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Remarkable Rieslings of the Willamette Valley

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Most wine drinkers associate Riesling with Germany, Austria and Alsace – and often, with sweetness. These impressions are not unfounded: the Riesling grape originated in the Rhine Valley in Germany, and even today Germany and its neighboring countries are the world leaders in the production of this grape. It’s also true that traditionally many Rieslings have been found on the softer end of the spectrum. But the aromatic, highly acidic Riesling is much more versatile than either of these generalizations would suggest.

Several decades ago, many of Oregon’s early winemakers planted Riesling with their Pinot Noir, and it thrived in the cool climate of the Willamette Valley. And although the amount of Riesling planted in the state is still small compared to the Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris varieties for which it is best known, the quality and diversity of these world-class Rieslings have gained worldwide fame. Ranging from dry, pebbly bones to sweet and floral – from crunchy sparkles to lush dessert wines – sample these rieslings from Oregon’s famous Willamette Valley to sample the full range of this vibrant grape.

Ponzi Vineyards 2018 Riesling Willamette Valley, $ 22

When it comes to dry Riesling, Ponzi has always been ahead of the curve. The Sherwood, Oregon-based winery began producing a dry style of the grape in 1974, but then ceased production in the 1990s when the market became more resistant to Riesling. But in 2005, when dry Oregon and Washington state rieslings became popular again, Ponzi returned to this style.

Three Ponzi wineries contributed to the 2018 vintage in roughly equal parts: Alloro Vineyard, Elk Cove Vineyard, and Ponzi Estate Vineyard, which was planted in 1970. Bright and tangy, it leads with aromas of zesty zest. citrus, jasmine and sea salt, with a honeycomb and star fruit flavor.

Yamhill Valley 2017 Riesling, $ 18

This dry Riesling, made from the fruit of vines planted almost 40 years ago, comes from one of the oldest wineries in McMinnville AVA, in the Willamette Valley. With an elegant nose of Meyer lemon, grapefruit and honeysuckle, and notes of pear, orange blossom and apricot.

If you think you’re catching even the slightest scent of gasoline, you’re not crazy: the distinctive smell comes from pulling leaves early in the season, a tactic used to expose grapes to UV rays and create compounds that become aromatic after a year in the bottle. It’s a great deal under $ 20.

Ridgecrest 2018 Vineyards RR Riesling, $ 35Long sunny days and perfectly cool, crisp nights at the end of the 2018 ripening season allowed Ridgecrest to reap the rewards for their RR Riesling at the perfect intersection of succulent sweetness and crisp acidity. Aromas of orange blossom and river rock lead to a palate of stone fruit, woody herbs and summer wildflowers with crunchy minerality.

“The residual sugar is practically nothing, but the weight of the wine persists, requiring a slight freshness and your favorite dish for riesling lovers,” explains the winemaker. “Yellow curry rolls and salad, do you like?”

Brooks 2016 Extended Sparkling Riesling Draw, $ 55

Warning: dry and sparkling wine lovers: this crispy beauty from Brooks in Amity, Oregon is something special. Bright, lemony and dry, it spends 44 months in a draw to develop its delicate aromas of quince and kumquat, and a sweet-tangy palate of lemon curd, clementine and sea salt.

Impressive, Brooks is the only winery in the world that can boast of having the conscientious trio of being B Corporation Certified, 1% For the Planet Member, and Demeter Biodynamic Certified.

Trisaetum 2018 Ribbon Ridge Estate Dry Riesling, $ 32

Trisaetum regularly scores 90 points Passionate about wine for its line of Rieslings, and this dry style is a prime example of why. Dry-raised on 17 acres of high-quartz sedimentary sandstone soil in the Ribbon Ridge AVA, this is a surprisingly complex and concentrated wine with green apple and pear on the nose, hints of lychee and zest of lemon, balanced acidity and minerality, and a lush, velvety texture.

Anne Amie Vineyards 2017 Estate Dry Riesling, $ 20

This Anne Amie Estate Riesling in Carlton was harvested from vines dating back to 1979. This pure expression of the Riesling grape is scented with lemon rind, ripe pineapple and that signature essence scent, with hints subtle quince and lime, and a long, dry finish.

Bryn Mawr Vineyards 2018 Estate Riesling, $ 25

“Riesling is extremely receptive to its growing location and clearly shows the characteristics in which it is grown – some might say it even more than Pinot Noir (gasp!),” Says Rachel Rose, winemaker at Bryn Mawr winery ( a Welsh name which roughly translates to “high hill”).

Only 150 cases of this elegant Riesling were produced from a rocky, windy slope in Bryn Mawr’s Eola-Amity Hills Vineyard. Due to high natural acidity balanced with residual sugar, the 2018 vintage is a slightly sweeter style than previous vintages. Aromas of orange blossom and honey lead to a mid-palate with notable salinity.

A to Z Wineworks 2020 Oregon Riesling, $ 16

Pair this affordable wine with spicy and savory dishes from around the world (think complex Indian curries, chili ceviche, or Chinese takeout laden with fiery Sichuan peppercorns).

Deliciously aromatic with tropical fruits and citrus fruits like lychee, tangerine and pineapple, this off-dry Riesling has a juicy palate and balanced acidity. The beautiful bottle also makes it a great choice for a picnic or backyard barbecue.

Amity Vineyards 2013 Select Cluster Riesling, $ 35

Talk about terroir: in 1971, Amity Vineyards was the first vineyard to be planted in the hills of Eola-Amity. Over the next fifty years, the roots penetrated deeper and deeper into the ancient soils of volcanic and marine sediments to bring their distinctive characteristics through the vines and into the fruit.

Aged in bottle for six years, accompany this dessert wine with pies and pies made from peaches, plums or other stone fruits.

Methven Family Vineyards 2019 Dry Riesling, $ 24

Methven Estate Riesling is made from native fermentations and stainless steel and neutral casks in their Dayton vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA.

Stone fruits and warm baking spice notes perfume the nose, with lovely minerality and crisp acidity.

Montinore 2019 Riesling almost dry, $ 18

This “Almost Dry” Riesling from the Tualatin Hills AVA (the northernmost region of the Willamette Valley) has aromas of summer melon and green apple and a lively palate of burnt grapefruit and kiwi.

Clean and crunchy with a nice sweetness, it goes wonderfully with raw and cooked shellfish, grilled chicken or pork.

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2019 Riesling, $ 14

The aromas of juicy summer peach, ripe pineapple and fragrant honeysuckle open this semi-sweet style of Riesling from Willamette Valley Vineyards.

Notes of honeydew melon and lychee make this the perfect aperitif to sip alongside semi-soft cheeses, prosciutto or salted hazelnuts.

Argyle 2019 Nuthouse Riesling, $ 30

Founded in 1987, Argyle, Oregon’s sparkling wine icon, owns a real estate program that spans over 400 acres and three different Willamette Valley AVAs. Their fresh and energetic Nuthouse Riesling comes from the Lone Star Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills.

Directly pressed and aged in 80% stainless steel and 20% neutral wood barrels, with flavors and aromas of white flowers, crunchy green apples, kumquats and lemon curd.

Penner-Ash 2018 Old Vine Riesling, $ 35

Grapes picked from Hyland Vineyard, one of Oregon’s largest and oldest wineries, include this Old Vine Riesling from Penner-Ash. The high altitude of the isolated vineyard and its location at the foot of the hills of the Coast Range mean cool temperatures in summer and warm temperatures in winter, making it ideal for growing Riesling.

With aromas of apricots, lemon zest and petroleum and a grapefruit and honey palate, it has little residual sugar and great minerality.

Lady Hill Winery 2018 Riesling, $ 25Refreshing, well-balanced and beautifully textured, Lady Hill’s Riesling is grown on Oregon’s historic Oregon Champoeg Vineyard, which was first planted by settlers in 1858.

The 22 terraced hectares planted in 1974 only produce a few clusters per plant, resulting in a concentrated off-dry wine with aromas of nectarines and delicate flowers and a mouthful of honeycomb and peaches.

For more information on the 65 riesling producers in Willamette Valley, visit Willamette Valley Wine.

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