So let’s talk about Riesling. Almost everyone has heard of this wine…and if you haven’t, you must be living under a rock. It’s wildly popular and has emerged as the most collectible wine among top connoisseurs and sommeliers alike.
Riesling is also the perfect starter wine for newbies to the wine world. When I do a tasting with a self-professed beer drinker who insists he doesn’t like wine (who was usually dragged along by his girlfriend/wife to wine tastings), I have him try a Riesling. It has a bright citrusy zing that appeals to beer drinkers. Nine times out of 10 they like it, or are at least willing to drink it.
I’ve tried multiple Rieslings from all over the world, but as the focus of this blog is on East Coast wine, I’ll try to keep my reviews to that arena (although I may digress at times…who doesn’t?). Riesling grapes prefer a colder climate which makes it perfect for the East Coast. Rieslings can run the gamut of dry to semi-sweet to dessert wine. It’s very versatile and produces some of the most elegant wines in the world. My wife is German and grew up with Spätlese and Auslese Rieslings from Germany. Typically these are semi-sweet and sweet, fruity Rieslings. I tend to gravitate towards the drier end of Rieslings (it’s rare I’ll drink a “sweet, sugary wine”), but I must admit, I’ll imbibe with almost any type of Riesling because of the aromatic and lush characteristics of the grape. (Want to learn more about the characteristics of the Riesling grape, visit Wine Folly.)
Of course I’ll seem biased by mentioning Blue Mountain Vineyards 2014 Dry Riesling since I work for the vineyard, located in New Tripoli, Pennsylvania, but as I said, I’ve tried Rieslings from all over the world and hands down, this is one of the best dry Rieslings I’ve ever had. The residual sugar is only .2%. It’s fruit forward with bursts of citusy lemon followed by tangy orange peel. There’s also a hint of nectarine on the nose and just enough honey smoothness on the end to give it a silky smooth finish. Clean, crisp, refreshing, and has that zing like a citrusy, hoppy beer (hence why it appeals to beer drinkers). The 2014 vintage won a silver medal at the 2015 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in February which is not an easy feat! Blue Mountain Vineyard’s goal is to consistently produce the best dry Rieslings in America. They’ve won numerous awards for various vintages of their Riesling (they only produce a dry Riesling).
Speaking of the Finger Lakes, my second choice for a Riesling is from McGregor Vineyard on Keuka Lake in the Finger Lakes region in New York. The Finger Lakes is well-known for their Riesling. It grows phenomenally because of their cool climate. The McGregor family established their winery in 1980 and began producing Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir that year. Since its inception McGregor Winery has followed the European philosophy of winemaking. Each year’s production of estate bottled wines is a reflection of the “voice of the grapes”, the skill of the vineyard manager and the art of the winemaker. I bought a bottle of their 2012 Semi-Dry Riesling with 1.5% residual sugar (no longer available, but they have a 2013 vintage now). This Riesling has rich notes of lush peach, hints of apricot, and a touch of pineapple on the clean, smooth finish. I fell in love with this winery because of their Black Russian Red wine (more on that later), but their Riesling is divine.
Riesling is hands-down the most food-friendly wine in the world. It’s balance of intense acidity, minerality, and fruit makes it an especially delicious match for spicy foods and the mix of ethnic flavors in Asian food (Thai, Chinese, Japenese, Indian, and Vietnamese). It’s my go-to when I head to the local BYOB Bamboo restaurant for sushi.
If you’re looking for a white wine to try, start with Riesling. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.