It is utterly ridiculous just how great the rieslings from Washington’s oldest and largest winery are, even when you put them up against a selection of outstanding wines.
YOU CAN TASTE great rieslings throughout this continent. But you don’t have to travel far — or even at all — to taste the best.
During a blind tasting of top rieslings from across North America, a panel of wine experts selected Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 2013 dry riesling as the best. There wasn’t even a close second place.
The Ste. Michelle dry riesling is inexpensive (less than $10) and produced in large amounts (100,000 cases per year). It is completely unfair and utterly ridiculous just how great the rieslings from Washington’s oldest and largest winery are, even when you put them up against a selection of outstanding wines.
Three delicious Northwest rieslings
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2013 dry riesling, Columbia Valley, $10: One of the most popular rieslings in North America also is one of the best. This lean, radiant and refined wine is loaded with aromas and flavors of lime, quince, green apple and tangerine, all backed by scintillating acidity.
Chehalem Wines 2012 Corral Creek Vineyards riesling, Chehalem Mountains, $29: Rieslings are rare in Oregon, but this one stands amid some of the best anywhere, thanks to bright, delicious, balanced and steely aromas and flavors.
50th Parallel Estate 2013 riesling, Okanagan Valley, $18: British Columbia makes gorgeous rieslings, and this is one of the best, thanks to zesty fruit, stunning complexity and bracing acidity.
Several of us gathered in January for what we dubbed the second annual Judgment of Geyserville, a blind tasting that included top rieslings from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, California, Michigan and New York. (The name honors the famous Judgment of Paris tasting in 1976). The wines were selected by wine experts in each region, then we tasted them blind at Diavola, a superb Italian restaurant in the tiny Sonoma County town of Geyserville.
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All three of the Washington entries earned top marks, including the Charles Smith 2013 Kung Fu Girl and the Jones of Washington 2013 riesling. Interestingly, all three wines happen to feature grapes from Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, a relatively cool wine-growing region near the Grant County town of Quincy.
And while Washington’s riesling star continues to shine brightly, there is no discounting that riesling is being made beautifully elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest and across the country. The entries from British Columbia and Oregon were nothing short of stunning, and the Idaho examples showed tremendous promise, particularly from Coiled Wines near Boise.
Meanwhile, two rieslings from northern Michigan finished in the top five, while two rieslings from western New York’s Finger Lakes region were as exciting and delicious as we could have hoped for.
In reality, the only region that didn’t show particularly well in this tasting was California. Fortunately for riesling hounds, delicious examples can be hunted down in the cooler Anderson Valley and Monterey Peninsula, for starters.
We are fortunate to live in a region where riesling is so unabashedly delicious and remarkably abundant. Yet the most noble of white wines shows greatness across our continent, and that makes me smile.