After wrapping up my time at the International Pinot Noir Celebration, I made my way over to Nick’s in McMinnville, a real wine country institution whose back room has seen many a tasting and heard many a vineyard plan being hatched. It’s a great place for dinner, too, not to mention a late night game of pool with a few rounds of cocktails, but on this day I was off to attend a post-IPNC tasting of Riesling.
I love my Rieslings a little drier than most, but a little bit of playful sweetness is not something I turn my back on. While Germany can claim the title of Riesling king of the world, it’s a grape that is capable of great things in some surprising regions. (Witness the brilliance of Australian Riesling, for example). So, it was not surprising to hear that a group of Oregon producers intended to make Riesling a local phenomenon!
While Oregon is intimately linked with Pinot Noir, it has struggled a bit with white varieties. Pinot Gris seems to be the white wine most closely associated with the state, but the truth is that much Pinot Gris coming from Oregon is no more interesting or distinctive than versions coming from anywhere else. It certainly has not proven to be the grape to hang the state’s hat on.
Seeing as this is Pinot Noir country, it’s surprising that Chardonnay hasn’t done a better job establishing itself here. I think it’s due in part to a bit of a style issue, as well as friction in the marketplace, because I tasted some truly delicious Chardonnays while I was in Oregon. Nonetheless, I was at Nick’s today to taste Riesling. The selection on offer was presented courtesy of the Oregon Riesling Alliance, a group of Oregon wineries promoting Riesling. No surprise there.
One thing that does set these wineries apart though is their adoption of the International Riesling Foundation’s Taste Profile Scale that ranks a wine’s perceived sweetness. This scale takes into account both acidity and sugar, helping people to find wines that best suit their palates and taking away some of the mystery surrounding Riesling.
I tasted the following 25 wines, generally in order of increasing sweetness, and skipped the last 5 or so truly sweet wines. In general the wines were lovely, exhibiting good purity to their fruit, yet lacking some of the minerality that makes the best German versions so good. The prices for most of these wines make a pretty compelling argument for trying them, and I thought several were really singing and distinctive. They’re wines I look forward to trying again. The sweetness meter that the Oregon Riesling Alliance is promoting certainly will help the consumer identify wines that work with their palates, though it would be nice to see a definitive Oregon Riesling style emerge from this range at some point.
Check out all the reviews after the jump.