Whether by the glass or the pool, with food or without, riesling remains the wine I have a hard time saying no to.
For one, riesling has so many expressions that one could hardly tire of it. More so than many grapes, riesling soaks up the terroir, the uniqueness of where and how it is grown, and expresses it in the finished wine. The fact the riesling has a home in so many places — America’s West and East coasts, Australia, France and Germany — means consumers have many avenues for exploration.
You would be hard pressed to find a more versatile grape, with riesling making as good a dry wine as an off-dry or semi-dry wine. Then you also have the super-sweet late harvest or ice wines and even sparkling wines made with riesling. When slowly ripened in cool growing conditions, riesling develops a zingy acidity that makes it a favorite food-pairing wine, which should be a fixture of any wine list.
Riesling from the Clare Valley of Australia has a signature style that tastes like someone added a spritz of lime. Pikes 2019 Clare Valley Hills and Valley Riesling smells of mineral and apricot with off-dry character of lime, passion fruit and herbs. ♦♦♦♦
Nik Weis St. Urbans-Hof 2018 Mosel Riesling smells of pear and apricot with medium sweetness and has a generous character of ripe peach, hazelnut, white tea and honey. $20. ♦♦♦♦ 1/2
Oregon likes to keep its production Burgundian, pairing its pinot noir with chardonnay. But when Oregon producers extend with other whites, such as pinot gris or riesling, the results often are fantastic.
Firesteed 2019 Willamette Valley Riesling is off-dry with flavors of ripe apple and apricot, a medium weight and a light finish. $14. ♦♦♦♦
Of course, the best riesling regions in the United States are not necessarily from California but rather New York, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Don’t hesitate to buy a local riesling at your preferred sweetness level.
GRADE: Exceptional ♦♦♦♦♦, Above average ♦♦♦♦, Good ♦♦♦, Below average ♦♦, Poor ♦