Oregon’s Next White
It’s time to take Riesling seriously, and playfully. In fact take it any way you want.
We tend to think of Pinot Noir when we think of Oregon and for good reason. Not only are Oregon’s Pinots outstanding, in a cool climate yet mostly modern style, but lots of people love to tell you about them. Yours truly included. Well here’s something else we should be talking about when it comes to Oregon: white wines. Pinot blanc has been Oregon’s flagship white, at least in the marketplace, and many folks are now recognizing the exceptional potential of oregon’s Chardonnay’s, but the next great thing is bound to be Oregon Riesling. At least I keep telling myself that.
I love Riesling, the darling of wine geeks everywhere. One of the reasons I love Riesling is that it terroir transparent for the most part. What do i mean by that you ask? Unlike Chardonnay, which is almost always marked and masked by winemaking including barrel ageing, and unlike sauvignon Blanc which is so unbridled that you can not help but notice the variety over almost all else, Riesling tend to allow varietal typicity to share the stage with terroir. It’s the white version of Syrah in that respect.
In Germany that means minerality and fruits, citrus to the north, orchard to the south. In Australia the dry rieslings have citrus pith and citrus oil falvors over vibrantly mineral acidity, and in Oregon, well in Oregon I’m still figuring things out but it seems like Riesling in Oregon gets ripe enough to introduce some tropical fruit on the nose with the occasional guava and plenty of pineapple along with crisp green apple and citrus flavors. So the wines tend to be fairly fruity but at the same time they are floral, and herbal and sometimes mineral and salty.
Let’s face it, Oregon’s wine industry is still on the young side and the diversion into Riesling has really only recently begun to gain some traction, so there’s a lot still to be figured out. Two things are clear though. the first is that Oregon is able to produce a wide range of styles when it comes to Riesling from bone dry to sweet. The widespread adoption of the International Riesling Foundation sweetness scale on the back labels of Oregon’s Rieslings means that consumers are well equipped to sift through the multitude of wines available to find the wine that matches their preferences. Having said that, the scale is far from infallible leaving even me surprised at some of the wines labelled medium sweet.
So maybe Oregon has a ways to go before they are recognized as a riesling powerhouse. Thier cool climate vineyards and the winemaking with an old world sensibility, which of necessity goes hand in hand with the climate, lead to only one conconclusion. Oregon will be recognized for their world class rieslings not only in the US but around the world. It happened with Pinot Noir even though forty years ago people laughed at the notion. And who is laughing now? Me, because I’ve just tasted the Brooks Riesling Ara and the Alexana Riesling Revana Vineyard and my goodness are these delightful wines! It’s time to try a few oregon rieslings for yourself. Check out my notes to see where you’d like to begin!