Washington’s state of Riesling

A winemaker shows his love for Riesling during the 2013 Riesling Rendezvous. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

Washington has long had a reputation for crafting world-class Riesling, with the first plantings as early as 1880, pre-dating statehood by at least a decade.

Today, Riesling remains a force in Washington, being the No. 4 grape, trailing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay in total tonnage harvested. It topped 40,000 tons in the 2016 harvest, doubling from the previous 10 years.

While the largest user of Riesling is Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville, which makes more Riesling than any single winery in the world, but after winemaker Bob Bertheau is done, there’s still plenty of Riesling left.

Here are nine examples of Washington Riesling not made by Ste. Michelle. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.

Rocky Pond Winery 2015 Clos CheValle Vineyard Riesling, Lake Chelan, $19

Ron Bunnell took an intriguing approach to the decade-old Riesling blocks that the Dufenhorsts acquired and farm overlooking the south shore of Lake Chelan. Harvested on Sept. 25 during that record-hot vintage, it spent six months in neutral oak and finished with just a touch of residual sugar (1%). That winemaking creates aromas of dried pineapple, pear and candy corn with jasmine. Inside, there’s roundness among the flavors of white peach, apricot and more candy corn leading to the dab of sweet lime juice in the finish. It’s ideal for a plate of fruit, nuts and cheese that features Le Pommier Camembert, fourme d’ ambert and Seignemartin Comté extra le Saut du Doubs, BobbySue’s Nuts Over Olives, Divinia Sour Cherry Spread and LaPanzanella crackers. These wines are available on the website as well as their tasting rooms in Woodinville and downtown Chelan.

Rating: Recommended

Production: 70 cases

Alcohol: 13%

Winery website

Milbrandt Vineyards 2016 Evergreen Vineyard Traditions Riesling, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $13

The Ancient Lakes in general and Evergreen Vineyard in particular have proven to be a great spot for growing world-class Riesling. So a gold for this wine is no surprise. Aromas of white flower petals, juicy peaches and crisp apple lead to flavors of Asian pear, Golden Delicious apple and hints of minerality. It walked off with a gold medal and best in class at the 2017 Wenatchee Wine Awards.

Rating: Outstanding!

Production: 3,684 cases

Alcohol: 11.5%

Winery website

Gård Vintners 2014 Lawrence Vineyard Grand Klasse Reserve Riesling, Columbia Valley, $24

Aryn Morell has made his mark with big reds for Napa icon Dennis Cakebread’s Mullan Road project, Ardor Cellars, Tenor and his own Alleromb brand. His work here for the Lawrence family and their Gård Vintners program shows a deft touch with Riesling. Josh Lawrence grows the noble German white grape at nearly 1,700 feel elevation, making it one of the loftiest plantings in Washington. The family with Scandinavian roots dubs its reserve program as “Grand Klasse,” and Morell takes a special approach to this dry Riesling by fermenting it in 67% new French oak for several months and then bottle-aging it for nearly two years. Aromas of cotton candy, Cling peach, ginger and cinnamon transition to flavors of white peach and lavender, backed a fascinating and long finish of an Arnold Palmer with ginger. It’s essentially bone-dry with scintillating acidity and plenty of fruit for great balance.

Rating: Outstanding!

Production: 140 cases

Alcohol: 13.6%

Winery website

Ryan Patrick Wines 2016 Olsen Brothers Vineyard Riesling, Yakima Valley, $12

Wnemaker Jeremy Santos dipped into this top Riesling vineyards in the relatively cool Yakima Valley to craft this marvelous white wine. Aromas of limestone, honeydew melon and appealing honeysuckle gives way to flavors of spice and ripe apricot, with bright acidity balancing the touch of residual sugar. This is a wine a great structure and mouthfeel. Won gold and best in class at the 2017 Wenatchee Wine Awards.

Rating: Outstanding!

Alcohol: 12%

Winery website

Finn Hill Winery 2016 Corfu Crossing Vineyard The Gnome Riesling, Columbia Valley, $20

Woodinville winemaker Rob Entrekin works with the Lawrence family’s Corfu Crossing Vineyard along the Royal Slope, and at 1,675 feet elevation, these clone 12 plantings rank among the highest in Washington. This slightly sweet Riesling presents aromas of peach and poached pear with apricot skins. A touch of spritz leads to lemon, apples and honey with a touch of maraschino cherry juice on the midpalate. Peach dominates the finish, joined by a bit of tension from the acidity and a pinch of coriander. Suggested pairing include spicy Asian fare and fresh raspberries.

Rating: Recommended

Production: 102 cases

Alcohol: 11.9%

Winery website

Nine Hats Wines 2016 Riesling, Columbia Valley, $14

Best Buy! The sister label of Walla Walla’s Long Shadows Vintners program is spearheaded by the brilliant Gilles Nicault, who doubled production of this Riesling over the 2015 vintage. And yet, there’s no drop-off. He continues to present this with a theme of stone fruit flavors and citrusy acidity, ranging orange blossoms to white peach and sweet lime, backed by ginger spice, clementine and nectarine to balance the residual sugar of 1.3%. This merited a gold medal at the 2017 Walla Walla Valley Wine Competition.

Rating: Outstanding!

Production: 2,617 cases

Alcohol: 13.4%

Winery website

Charles Smith Wines 2015 Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Washington, $12

Best Buy! Sure, the branding is a marketer’s dream, and the label broadly reads “Washington State,” but the wine’s pedigree stems from Jerry Milbrandt’s Evergreen Vineyard in the Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley – the foundation of many of the Columbia Valley’s top Rieslings. Jasmine, citrus and lychee aromas include a fanciful hint of candy corn and a faint whiff of petrol. Inside, it’s yummy with a blend of Key Lime Pie, lemon and honey, backed by a finish of Granny Smith apple peel that easily balances the residual sugar of 1.4%. It capped 2016 with the ranking of No. 45 in the world on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list, yet it shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Enjoy with seafood or Asian-inspired fare.

Rating: Outstanding!

Production: 160,000 cases

Alcohol: 12%

Winery website

Armstrong Family Winery 2015 Dineen Vineyard Riesling, Yakima Valley, $18

Pat Dineen grows his Riesling in caliche, and Walla Walla winemaker Tim Armstrong takes advantage of that soil type in the cooler Rattlesnake Hills to produce a bone-dry Riesling in a rather fascinating style reminiscent of some from Australia’s Clare Valley. Its steely approach opens with white peach, tangerine and gooseberry aromas followed by clean and crisp flavors of Asian pear, lime and slate. The Armstrongs suggest serving this with Asian or Mexican fare, grilled chicken or seafood.

Rating: Excellent

Production: 128 cases

Alcohol: 13.1%

Winery website

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save