Riesling is not only the world’s most noble white wine grape but also the most versatile. If you’re like many wine drinkers, you immediately think “sweet” when the varietal is mentioned. That’s why the International Riesling Foundation and Summer of Riesling creator Paul Grieco are striving to educate the public that it can be made in all styles from very dry to super sweet.
This year’s Summer of Riesling began on June 21 and stretches to September 22. Participating wine bars and restaurants are featuring at least three Rieslings by the glass, along with bottles, all selected to showcase this noble grape. During the month of July, Summer of Riesling specifically highlights German wines since 60% of the world’s Riesling vineyards are planted to Germany.
Creator Paul Grieco, the self-proclaimed Riesling Overlord, started the Summer of Riesling in New York City back in 2008 at the Terroir Wine Bar. By limiting their white wine glass pours to only Rieslings, his customers were practically forced to experience a taste of the noble grape. Many then learned that Riesling grapes can be made into wines that run the gamut from sweet to very dry. With much success, just two summers later 14 wine bars joined to form a Riesling wine bar crawl. The following year the International Riesling Foundation got involved, increasing visibility of the event and this year marks the first summer it is celebrated on an international level.
With so many ways to make Riesling, the International Riesling Foundation developed a scale to measure wines and encourages wineries to use it. That way the wine drinking public has an indication of the style in which the Riesling is made. Usually on the back label, this scale, tells the buyer what to expect of the Riesling, whether it will be sweet, medium sweet, medium dry or dry.
Said Janie Brooks Heuck, an International Riesling Foundation board member:
“The International Riesling Foundation (IRF) was created to help consumers better appreciate the many virtues of Riesling; in particular it’s versatility and ability to reflect terroir. The IRF’s first accomplishment was the development of a scale that helps consumers understand the style of Riesling in a bottle ranging from dry to sweet. This scale is currently on 30 million Riesling bottles in the US. It’s second and most recent accomplishment was funding the Summer of Riesling program created by Paul Grieco, proprietor of Hearth Restaurant and Terroir Wine Bar in NYC. The Summer of Riesling has been instrumental in getting consumers to experience Rieslings in over 500 restaurants throughout the country. People are recognizing that the perfect match for the creative and exploding food scene is Riesling!”
Riesling grapevines thrive in cooler environments and tend to reflect the terroir of the vineyard much more than most other grapes. The Willamette Valley climate is perfect for growing Riesling grapes. Three decades ago, Riesling wines made up 23% of the state’s production but now only 800 acres are planted. Those grape growers and wineries are producing some highly acclaimed Rieslings and wine drinkers in Portland have easy access to these locally made wines.
For those new to Rieslings, petrol is a common characteristic found in this varietal. The International Riesling Foundation notes that petrol is likely caused by the compound trimethyl-dihydro-naphthalene, nicknamed TDN. But not everyone enjoys petrol in Riesling. Interestingly, Germans consider it a flaw and have chosen to remove petrol from their wine aroma wheel. In Oregon, many wine drinkers want and expect a hint of petrol aroma and flavor in their Rieslings so please don’t knock it until you’ve tried one or two or three before making up your mind.
2010 Reserve Dry Riesling
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Color: Pale, translucent yellow color.
Aromas: Asian pear, petrol, lime peel, faint hint of honey, fresh rain.
Flavors: Key lime, lemon tart, grapefruit, flint, subtle hints of peach & petrol.
Overall: A full mouth feel with bright acidity and a crisp finish.
2010 Corral Creek Riesling
Chehalem Mountains, Oregon
Color: Pale yellow color.
Aromas: Lemon zest, petrol, honey, kiss of oxidation.
Flavors: Meyer lemon, lychee, lemon tarts, petrol, mineral notes with a salty finish.
Overall: A full mouth feel with with a hint of sweetness balanced by an edge of acidity.
2009 Ara Riesling
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Color: Pale straw yellow color.
Aromas: Green apple, petrol, lemon tarts, fresh rain, salty sea air.
Flavors: Lemon curd, grapefruit, petrol, honey, green apple, lemon drop candy.
Overall: Nice, brisk acidity.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Color: Translucent pale sunshine color.
Aromas: Lime, unripe pear, petrol, hint of honey, grapefruit, passionfruit, kiss of oxidation.
Flavors: Lime, mineral notes, canned pineapple, honey, lemon tarts, grapefruit.
Overall: Crisp and bright but less acidity than the Brooks Ara Riesling.
106 South Center Street
Newberg, OR 97132
Open daily 11am-5pm
2011 SEXT Riesling $24
2010 Reserve Dry Riesling $24
2010 Corral Creek Vineyards Riesling $24
9360 SE Eola Hills Road
Amity, OR 97101
Open Tuesday- Sunday 11am-5pm
2011 Bois Joli Riesling $22
2011 Sweet P Riesling $22
2009 Willamette Valley Riesling $18
2009 Ara Riesling $25
31 Days of German Riesling