I considered myself extremely lucky when I received a phone call on Sunday afternoon July 11th asking whether I’d like to cover the Riesling Rendezvous Grand Tasting for Bean. Of course I would! The weather was sunny and in the 70s, perfect for drinking one of the most refreshing wine varietals. The event, hosted by Chateau Ste. Michelle winery and Dr. Loosen estate of Germany is a celebration of Riesling from around the world. The Grand Tasting was part of a three day celebration offering a variety of tastings and seminars dedicated to Riesling.
We arrived at Chateau Ste. Michelle to see canopies grouped together on the grounds, under which tables were set up and wine industry folk were armed and ready to pour their Rieslings. Alsace over here, Germany over there, Washington state next to Michigan. That’s right, you heard me – Michigan. Pouring Riesling….from Michigan! In all, nearly 70 wineries from seven countries and six U.S. states showed up to pour their Rieslings to the guests at the Grand Tasting.
Why Riesling? After all, we have to admit it developed a reputation as a cheap, sweet wine when the market was flooded with inexpensive Riesling in the 1970s and 1980s. Have you tried Riesling lately, though? Today, this white wine is made in a wide array of styles from bone dry to decadently sweet. Consumers have rediscovered Riesling and its great versatility with food. I believe we can say the quality of Riesling being made from all over the world is higher than ever.
Fun facts about Washington state’s history with Riesling:
- In 1974, at a noted blind tasting of Rieslings in Los Angeles, Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 1972 Johannisberg Riesling won top honors, putting Washington State on the world wine map. Although Ste. Michelle Johannisburg Riesling was the least expensive wine in the tasting, it beat out German, Australian and California Rieslings.
- According to the USDA, Washington State had only 2,000 acres of white Riesling grapes planted in 1993 versus 4,404 acres in 2006. In 2008, Washington State produced 28,500 tons of white Riesling grapes.
- Chateau Ste. Michelle and Dr. Loosen began a partnership in 1999, developing Eroica Riesling with grapes from Washington state and inspiration from old world philosophies.
Wines we tasted from Washington producers at Riesling Rendezvous:
- 2008 Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen Riesling “Eroica” a wine we always stock at home to pair with Asian food, $24.99
- 2008 Columbia Winery Cellarmaster’s Riesling, refreshing apple, $12
- 2009 Efestè Evergreen Riesling notes of minerality, melon, and citrus, $16
- 2008 Mercer Estates citrus on the palate, $13.99
- 2009 Pacific Rim made in an off dry/medium dry style with stone fruit on the palate, $10
- 2009 Snoqualmie Naked Riesling made with certified organically grown grapes, and very refreshing, $11.99
Even though Pacific Rim wasn’t pouring their White Flowers Sparkling Riesling at the event, I encourage you to give it a try. It was quite the topic of conversation at a recent dinner party with the crew from Washington State Wine and Beer.
For wines outside of Washington, check Pacific Rim’s highlights from the event.
If it has been a while since you gave Riesling a chance, maybe these price points will convince you to try it again. Generally lighter bodied and lower in alcohol than other varieties, sometimes with a little residual sugar in it, Riesling is a great summer sipper. If you taste a Riesling you don’t care for on its own, pair it with food. Sometimes that makes a big difference. Wondering what food to serve with Riesling? I’ve got that covered on my blog, deVine Table.