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!

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Top Oregon Riesling tasted 10/13

Brooks Winery Riesling Ara (2010)
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Alexana Riesling Willamette Valley Revana Vineyard (2012)
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Foris Riesling Rogue Valley (2011)
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Chehalem Riesling Corral Creek Vineyard Chehalem Mountains (2011)
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Penner-Ash Riesling Willamette Valley (2011)
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Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling (2012)
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Chehalem Ridgecrest Vineyards Ribbon Ridge Oregon Rieslings (2011)
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Brandborg Riesling Umpqua Valley (2009)
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Chehalem Riesling Three Vineyard Willamette Valley (2011)
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Argyle Riesling Eola-Amity Hills (2011)
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Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: Zuiko
    Hand of Snooth
    540750 839

    Montinore Estate has had some winners in the past, however I have not tried them lately. There was a sweet reserve Riesling from them that was super

    Oct 24, 2013 at 4:38 PM

  • Snooth User: SGD
    610727 21

    Maybe I'm an Australian wine geek from way back. I visited Willamette Valley 20 years ago and enjoyed many excellent Rieslings.

    Oct 24, 2013 at 5:38 PM

  • Snooth User: steve666
    392767 156

    Rieslings are the great unheralded princes of the wine world. I don't care for the dry varieties, but love the rest. In fact, I do not drink any white wines except Riesling, unless I am forced to be polite and try some. The depth of character and the varieties of fruit upon the palate amazes me. There are some excellent Rieslings that are inexpensive.
    I haven't tasted any of the above, but I intend to. I do wish that the RS were listed on every bottle.

    Oct 24, 2013 at 6:56 PM

  • Snooth User: Tommy1029
    581944 52

    I wish more Oregon wineries would pour their Rieslings. My wife and I spent 10 days in the Williamette Valley last fall leading up to the American Wine Society conferenced in Portland. Of the 46 wineries that we visited, Anam Cara was the only winery to have their Riesling to sample. We were so impressed with both of their Rieslings that we brought a case home with us to North Carolina. The rest served the ubiquitous Chardonney or Pinot Gris before moving on to their Pinot Noir selections. I've been trying to find some Oregon Rieslings here on the east coast to no avail.

    Oct 24, 2013 at 8:31 PM

  • Snooth User: JSammy
    1386610 18

    I'm sorry Im a but confused by this. Reisling is made from a white grape, and it generally has fruity tones, but you are making a pinot noir wine?

    Oct 24, 2013 at 10:40 PM

  • High pass winery in the mid-willamette valley produces some very nice reislings, but I wouldn't miss their late harvest huxelrebe, another tasty Oregon white.

    Oct 31, 2013 at 10:57 PM

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