Stephen Reustle moved to Roseburg and established himself as a brilliant winemaker. Now he’s the top U.S. producer of the little-known white wine called Grüner Veltliner.
GRUNER VELTLINER, the crisp, white wine from Austria that is intimidating to pronounce, has been the darling of sommeliers and restaurateurs for more than a decade.
The top domestic producer in the United States undoubtedly is Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards in Roseburg, Ore.
Stephen Reustle didn’t set out to be the grüner king of the nation.
Four to try
Ask for these wines at your favorite wine merchant, or order directly from the winery, which happily will ship to Washington and beyond.
Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2014 Revelation & Sorek Bloc Estate Grüner Veltliner, Umpqua Valley, $24: Well-defined flavors of fresh pea shoots, green apple, tropical fruit, a pinch of white pepper and a thread of minerality meld harmoniously.
Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2015 Dolium Grüner Veltliner, Umpqua Valley, $24: Aged in a concrete egg, this shows off more complexity, revealing aromas of citrus fruit and honeysuckle blossoms, followed by notes of white pepper. It is based on a solid spine of brisk acidity.
Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2015 Estate Winemaker’s Reserve Grüner Veltliner, Umpqua Valley, $29: Reustle viewed the 2009 vintage as his first bottling worthy of a reserve grüner. Lime and stone fruit on the nose lead to luscious flavors of citrus blossom, white peach, creamy pear, lime zest, minerality and fresh crushed herbs.
Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2015 Smaragd Grüner Veltliner, Umpqua Valley, $32: This might be Reustle’s best grüner, thanks to brisk aromas of green tea, lime zest and minerality, followed by racy flavors of citrus, sweet herbs, Granny Smith apple and tropical fruit.
He was a CPA in New York in his 20s when he decided to change careers. He looked for the right location, searching from Temecula, Calif., to Walla Walla before settling on Oregon’s Umpqua Valley. He has 14 grape varieties planted on the 200-acre estate.
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But Reustle knew nothing about Grüner Veltliner (grew-ner velt-LEE-ner) until he ran across several classic examples on a motorcycle trip through Austria. Upon returning to the United States, he couldn’t find any domestic examples, so he planted a few acres and started making the wine. He actually had to petition the federal government to use the name on the bottle because the United States didn’t recognize Grüner Veltliner as a variety.
Today, he grows 4 acres of grüner, and he bottles four styles. He’s even experimenting with a rare sparkling version.
The food-friendly wine certainly seems to resonate with wine lovers, and Reustle’s orange-labeled bottles are swoon-worthy. Vancouver-based wine judge and educator Ellen Landis, a leading expert on the variety, says Reustle’s wine regularly stands out during nationwide competitions and at her grüner seminars.
Reustle has developed into one of the Northwest’s most talented winemakers, a statement backed up with each award-laden vintage. A few years back, his syrah was rated best in the New World in a major Australian judging. He’s also well-known for tempranillo, sauvignon blanc and even pinot noir. His success with grüner isn’t a fluke.