaches, white flowers, granny smith apples and grapefruit. Though very crisp and dry with flavors of tart apple, kiwi and citrus, there are rounder flavors like peaches, cantaloupe, honey, and even a little fennel. With just a hint of sweetness more felt than tasted, this wine pairs nicely with the slight sweetness of pumpkin and carrots. This is also a fairly light-bodied wine at 12.5% ABV, which is nice when served with a first course such as this.

    Trefethen has been making dry Napa Valley Riesling as long as most anyone, and, from the beginning, its wines have favored delicacy over richness and aggressive fruit. This latest very much fits the family mold and is a clean, fairly crisp, if somewhat too mild wine, and, truth be told, it could do with a boost in fruity depth with which to buffer the slight, latter-palate bitterness that holds it back from higher marks

    Quite fresh and bright with nice lemony fruit. Crisp and appealing. The palate is bright and lemony with nice crispness, and a hint of mineral on the finish. 87/100

    Bright, fresh, lemony and apple flavors hit our tongue and the wet slate, minerality was just what we hoped for. In this bottle was exactly what we like to bring to a party, something approachable but different than the average bottle of white.

    This Riesling actually tastes off-dry, to judge by the honey and vanilla bean sweetness that accompanies the citrus fruits. It's brisk in acidity and refreshingly low in alcohol. Continues a string of successful, restaurant-fancy Rieslings from Trefethen.

  • Navarro Riesling, $17 - $27.

    Some quotations and facts:

    This is one of the best dry styled Rieslings that I have covered so far this summer. It is pale yellow colored and opens with a green pear and candle wax like bouquet. There were also hints of apricot and honey. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, balanced, crisp, and friendly. The flavor profile is a tasty and slightly tart green pear with notes of minerality and a hint of lime. The finish is dry and its flavors and mineral notes linger for some time after the wine is gone. Enjoy this Very Good Riesling at a clambake this summer with steamers with drawn butter. 91+ Very Good.

    A terrific California Riesling, dry and zesty in acidity, with a firm minerality that gets the mouth watering. The orange and other citrus flavors are pure and clean. 90 points.

    The wine [2000 vintage tasted in 2009] was solid and foursquare, with distinct Riesling character, and it was handling its age---ancient by California Riesling standards; modest by Navarro standards---with grace and dignity. I use the words advisedly, because this is not, definitely not, a young and nubile Riesling. It is mature, developed, and far beyond the blush of youth. The pretty florals of honesuckle and jasmine are all gone. The juicy fruitiness has become lean, and crisp, and has transitioned to tart quince, dried apricot, and citrus overtones. It has also taken on heft, more muscle over fat than simply weight, though, for it is firm and far from flabby. There was a fierce streak of lemon-pith bitterness at the very end that could be off-putting to some. It wasn't to me, or fellow drinker Brad Kane (although he identified it as well), and Bree positively bridled at the suggestion...first, that there was any bitterness at all, and second that it might be found unattractive. I tried to convince him that "bitterness" was not necessarily a negative term, but he was dubious and looked at me askance for the remainder of the evening with great suspicion that I was impugning one of his favorite producers. Hey, I like bitterness. Sometimes. And it was more an accent statement here than anything, and definitely pulled back in intensity with the cheeses on the table. So all in all, an impressive wine, holding its age well, and showing the ability of Riesling to develop beyond the infant years to show other facets of its persona. Shows what can be done with a great variety from a good location, handled with attention and care.

    Very good dry riesling with apple and apricot fruit and a little tropical fruit lift in the midpalate. This resembles a German kabinett, but lacks the mineral dimension to make it outstanding. Good QPR.

    Unfortunately the first bottle was a little corked and the wet cardboard was rearing its ugly head. Yet behind that was the essence of lime. With more than ample acidity, the .8% RS is buried into the background giving a dry yet not austere approach to this great grape variety. We’ll open another bottle of this down the road and update the post when the cork taint isn’t part of the equation. Take 2: The second bottle tonight, with the UC class in San Fransisco on April 15, that dreaded tax day, is showing perfectly. The lime that was only a glimmer before is vibrant, as in the Clare Valley with plenty of acidity to match.

    California Go-to Producer: Navarro. The cool, long season in Mendocino lets grapes ripen slowly and evenly, resulting in wonderful notes of spice and ripe fruit.

    [B]ut we’re not talking about sweeties, we’re talking dry to off-dry. In that category, Pey-Marin, Smith-Madrone, Navarro, Trefethen, Esterlina and Stony Hill lead the pack, more recently joined by Tangent. These are wines that need no oak, have vital acidity and are clean and racy, often showing Riesling’s diesel fuel smell and peach flower notes. Good as they are, though, they don’t seem to have the complexity of Germany or Alsace.

    Here are, in my opinion, the best of the Navarro wines. The Gerwurztraminer, Riesling and the Pinot Gris are outstanding vintage after vintage. These three wines are characteristic of the wines produced in the Alsatian region of France. They are crisp, lightly acidic, and with many flavors to ponder. They make great wines for fish dishes, lighter spicy meals, and are wonderful for an afternoon in the sun.

For a Splurge

Unless you want to go to $125 and up (for Trimbach's "Clos Ste. Hune" Riesling, colorably the greatest white wine in the world), a good "reasonable" splurge would be Trimbach's still-famous "Cuvée Frederic Emile", which goes for $35 on up to three-digit prices depending strongly on vintage. You might get a bargain on an older vintage, but do your homework on vintages before popping a wad on a bottle.

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