Friday, July 4, 2014

Stuart Pigott’s Favorite American Rieslings, US

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Stuart Pigott Tasting Rieslings

In his new book “Best White Wine on Earth: The Riesling Story” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) Stuart Pigott, the world’s leading Riesling expert, who used to be based in Germany and now divides his time between New York City and Berlin, provides us with a list of his top 5 US Rieslings.

Riesling in the World

There are about 47000 hectares planted with Riesling worldwide. Germany – with 22500 hectares – accounts for about half of the total. The second and third largest Riesling producer are the US with 4800 hectares and Australia with 4100 hectares. But this is only about 1/10 of the total. Alsace follows with 3500 hectares. Alsace, Ukraine and Austria follow with 3500 hectares, 2700 hectares and 1900 hectares, respectively.

Overall, Riesling is really a niche wine, accounting for less than 1 percent of total wine production in the world - but a very special niche wine. In terms of quality wines, Riesling is usually included in the top three white wine varieties, with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Riesling is highly terroir-expressive, meaning that the character of Riesling wines is clearly influenced by the wine’s place of origin.

Picture: Stuart Pigott and Annette Schiller, ombiasyPR and WineTours, at the 2014 International Riesling Symposium, Germany, see: The 2nd International Riesling Symposium in the Rheingau, Germany

Riesling in the US

Over the last 2 decades, the US has become the second largest Riesling producer in the world. The main Riesling regions of the US are Washington State and the Finger Lakes Region in Upstate New York. Stuart Pigott reports in his new book that in 1999, Washington State’s vineyards included 1900 acres of Riesling and 6100 acres of Chardonnay. By 2011, Riesling there had increased to 6320 acres, while Chardonnay had dipped slightly mid-decade before recovering to 7654 acres. “Riesling isn’t always sweet, in fact it often tastes drier than Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or Pinot Grigio,” he writes. “However, even when it’s sweet, it’s a great food wine that can’t wait to get onto your dinner table and into your picnic basket.”

Stuart Pigott’s 5 Favorite US Rieslings

Here are five American Rieslings that Stuart Pigott finds remarkable, with his descriptions. I added a few photos from my collection.

Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes, New York)

Riesling would never have become the most important grape variety in New York state (ahead of Merlot!) if Dr. Konstantin Frank hadn't planted the first vines of this grape on the Eastern Seaboard back in 1958. From those and other old vines on the western shore of Keuka Lake, his grandson Frederic Frank makes this sleek wine with lemon and floral aromas. The 2012 (current vintage) has a pronounced mineral character and great balance. About $15.

Smith Madrone Vineyards and Winery Dry Riesling (Napa Valley)

Brothers Stuart Smith (vineyard manager) and Charles Smith (winemaker) have been making stunning dry Riesling on Spring Mountain in Napa Valley for more than 30 years. Their wine has intense aromas of melon, lime and dried flowers. The bright and "light" style is deceptive, though, for this is a wine that can age for more than a decade if properly cellared. This is an almost unknown masterpiece that proves Riesling can achieve greatness in Napa. About $25.

Navarro Vineyards Dry Riesling (Anderson Valley)

The soon-to-be released 2012 vintage from this winery in Mendocino County is one of the best dry Riesling ever made in California. Ted Bennett and Deborah Cahn have been perfecting the making of dry aromatic whites wines in this remote region for 40 years. The bouquet of white peach and apple blossom leaps out of the glass, and the wine combines ripe fruit with great elegance. Look out for equally elegant sweet Rieslings from this producer too. About $18.

Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen "Eroica" (Columbia Valley, Washington State)

This medium-dry German-American joint-venture wine first produced in 1999 was the dynamo of the modern American Riesling revolution, and it is still the benchmark against which new wines are most often judged. An intense white peach aroma and a racy-spritzy, just off-dry style are the hallmarks of this new classic. You don't need the latest vintage either. The 2011 (very sleek and mineral) and 2012 (more succulent, but still very crisp) are also seriously refreshing. About $15.

Pictures: Christian Schiller, Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen, and Chateau Ste. Michelle CEO Ted Baseler at the Farewell Reception of the 2013 Riesling Rendezvous in Seattle, Washington State

See also:
The World of Riesling in Seattle - Fourth Riesling Rendezvous in Washington State, USA

Chateau Grand Traverse "Whole Cluster" (Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan)

This might seem to be the last place to look for remarkable Rieslings, but since 1998 Sean O'Keefe has pushed the development of this medium-dry wine ahead at a pace not seen in America since the Apollo space program of the 1960s. The fennel and anise notes add complexity to the apple and pear fruit (in warm years, like 2012, there are also some exotic fruits). If you wonder what the mineral taste in wine really is, then try this and look out for the salty note in the aftertaste. About $15.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and John O'Keefe, Chateau Grand Traverse, at the 2014 International Riesling Symposium, Germany

schiller-wine: Related Postings

3 Wine Tours by ombiasy Coming up in 2014: Germany-North, Germany-South and Bordeaux

New Developments in German Wine - Annette Schiller at the German Wine Society in Philadelphia, USA 

The 2nd International Riesling Symposium in the Rheingau, Germany

1st International Riesling Symposium, Rheingau, Germany

Aging Potential of Riesling – A Wine Tasting at the 1st International Riesling Symposium in Germany Led by Jancis Robinson

The World of Riesling in Seattle - Fourth Riesling Rendezvous in Washington State, USA

Visiting Wilhelm Weil at his Weingut Robert Weil in Kiedrich, Germany

When Americans Drink German Wine - What They Choose

German Wine Basics: Sugar in the Grape - Alcohol and Sweetness in the Wine

Riesling, Pinot Noir and Indian Cuisine: A tête-à-tête Dinner with Winemaker Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen, at Rasika in Washington DC, USA

Top 10 Riesling Producers in the World – Snooth 2012

Steffen Christmann (Weingut A. Christmann) and Wilhelm Weil (Weingut Robert Weil) Presented the New Wine Classification of the VDP, Germany

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