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Dry Rieslings Have No Monopoly on Character
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Apr 21, 2009
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Poet's Leap, Columbia Valley (Washington) Riesling, 2007 ($20):  Of all the styles of Riesling that exist, the dry style is my favorite.  But sometimes when I taste an off-dry Riesling, I can hear in my head (like the voice of conscience) my German-wine-loving friend who maintains that dry Rieslings can be austere and that the best German Rieslings have some residual sugar to balance their refreshingly high acidity.  Tasting this Riesling, I think that he has a point.

Poet's Leap Riesling is actually not German but it is the work of a German winemaker, Armin Diel of Schlossgut Diel in Germany's Nahe region.  The wine is from Long Shadows Vintners, which is a group of wineries and vineyards in Washington's Columbia Valley founded by Allen Shoup, a Washington wine pioneer, in partnership with respected winemakers from other parts of the world.

One of the best words to describe this wine is 'substance.'  It is fairly weighty for a Riesling, with a good concentration of fruity and minerally flavors, and it even gives the impression of a wee bit of phenolic character, which in this case is not from oak and not from skin contact (the grapes were whole-cluster pressed and the wine fermented in stainless steel) but could come from the wine's extract.  These characteristics add up to a solid Riesling that commands respect.

But it is not dry.  To me it tastes medium dry and in fact, with 12.8 grams per liter of residual sugar and 7.3 gram of acidity, it falls into the Medium-Dry category on the International Riesling Foundation's new scale of Riesling taste profiles.  To dry Riesling stalwarts who equate sweetness with lack of character, this wine forces a reset of assumptions.  Yes, it has enough sweetness and flavor to appeal to the uninitiated and yes, it is a serious white wine.

Apart from being medium dry and substantial, the wine has intense, penetrating aromas of lemon and peach and a steely minerality.  In the mouth it suggests ripe apple, lemon zest, apricot, orange -- vivid, juicy fruit flavors -- with a mineral undertone.  The flavors carry fairly long across the palate.  The acidity is barely noticeable because of the wine's sugar-acid balance, but a tiny amount of carbon dioxide energizes the taste.

This wine comes from grapes grown in several different parts of the huge Columbia Valley; the two main sources are vineyards in Yakima Valley and the 35-year-old Dionysus Vineyard farther east, complemented by grapes from the Horse Heaven Hills and the Wahluke Slope.  According to the winery, these vineyards contribute, respectively, citrus and flint; honey, apple and stone fruit character; complexity and minerality; and white peach and dried apricot.  This 2007 is the finest vintage of this wine that I have tasted.

A substantial, fruity, flavorful, well-balanced Riesling such as this can pair with a wide range of foods, from fish to poultry and pork, made in straightforward, spicy or fruity preparations.  Seafood, salads, cold cuts, ham, soft cheeses -- you name it.

90 Points