Wine Tasting Dinner: Washington Riesling



By Kori ~ January 20th, 2010.

Washington RieslingWashington is the largest Riesling producing state in the United States. And, Washington State’s own Chateau Ste. Michelle is the largest Riesling producer in the world. Since Riesling has become known as Washington State’s signature white variety, I have been looking forward to having a wine tasting dinner featuring Washington Riesling for some time.

Fortunately, this was a fabulous tasting and lived up to my expectations. All six wines were very good and received a Quality rating of 3.5 stars (out of 5) or higher. In addition, all six received a QPR rating of 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5) or higher.

The winner, the 2008 Eroica Riesling, is exceptional. Eroica is a joint venture between Chateau Ste. Michelle of Washington State and Dr. Loosen of Germany. Winemakers Bob Bertheau and Ernst Loosen work together every step of the way to produce a world-class Riesling from Washington State grapes. The partnership launched in 1999, and the 2008 vintage is Eroica’s 10th vintage. Eroica is named for Beethoven’s Third Symphony.

One common misconception about Riesling is that it is always a sweet wine. While some Rieslings are in fact sweet, others are not. All six of the wines in this tasting are considered off-dry. I have included the Residual Sugar percentages in my tasting notes below.

Washington Riesling paired with seared scallops with crispy leeks, rice au gratin, and braised kaleOne of the great things about Riesling is its versatility. Rieslings are excellent sipping wines but are also fabulous food wines. All of these Washington Rieslings paired extremely well with Mom’s dinner of curried corn soup, arugula peach salad, seared scallops with crispy leeks, rice au gratin, braised kale, and cider-poached apples with crème fraîche and toasted pecans for dessert. This was one of the absolute best food/wine pairings I’ve ever had!

If you don’t see your favorite Washington Riesling on this list, let us know in the comments. If we get enough recommendations, we just might be persuaded to have another Washington Riesling tasting dinner later this year.

From 1st to last in the group consensus rankings:

2008 Eroica Riesling [Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen] (Columbia Valley, Washington): Pale, almost watery, straw yellow in color. Very aromatic with gorgeous citrus, particularly lemon, aromas. Lemon, lime, lemon zest flavors come through on the palate with some river stones on the back end. Off-dry, light-bodied and very crisp with a long finish. Well-balanced and complex. Excellent with food. Residual Sugar: 1.77%
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $21; Available elsewhere, $12 to $25

2008 Trust Cellars Riesling (Columbia Valley, Washington): Pale, almost watery, straw yellow in color. Floral aromas dominate the nose; apricot, peach, and pear flavors come through on the palate. Off-dry, light-bodied and crisp with a long finish. Well-balanced and smooth. Residual Sugar: 2%
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Full Pull Wines (Seattle, Washington), $14

2008 Poet’s Leap Riesling [Long Shadows] (Columbia Valley, Washington): Pale, straw yellow with green tinges. Nose is a bit tight at first but as it opens up, mineral, petrol, and hay aromas come through. Flavors of tropical fruit and apricot. Off-dry, light-bodied, and lively acidity with a long finish. Good acidity comes out with the food. Residual Sugar: 1.43%
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Cellar 46 (Seattle, Washington), $19; Available elsewhere, $16 to $24

2008 Nefarious Cellars Riesling (Columbia Valley, Washington): Pale, straw yellow. Takes a while for the aromas to open up. Citrus, particularly lime, flavors come through on the palate. Off-dry and light-bodied with a long finish. Residual Sugar: 1.6%
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Full Pull Wines (Seattle, Washington), $16

2008 Cave B Estate Winery Riesling (Columbia Valley, Washington): Pale, straw yellow with green tinges. Petrol and mineral aromas on the nose; petrol, citrus, and hay on the palate. Off-dry and light-bodied with a long finish. More viscous than the others. Residual Sugar: 2%
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $18

2008 Columbia Crest Two Vines Riesling (Washington State): Pale, almost watery, straw yellow in color. Very aromatic with lime and floral aromas. Pear and honey flavors. Off-dry and light-bodied with a long finish. A bit plain at first, greatly improves with food. Residual Sugar: 3.35%
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $8; Available elsewhere, $7 to $10


Filed under: American Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Riesling, Washington State Wine, White Wine, Wine Tasting Dinners, Wines Under $10, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. @nectarwine | January 20th, 2010 at 7:43 am

    My love of Riesling has grown over the last few years. I am beginning to appreciate its versatility and the variance between regions!

    Great work. Eating dinner at your place must be a challenge with all the wine glasses on the table ;)

    Josh

  2. Paul Zitarelli | January 20th, 2010 at 8:43 am

    Kori – I’m not surprised that this was one of the best food/wine pairings you have experienced. Is there a more versatile, food-friendly grape out there?

    Very pleased to see that the Trust and Nefarious bottles showed well, especially among such a standout lineup.

  3. Chris | January 20th, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Nice work, Peeps. What’s interesting to me is that this line up represents a cross section of the highest rated Washington Rieslings, Eroica, Poet’s Leap, a few boutiques, Nefarious, Cave B and Trust, and a grocery shelf wine, the Columbia Crest 2 vines. Quality is universally consistent at all tiers, and the pricing is well within anyone’s budget, even the “high-end” stuff.

    Not to denigrate, but to compare, I just got back from Oregon where I saw several Rieslings priced at $28 and, IMO, nowhere near the quality of the lowest priced CSM or CC Washington Rieslings.

  4. @crayellecellars | January 20th, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    I do think the word is out about WA Riesling. I love Riesling for its ability to pair with a variety of foods and the diversity of styles produced. The one I make for Crayelle Cellars is a different then the ones you tasted. It’s fermented completely dry. The challenge for this style is vineyard management and picking time. Keep spreading the word on Riesling!

  5. Joanne | January 20th, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Wedge Mountain in Peshastin makes an excellent, truly dry Riesling..
    Crayelle’s is utterly delicious. Tsillan Cellars in Chelan is also high quality.
    Karma in Chelan has a fine dry Gewurz which is food-friendly in the same way as the Rieslings.
    These are my go-to wines when in doubt. It might be safe to say, “When it doubt, choose Dry Riesling.

  6. Kim Bryan | January 21st, 2010 at 8:06 am

    What a wonderful wine tasting! Thank you for including Cave B in your line up, and for your astute tasting notes. Our Riesling is the work of our “new” winemaker, Freddy Arredondo, who took over as head winemaker in Nov. 2007. We love your “bang for your buck” aspect…quality need not be priced out of doability…thank you, and looking forward to reading about your next paired tasting!

  7. Kori | January 21st, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Josh,
    We do end up with a very full table with all the wine glasses during these tasting dinners. Check out a picture of the complete setup on our Tasting Dinners page: http://winepeeps.com/dinner-tastings/.

    Paul,
    You are exactly right, Riesling is extremely versatile and food-friendly. But I do have to give Mom credit for out-doing herself on the meal this time. It was amazing!

    Chris,
    I’m glad you noticed that we tried to include a good cross-section in this tasting. It’s always interesting to see what happens when you have blind tastings like these.

    Crayelle Cellars,
    Yes, the word is out on Washington Riesling. I am intrigued by your completely dry Riesling and would welcome the opportunity to try it.

    Joanne,
    Thanks so much for sharing your favorite Washington Rieslings. Some we’ve had; some we haven’t. We’ll definitely put them on our list to try.

    Kim,
    Glad to hear you like our QPR rating; it is an important part of what we do. Keep up the good work at Cave B!

    Cheers!

  8. Jared | January 22nd, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Wine Peeps,
    Thanks for posting the residual sugar percentages with your notes. For someone who is a bigger fan of dry riesling than off-dry, it is a great help. Sounds like it was damn fine evening! I’ve probably gone through two cases of the Chateau Ste. Michelle 2007 Dry Riesling in the last six months. Hard to beat for $6.00. Keep up the fantastic work!

  9. Kori | January 24th, 2010 at 6:48 am

    Jared,
    Glad you found the RS percentages helpful. I don’t think I’ve had the CSM Dry Riesling recently; I’ll have to check it out. Cheers!

  10. Sean O'Connor | January 25th, 2010 at 10:59 am

    we did a similiar tasting a couple weeks ago, with two Washington Reislings, one Alsatian Reisling and one German Reisling.
    All were delicious, and very unique. Charles Smith’s Kung Fu Girl was the favorite of the group.

  11. Kori | January 26th, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Sean,
    Your tasting sounded great too. It’s always interesting to compare wines from different regions. Thanks for sharing your favorite. It’s been a while since I’ve had Kung Fu Girl. I’ll be sure to try it again. Cheers!

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