While some regions have established themselves as producers of world-class Riesling (in its native Germany of course, but also surprisingly in Australia and increasingly in Oregon and New York), the grape has floundered around a bit in many regions, and most of the U.S. winemakers too often have seen the natural propensity of the market to accept sweet Rieslings as a way to make some easy money off of simple wines.
The market has become more discerning as of late and it is about time we revisit some of our favorite New World Rieslings, now that the weather is threatening to warm up a bit and I can once again think of dishes like spicy grilled shrimp – a natural partner for a fine Riesling or two!
2008 Gainey Santa Ynez Valley, 12.9%
This smells of earth and herbs as much as fruit with a gentle layered quality that has a slightly dried and gently tropical edge. In the mouth this is light and fresh with fine intensity of flavor, yet very little weight. Wonderfully fresh with juicy apricot flavors and subtle hints of mineral, stem and dried floral notes. This is elegant and refined, complex without screaming about it and finishes with excellent length. A winner. 91pts
2008 Jana Napa Valley Old Vine Lazy K & E Ranch. 9.5%
This smells lightly gamy with a sweet musky top note to the rich pear fruit. There’s a bit of spice and smoke here with nice apple skin notes and a hint of sassafras. Noticeably sweet but the acids here keep this rather taut in the mouth. This displays a fine blend of sweet fruit notes with citrus and pear tones, accented with a hint of red fruit all balanced with some gently bitter mineral and spice notes. Nice follow-through on the finish as well, with refreshing acidity and excellent clarity to the flavors. Really very well-crafted. 91pts
2009 Dashe Potter Valley McFadden Farm, 13.8%
Very soft and gentle on the nose with suggestions of white cherries, baked apples and candied fruits rising from the glass. This is noticeably sweet up front with juicy peach fruit and nice balancing acidity. The mid-palate takes on a honied quality and leads to a rich finish, with deep cider apple tones and a lingering lime oil note. There’s a touch of hazelnut in the mouth as well that adds some complexity. 90pts
2009 Seven Hills Columbia Valley, 12%
Green apples, apple blossoms, honey and lime greet the nose. This enters the mouth with pronounced sweetness, but the strong acid backbone is able to establish good dynamic balance. The flavors are fresh and very much in the lemon/lime leaf end of the register. The finish shows a bit more overt sweetness and fine length, ending with a nice mineral accent on the finale. 89pts
2010 Meli Central Valley Chile, 12.5%
Deep, spicy floral tones and ripe peach fruit greet the nose and gains intriguing stem and spice tones with air. Lighter-bodied in the mouth with good acidity and moderate sweetness. The flavors here are fresh (if delicate), giving this a nicely reserved feel. The finish has a sharp mineral tone, with a bit of appleseed bitterness and nice length to the core of dried apricot fruit. Easy to dismiss this as a bit insipid, but what it does have going on is very enjoyable. 87pts