No place in the United States produces more riesling than the Columbia Valley, and in nowhere else in the world does a winery make more riesling.
Welcome to Washington, the state of riesling.
Thanks to the leadership of Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville, the Evergreen State leads the nation in riesling production, more than California, Oregon, New York and Michigan. And Washington’s oldest winery bottles more riesling than any winery in the world – including those in Germany.
Here are several examples of Washington rieslings we’ve enjoyed in recent weeks, which run the gamut of styles. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.
Tsillan Cellars 2015 Estate Dry Riesling, Lake Chelan, $18: One of the most underrated growing regions in the Northwest also is among the most scenic. Riesling devotee Shane Collins gets to work with estate fruit from the south shore of Lake Chelan to create a wine reminiscent of Granny Smith apple and Asian pear with lavender and a healthy squirt of lime juice to more than balance the 1 percent residual sugar. Serve with Asian-prepared duck or pork loin with soy sauce.
Milbrandt Vineyards 2015 Evergreen Vineyard Traditions Riesling, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $13: Evergreen Vineyard, one of Washington state’s premier sites for cool-climate whites, shines yet again with this bargain riesling. Emily Haines presents it in a dry, but not geeky style. Amazing aromas include cotton candy, jasmine, Jolly Rancher Green Apple candy and orange zest. Yummy acidity allows for enjoyable flavors of Key Lime pie, nectarine and lemon. Enjoy it with grilled chicken with wine-braised beets.
Westport Winery Garden Resort 2014 Red Willow Vineyard Maritime Sparkling Riesling, Yakima Valley, $28: One of Washington’s youngest sparkling wine producers has targeted one of the state’s most venerable vineyards for this deliciously effervescent riesling. Sweet pears, Honeycrisp apple and cotton candy flavors run throughout as the residual sugar checks in at 11 percent, but orangey tartness and those bubbles combine to make this a quaffer.
Lone Birch 2015 Riesling, Yakima Valley, $12: Airfield Estates in Prosser owns one of the state’s largest and oldest vineyards, and Marcus Miller’s Lone Birch brand represents some of the best bargains in Washington. This fun riesling carries aromas and flavors of peaches and cream, orange zest and a lick of Jolly Rancher Green Apple candy in the finish. That combination of sweetness and tartness balances the 2.5 percent residual sugar.
Rocky Pond Winery 2013 Late Harvest Riesling, Lake Chelan, $24: Using grapes from owner David Dufenhorst’s vineyard on the south shore of Lake Chelan, veteran winemaker Ron Bunnell created a luscious dessert wine with a theme of poached pear and honey with lavender.
Jones of Washington 2015 Riesling, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $10: Uber-talent Victor Palencia pulls from the relatively cool Ancient Lakes region near the Gorge Amphitheater for this bright, delicious riesling that’s loaded with peach, apple, passionfruit, pineapple and lime. It balances a rich mouth feel with a steely finish.
Pacific Rim Winemakers 2014 Organic Vin de Glacière Riesling, Columbia Valley, $14: Nicolas Quillé produces a dozen or so expressions of riesling, including this dessert wine made in an ice wine fashion. Grapes were frozen and pressed into this ambrosia that finished at 18 percent residual sugar. Flavors are akin to peach yogurt, tangerine and a sip of Orange Julius, and suggested pairings range from cheesecake to blue cheese.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2015 Harvest Select Sweet Riesling, Columbia Valley, $9: Bob Bertheau launched this medium-sweet style of riesling several years ago and works with some of the state’s warmer sites for this tropical drink. Aromas of orchard fruit and slate transition to flavors Juicy Fruit gum. The acid profile of lemon and lime balances the 4 percent residual sugar, which is about 2 percent more than the hugely successful Columbia Valley riesling. Enjoy with a steamy and spicy bowl of pho.
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at greatnorthwestwine.com.