The acidhead's grape overtakes Chardonnay in Washington
Back in the early 1980s, Riesling was the country's white wine darling--before brassy, flaxen Chardonnay took the nation by storm. But the tables have turned: Last fall, Washington State harvested more Riesling than any other grape.
A few things happened to get to this point. A decade ago, Washington producer Chateau Ste. Michelle began teaming up with German winemakers to refine its Rieslings. Chateau Ste. Michelle's Eroica and Poet's Leap bottlings, dry wines vibrant with nervy acidity, peachy fruit and hints of minerality, catapulted Washington Riesling into the spotlight.
Meanwhile, Randall Grahm has turned his Riesling-centric Pacific Rim label into a full-fledged Washington winery, which now produces seven Rieslings, including four single-vineyard bottlings. And a slew of little guys have joined the fray: OS Winery, where Bill Owen makes Riesling from a cache of old vines in the Horse Heaven Hills, and Naches Heights Vineyard, a miniscule winery in a cool, remote corner of the Columbia Valley. These wines all combine the Columbia Valley's warm, plentiful sun with Riesling's bright, strong acidity.
Here are a few of our favorites:
2007 Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen Columbia Valley Eroica ($23) Dry and elegant, this Riesling plays its delicate lime and peach-blossom flavors off a deep minerality (astorwines.com).
2007 Kung-Fu Girl Columbia Valley Riesling ($14) The hint of sweetness in this pear-juicy Riesling can stand up to some fiery Szechuan dishes, and its pronounced minerality keeps it real (samswine.com).
2007 NHV Columbia Valley Riesling ($18) Punchy acidity powers sweet peach flavors, finishing completely dry (tastingroomyakima.com).
2007 Pacific Rim Columbia Valley Wallula Vineyard Riesling ($20) Vibrant acidity gives this delicate, biodynamically grown Riesling a racy feel; try it with scallops and other seafood dishes (villagecorner.com).
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