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07.30.2009

Tasting Oregon Riesling...At the International Pinot Noir Celebration?

Adulterous. Maybe a little sneaky, and a tiny bit rebellious.

There I was at the International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon -- a whole weekend dedicated to the glory of Oregon Pinot Noir and it's Burgundy forebears -- when someone in a trench coat pulled me aside and whispered, "Hey buddy, wanna taste some Riesling?"

The thought, frankly, couldn't have been the furthest thing from my mind at that point. But when the shadowy figure suggested that this was a nearly comprehensive tasting of all the Rieslings made in the state of Oregon, give or take a few, my interest was piqued. Not to mention the fact that it would also make for a pretty nice palate refresher after a day of tasting Pinots.

A little while later I found myself in the back room of Nick's Restaurant with a lineup of more than thirty Oregon Rieslings and a couple other intrepid tasters: Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post and David Schildknecht of the Wine Advocate. Together, we plowed through the lineup and had a good time of it.

My tasting notes for all the wines follow below, but on reflection, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the wines, which certainly exceeded my expectations on the whole. Most were quite varietally true, well made, and at least pleasant to drink, with some being quite delicious. It's clear that good Riesling can clearly be made in Oregon. Do these wines approach the profundity of great Austrian, German, or Alsatian Rieslings? Not yet. But they're certainly better than most California efforts I've tasted, and many are better than some of the Washington State wines I've tried.

Several of the wines were offered in pairs of 2007 and 2008 vintages, and there were often stark differences between the wines (most notable the Montinore below), but I couldn't tell if those were clearly vintage variation, or the results of adjustments in winemaking technique. In many cases, I suspect it was the latter.

The wines are listed in my descending order of preference. Prices have been supplied by the wineries, so they must be taken with a grain of salt -- meaning that if you do encounter these wines in a retail environment, they're likely to be slightly less expensive.

TASTING NOTES:

2007 Trisaetum Willamette Valley Riesling Yamhill Carlton & Chehalem Mtns, Oregon. $28
Palest greenish gold in color, the wine smells of paraffin and honeysuckle. In the mouth it offers lovely semi-sweet flavors of green apple, pear, beeswax and white flowers that linger in a nice finish. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Where to buy?

2008 Brooks Sweet P Riesling McMinnville, Oregon. $23
Palest gold in the glass this wine has a nose of peach and honeysuckle aromas. In the mouth it is really lovely nectarine quality with bright apple qualities and excellent acidity with hints of mandarine orange on the finish. Moderately sweet. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Where to buy?

2006 Daedalus Maresh Riesling Dundee Hills, Oregon. $18
Pale gold in the glass, this wine has a nose of white flowers. In the mouth it is crisp and bright and silky and lean and quite high toned. Fades on the back palate. Score: around 9. Where to buy?

2007 Daedalus Maresh Riesling Dundee Hills, Oregon. $18
Palest gold in the glass, this wine has a nose of green herbs, white flowers, and green apples. On the palate the wine has qualities of pear and wet stone with nice subtle spicy delicacies that linger into a tart finish. Score: around 9. Where to buy?

2007 Lemelson Dry Riesling Dundee Hills, Oregon. $20
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of poached pears and honeysuckle, in the mouth it is super silky and smooth with honeysuckle, ripe pear and lovely mineral qualities that linger into the finish. Score: around 9. Where to buy?

2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards Dry Riesling Willamette Valley, Oregon. $14
Pale gold in the glass, this wine has a nose of linalool and wet stone. In the mouth it is crisp and pure with a crystalline lemon juice and wet granitic quality, and a nice hint of apple fruit on the finish. Score: around 9. Where to buy?

2007 A to Z Oregon Riesling Oregon, Oregon. $13
Pale gold in the glass this wine smells of ripe pear and a beautiful honeyed sweetness. In the mouth the wine is super silky and smooth, with a great liquid crystal quality to it and an incredible note of orange and clove that hovers in and out of perceptibility in the wine. Quite alluring. Score: around 9. Where to buy?

2007 Anam Cara Nicholas Estate Riesling Chehalem Mountains, Oregon. $22
Nearly colorless in the glass, this wine has a nose of wet stone and white flowers. In the mouth it is crisp and linear with nice tart gooseberry, cucumber and pear flavors with hints of lime zest and seawater on the finish. Off-dry.Score: around 9. Where to buy?

2007 Brandborg Riesling Umpqua Valley, Oregon. $16
Pale green gold in color, this wine has a nose of baked pear and wet stone. In the mouth it is crisp and stony and crystalline, with a stark granitic quality and really lovely white flower, apple, and pear qualities. Off-dry. Score: around 9. Where to buy?

2008 Montinore Almost Dry Riesling Willamette Valley, Oregon. $10
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of honeysuckle and ripe apples. In the mouth it is beautiful tart ripe fuji apples, with beautiful ethereal honey notes that sail above the finish. Off-dry. Score: around 9. Where to buy?

2008 Siltstone Hyland Vineyard Riesling McMinnville, Oregon. $15
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of green apples and wet stone. In the mouth it is crisp and mineral with a core of apple and pear fruit tinged with lime zest and a warm felt quality that lingers in a nice finish. Score: between 8.5 and 9

2007 Brooks Willamette Valley Riesling Willamette Valley, Oregon. $18
Pale green gold in the glass this wine has a nose of unripe pears and green apples. In the mouth it is smooth and silky with tart green apple and unripe pear flavors, with hints of lemon zest on the finish. Score: between 8.5 and 9

2007 Chehalem Corral Creek Riesling Chehalem Mountains, Oregon. $24
Pale green gold in the glass this wine has a nose of paraffin and unripe pear with hints of wet stone and honeysuckle. In the mouth it is bright and racy, with great acidity, and tart grapefruit zest and very dry felt quality on the finish. Score: between 8.5 and 9

2007 Chehalem Reserve Riesling Chehalem Mtns/Dundee Hills, Oregon. $21
Pale gold in the glass with hints of green this wine has a nose of gooseberries and unripe pear with lovely flavors of green apple and hints of white flowers on the finish. Score: between 8.5 and 9

2006 Amity Willamette Valley Riesling Willamette Valley, Oregon. $18
Palest gold in color this wine has a nose of rich Juicyfruit gum, in the mouth it is smooth and crisp with Juicyfruit, green apples, and pears, with a quite long finish. Score: between 8.5 and 9

2008 Anam Cara Nicholas Estate Riesling Chehalem Mountains, Oregon. $22
Nearly colorless in the glass, this wine has a nose of jasmine and poached pear. In the mouth the wine has a honeyed aspect with silky smooth quality that has a clean fresh character that is tough not to like. Lovely floral, though not complex. Off-dry. Score: between 8.5 and 9

2007 Montinore Sweet Reserve Riesling Willamette Valley, Oregon. $12
Practically colorless in the glass, this wine has a nose of beeswax and poached pear. In the mouth it is soft and satiny with a nice weight on the tongue. The main flavors are of apples baked in honey with a hint of bitterness that sneaks in quickly and then out just as quickly leaving the wine to finish nicely. Score: between 8.5 and 9

2007 Anne Amie Estate Riesling Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon. $25
Light gold in the glass, this wine has a nose of white flowers and ripe pears. In the mouth it is crisp, bright with pear, nice smooth, good acid, but not quite enough. hint of flabbiness. Score: around 8.5

2007 Amity Willamette Valley Riesling Willamette Valley, Oregon. $18
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of crisp apples and rainwater. In the mouth it offers crisp fuji apple and a hint of creaminess on the finish. Score: around 8.5

2008 Argyle Riesling Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon. $25
Pale green gold in the glass, this wine smells of cut green grass and ripe pears. In the mouth it is linear and straightforward, with cool flavors of wet stone, fuji apple, and hints of floral qualities in the finish. Off-dry. Score: around 8.5

2007 Elk Cove Estate Riesling Yamhill Carlton, Oregon. $19
Near colorless with greenish aspects, this wine has a shy nose of candied citrus aromas. In the mouth it is smooth and brighter than the 2006 vintage, with persistent flavors of candied grapefruit, pears, and sweet apples. Score: around 8.5

2008 Hawk's View Chehalem Mountain Vyd Riesling Chehalem Mountains, Oregon. $24
Near colorless in the glass, this wine smells of fresh ripe pears and apples. In the mouth it has a tart apple quality with nice acid and a smooth texture. Pleasant but not complex. Score: around 8.5

2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards Willamette Valley Riesling Willamette Valley, Oregon. $12
Near colorless in the glass, this wine has a nose of pear and ripe apples. In the mouth it is smooth with apple and pear flavors with hints of lemon emerging on the finish. Score: around 8.5

2007 Argyle Minus 5 Riesling Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon. $30
Light gold in the glass, this wine has a nose of sweet peach and honey, with flavors of peach and honey and lovely goodness but somewhat simple. Score: around 8.5

2008 Chehalem Sext Riesling Chehalem Mountains, Oregon. $24
Near colorless in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine has a nose of honeysuckle and ripe pears. In the mouth the wine is hardly sparkling, more sptritzy, with a light bubbly quality on the palate with honeyed apples, nectarine and hints of mandarin citrus on the finish. Score: around 8.5

2006 Elk Cove Estate Riesling Yamhill Carlton, Oregon. $19
Near colorless in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers, lemon juice, and pears. In the mouth it is soft, and a little light on acid, with linear, floral qualities but not as much complexity or zip as I might like. Score: between 8 and 8.5

2007 King's Ridge Oregon Riesling Chehalem Mountains, Oregon. $12
Palest green gold in the glass, this wine has a nose of ripe pear. In the mouth it is somewhat simple with a lightly bitter quality that quickly morphs to a simple sweetness. Score: around 8

2007 Penner Ash Willamette Valley Riesling Dundee Hills & Eola Amity, Oregon. $18
Near colorless in the glass, this wine smells of Juicyfruit gum with a hint of warm hay. In the mouth it is soft and nicely balanced but has a yeasty quality that fights with the fruit in a way I don't care for. Off-dry. Score: around 8

2006 Vitae Springs Vitae Springs Vineyard Riesling Willamette Valley (Salem area), Oregon. $18
Palest green in color, this wine has a nose of linalool and green candy. In the mouth the wine is sweet and somewhat simple with apple and pear flavors that are pleasant but not fantastic. Score: around 8

2007 Montinore Almost Dry Riesling Willamette Valley, Oregon. $10
Pale green gold in color, this wine has a nose of "vague tropical fruit" according to my notes. In the mouth it is somewhat flabby, missing the acidity required to really push it out of a syrupy state which I don't really care for. Off-dry. Score: between 7.5 and 8

NV Brooks Tethys Riesling Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon. $25
Light gold in color, this wine has a nose of brewers yeast, malt, and freshly baked bread. In the mouth it is malted and raisined and with flavors of hay that lean towards manure. I do not care for this wine. Score: between 6.5 and 7

Comments (6)

07.31.09 at 6:37 AM

Enjoyed the article as well as the comment on the differences in wines and are they due to vintage variation or winemaking techniques.

Curious if you tried the 2006 Brooks Ara Riesling.

Thanks for supporting the Oregon Wine Community!

Alder wrote:
07.31.09 at 8:26 AM

Janie,

I listed tasting notes for every wine I tasted.

07.31.09 at 11:36 AM

Now the cats out of the bag! Though riesling has been grown in Oregon longer than Pinot it has just recently undergone a re-birth. Give us some time to better understand the region potential of the grape and Oregon will produce riesling that rival any made elswhere in the New World.

Sarah C wrote:
08.17.09 at 5:17 PM

Its even impressive you made it through that list! I was just curious about what you expect from a true German or or Austrian Riesling. How do these one's miss the mark?

Alder wrote:
08.17.09 at 8:03 PM

Sarah,

Thanks for the note. Where these wines could be said to fall a little short, is in that most lacked the really crystalline mineral sparkle (not exactly a common wine term, that -- I'm talking mostly about a combination of flavor and acidity) that I expect from both German and Austrian Rieslings. Most of their flavors were also a little more simple than I expect from good European Riesling -- not as complex.

Having said that, many of these were quite nice, and definite candidates for drinking on a regular basis.

Grace DiGianno wrote:
10.31.09 at 12:25 PM

Thank you for the tasting notes. Frankly, I hadn’t even contemplated Rieslings from Oregon prior to reading the posting. I was able to find the 2008 Brooks Sweet P Riesling and found it delightful. I’m looking forward to tasting others from the region. Thanks for opening a new door!

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