When it comes to Riesling, Washington state offers the best of both worlds. Not only are the bottlings relentlessly delicious, but they also tend to be affordable.
Fortunately, the noble grape of Germany has been championed by the state’s largest and oldest winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle, but the Woodinville giant clearly is not doing all of the heavy lifting. Last year, winemakers brought in more than 33,000 tons of Riesling, making it the No. 3 grape, after Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
This year, with Washington’s wine grape harvest beginning Aug. 17, Riesling will hang on the vines for another six weeks before it will be picked. This will give it plenty of time to develop ripeness and interesting flavors before fermentation begins. The Columbia Valley’s cool nights help the fruit retain natural acidity, resulting in wines with beautiful flavors and perfect balance.
Here are several delicious examples we have tasted recently, all of which ring up for less than $15, making them approachable. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant, search for them at your supermarket or contact the winery directly.
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Chateau Ste. Michelle 2017 Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley, $9: Year after year, director of winemaking Bob Bertheau and white winemaker David Rosenthal produce many of the nation’s top examples of Riesling. Their annual expression of dry Riesling might be their best. Fascinating aromas of citrus peel, lavender and orchard fruit are mirrored on the palate as stunning acidity and a fleck of minerality make this complex wine ideal for Ste. Michelle recipes such as Seared Copper River King Salmon with Ginger Cream or Curried Butternut Squash Soup with Fresh Cilantro.
Nine Hats Wines 2017 Riesling, Columbia Valley, $14: Long Shadows winemaker Gilles Nicault charts his own course with the Nine Hats Riesling. And for the second straight vintage, this wine earned a gold medal at the 2018 Walla Walla Valley Wine Competition. Dusty orchard fruit notes akin to Granny Smith apple and Asian pear are joined by a strand of caramel, grassiness and minerality.
Washington Hills Winery 2016 Riesling, Washington, $11: Precept winemaker Hal Landvoigt works with historic Olsen Family Vineyards in the Yakima Valley for this off-dry example of Riesling. Clean aromas of lime and spearmint gum come with slate, followed by nice weight to the structure that’s reminiscent of Key Lime pie.
W.B. Bridgman 2016 Riesling, Columbia Valley, $13: Yakima Valley attorney/winemaker W.B. Bridgman is credited with some of Washington’s first plantings a century ago. Thirty years ago in Sunnyside, winemaker Brian Carter helped launch this brand dedicated to Bridgman, and now these wines are available in Total Wine & More. This Riesling made by Seattle-based Precept Wine carries an elegant theme of fruit cocktail, rosewater and lychee.
Lunar Harvest 2015 Riesling, Columbia Valley, $8: Precept’s team in Walla Walla created this effort that comes with the International Riesling Foundation Tasting Profile of “medium sweet” on the back of the bottle. Devotees of old world Riesling will appreciate the whiff of petrol swirling behind the fun scents of Circus Peanut candy, ripe peach and apple blossom. On the palate, it’s a bowl of fruit salad with round and weighty flavors of honeydew melon, Bartlett pear and white peach that build up to a finish of lemon Gatorade acidity to tackle the two percent residual sugar. The Lunar Harvest wines are available at select Walmart locations.
Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman operate Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at greatnorthwestwine.com