washington's springtime rieslings

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The 2011 vintage brought mixed results in Washington, and some vineyards – especially in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA – suffered considerable damage. But the first wines to be released, notably some of the Rieslings, are exceptional.

Riesling is clearly one of a handful of signature grapes for Washington state vintners, and though quality continues to rise, prices have remained stable, even dropped, for many of the very best examples.

If and when spring ever decides to appear in the Puget Sound, you’ll want to chill a bottle or two and sip the flavors of the season. Here are some standouts from recent tastings, from both the 2010 and 2011 vintages, in order of preference.

Nefarious Cellars 2010 Stone’s Throw Vineyard Riesling; $18
For lovers of a bone dry Riesling style, this exceptional effort could become the poster child. Astringent, crisply-defined, with elegant focus, this grapefruity, citrusy wine boasts powerful minerality, estate-grown definition, and a resonant, lingering finish.

Gamache Vintners 2010 Estate Riesling; $18
A leesy, textural, racy and refreshing Riesling, this is loaded with lime, grapefruit and melon fruit. There is a streak a gin-like botanicals as well, and a rich and resonant finish.

Pacific Rim 2011 Dry Riesling; $11
A fresh and textural wine, this puts a spicy spin on citrus rind and stone fruit flavors of peach and apricot. There’s an intriguing hint of white pepper as well, and an overall sensation of density, intensity, and exceptional length.

Mercer Estates 2010 Riesling; $15
Superb balance and finesse underscore delicately-rendered flavors of peach, apricot and lemon tea. A scent of powdered sugar is the only suggestion of the 1% residual sugar.

O•S Winery 2011 Riesling; $15
Winemaker Bill Owen consistently produces one of Washington’s most stylish Rieslings. Here, despite a change in vineyard sources, it remains rich, round and juicy; with peach, apricot and somehow a hint of fresh cream.

Washington Hills 2011 Riesling; $10
This is just under 2% residual sugar, but drinks drier than that. Arresting scents of jasmine tea and honeysuckle give it an enticing floral character. It glides into a soft palate dappled with accents of flowers, oils and incense.

Tempus Cellars 2011 Evergreen Vineyard Riesling; $16
A clean, well-defined mouthfeel that barely registers the 1.3% residual sugar. The aromas of pear, melon and citrus rind introduce similar flavors, along with a suggestion of sweet orange candy.

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