What To Drink Now: Riesling

20 years ago, in my youthful days of wine drinking, the thought of drinking a Riesling sounded about as good as the thought of eating halibut cheeks or octopus, interesting because the off-dry method of making Riesling was quite popular at the time, something many young palates gravitated to.  I always wanted something with more character and versatility …and very, very dry.

As we grow though, our palates change along with our personalities, and though I still gravitate to that dry wine, I have found that many Rieslings whether made in an off-dry or dry style deliver on character, personality, versatility and overall good taste.  Here are a few Rieslings to consider that will be an interesting start to an evening, to pair with dinner or even enjoy over dessert.  A few selections were sent for editorial consideration.

Germany is best known for their Riesling, with the area of Mosel-Sarr-Ruwer being best known for the prized Rieslings their much celebrated and planted variety creating highly mineralic, steely yet sublimely delicate wines from grapes grown in slate-rich soils.  S.A. Prum has been making some of the best in the mid-Mosel for over 100 years.  The S.A. Prum 2009 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett maintains a low alcohol level, around 9%, yet delivers a much bigger, rounder Riesling filled with layers of slate and steel with green apple, tangerine and lime notes and a touch of sweet baking spice like ginger or nutmeg on the finish.

Austria has become better known in recent years for their Gruner Veltliner, but they have been making prized Riesling for generations.  One that delivers on taste and quality comes from Domane Wachau, their 2011 Riesling Federspiel Terrassen comes from vineyards located in very steep, rocky soils in the heart of the Wachau region creating Federspiel (dry) wine filled with grapefruit, stone fruit like apricot and white peach with balanced acidity and finesse.

Napa Valley’s Stony Hill Vineyard has been making their White Riesling since the McCrea family bought the former goat ranch in the 1940′s.  Most vintners at the time suggested planting their vineyards completely with Riesling instead of the disease-prone and unknown to the consumer variety they were drawn to.  They followed their instincts and planted most of their vineyards to the unknown grape, Chardonnay, planting only a few acres to the popular Riesling.  The gamble worked, and the winery continues to create stunning Chardonnay and a stone fruit, floral, sweet honey and citrus filled Riesling from the 10 acres they now have planted.

Clare Valley, Australia in the southern end of the country is fast becoming known for their New World Riesling. Eldridge Vineyards, on the boundary of Clare Valley with vineyards starting at 440 feet above sea level, creates a Riesling is filled with warm nectarine, lemon-lime and floral notes.  Not steely or mineral rich, like some Old World options, instead fresh, approachable and juicy.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Waussie Riesling from Columbia Valley.  Only 610 cases of this “Aussie” style dry Washington Riesling were made, highlighting the acidity and freshness in the grape creating a wine filled with tangerine, lemon-lime and floral notes with only 1% residual sugar, while still maintaining a relatively low alcohol level of 12%.  Light, crisp and lovely; a good wine to start the night with.

Also from Chateau Ste. Michelle, their very popular and well known Erocia Riesling created with the help of Dr. Loosen, one of the most well respected makers of Old World, German Riesling, made in Washington in a very dry style yet still filled with characteristic flavors of white peach, juicy citrus, minerals and white flower.  Low alcohol, about 11%, with slightly higher residual sugar levels, but not enough to call this an off-dry wine, this is a great wine to start an evening with or pair with spicy Asian or Indian dishes or shellfish.