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Northwest Wine: Riesling perfectly versatile for your holiday table

Riesling, a grape native to Germany, thrives in the Pacific Northwest, and growers often can ripen more clusters per vine than most other varieties. (Richard Duval)
Riesling, a grape native to Germany, thrives in the Pacific Northwest, and growers often can ripen more clusters per vine than most other varieties. (Richard Duval)

As we march toward Thanksgiving, it’s time to start gathering wines for the big feast. One bottle you should consider making room for is riesling.

The reasons are many. Germany’s noble white grape is versatile and offers crowd-pleasing flavors. Many of examples come loaded with the acidity that will help it pair well with everything on your table. Washington and Oregon both do riesling particularly well, so it’s a good hometown choice.

Plan on riesling to pair well with sweet potatoes, roasted turkey and stuffing. If the wine it is sweet enough, it can also work with dessert, particularly cheesecake.

There are many excellent choices out there, but here are a few we’ve tasted recently. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.

Dunham Cellars 2015 Lewis Estate Vineyard Riesling, Columbia Valley, $19.50: One of the Walla Walla Valley’s most popular wineries might be best known for suave reds, but their work with Riesling from historic Lewis Vineyard in the Yakima Valley has been stellar for years. The aromas are a dead giveaway for Riesling – equally effusive as citrus, petrol and honey tantalize the nose. And the palate delivers everything the nose promises, plus a bright element of jasmine and honeysuckle. Fantastic weight supports the concentrated flavors. This earned a gold medal at last month at the Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition.

Alexana Winery 2017 Revana Vineyard Riesling, Dundee Hills $32: This marked the vintage in which Oregon State University grad Bryan Weil took over the head winemaking duties from renowned Lynn Penner-Ash. The Dundee Hills are famous for pinot noir, but Weil, whose winemaking résumé includes Washington giant Hogue Cellars, shows a deft touch with riesling, too. His work with Alexana owner Dr. Madaiah Revana’s vineyard yields a version that’s barely off-dry, sporting a complex set of citrus flavors reminiscent of lemon, lime and Mandarin orange. That combination offers delicious acidity while allowing for some minerality in the background. This earned a gold medal at the 2018 Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition.

Snoqualmie Vineyards 2016 Winemaker’s Select Riesling, Columbia Valley, $8: Each fall, veteran winemaker Joy Andersen creates this in a delightful off-dry style that’s hugely tropical as jasmine and lavender notes blend with melon, apple and ripe pear. There’s a touch of sweetness on the entry, but it comes with plenty of crisp acidity. A pinch of baking spice makes for a long finish.

Elevation Cellars 2017 Imperium Riesling, Columbia Valley, $18: Few of the more than 50 wineries in Woodinville’s renowned Warehouse District have earned acclaim for their work with riesling, but Steven Stuart has made it a focus at Elevation Cellars. His latest expression from Lawrence Vineyard is a regal drink that’s close to bone-dry with bright citrusy aromatics and lime, apricot and peach flavors.

Ryan Patrick Wines 2017 Olsen Brothers Vineyard Riesling, Yakima Valley, $12: Winery owner Butch Milbrandt welcomed acclaimed Kendall Mix as his winemaker in the summer of 2017. The transition appears rather seamless because this marks the third consecutive vintage for Ryan Patrick’s riesling – grown by the Olsen family – to have merited a gold medal at a Northwest competition. Bold aromas of lemon and lime are joined by a zesty hint of white pepper. Those are followed by a palate full of citrus, pineapple and pear. This Riesling, a star at the 2018 Great Northwest Invite, has perfect acidity for the residual sugar that crests shy of 2 percent, making it a natural choice for sushi or blue cheese.

Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman operate Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.


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