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Northwest Wine: Dry rieslings can make astonishing wines

The Williamson family, longtime orchardists on the Sunnyslope near Caldwell, Idaho, uses estate grapes to produce one of the Northwest’s best examples of dry riesling. (Richard Duval Images)
The Williamson family, longtime orchardists on the Sunnyslope near Caldwell, Idaho, uses estate grapes to produce one of the Northwest’s best examples of dry riesling. (Richard Duval Images)
By Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman Great Northwest Wine

Riesling is a misunderstood wine. Many consumers think of riesling as a sweet wine. This goes back to a couple of centuries of German wines being on the sweeter side, and domestic winemakers followed suit.

A decade ago, many Northwest rieslings would be on the sweet side. Thankfully, that is changing, blissfully so because more than any other wine, riesling can show astonishing range depending on where the grapes are grown and how dry the finished wine is left.

As a bonus, one that surprises most, riesling can age remarkably – for those who have the patience to tuck them away.

In Germany, dry rieslings are labeled as “trocken.” Domestic rieslings tend to either label their wines as “dry” or use the International Riesling Foundation’s Taste Profile Scale on the back label to give consumers an indication of the wine’s sweetness.

In use since 2008, it now appears on millions of bottles of riesling each year. It’s not uncommon to find it used on bottles of other white wines.

In the latest issue of Wine Press Northwest magazine, a large tasting of Northwest riesling finished with Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Columbia Valley dry riesling on top. Here are four more dry rieslings that judges ranked among the best.

Ask for them at your favorite wine shop or contact the wineries directly. See full results of the tasting at www.winepressnw.com.

Anam Cara Cellars 2013 Nicholas Estate Riesling, Chehalem Mountains, $22: Among Willamette Valley’s leaders with the noble grape of Germany, Nick and Sheila Nicholas counted the likes of Alexana, Argyle, Brooks, Elk Cove and King Estate as customers for their riesling.

This was produced before selling much of their vineyard to the Austin family in nearby Newberg, and it is standing the test of time in dry fashion loaded with Honeycrisp apples, stone fruit and minerality backed by a luscious and mouthwatering profile that demands you drink more.

North by Northwest 2015 Riesling, Horse Heaven Hills, $12: King Estate’s tier from Washington 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 layers of stone fruit flavors, and candied apple rolls across into a delicious finish of Meyer lemon and light petrol as the residual sugar hangs in at 0.6%.

Pacific Rim Wine 2016 Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley, $12: California iconoclast Randall Graham planted biodynamic riesling vines in Horse Heaven Hills on a site that Lewis and Clark floated past soon after they left the Snake River.

In 2006, Graham launched Pacific Rim in West Richland, and the focus on riesling continues beyond the 2011 sale to Banfi Vintners. It’s a Germanic-inspired riesling that comes across more dry than its 0.8% residual sugar might portend.

Williamson Vineyards 2017 Dry Riesling, Snake River Valley, $12: The Williamson family attended the 2016 Riesling Rendezvous, an international seminar 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 Sunnyslope, Koenig unveiled dusty minerality and focused 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.

A month after this tasting, it was voted as the top riesling at the 2019 Cascadia International Wine Competition.

Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman operate Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.

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