Available in Virginia at the Apple House in Linden, Market Street Wine shop in Charlottesville, Timeless Wines in Winchester, Vino Solo at Washington Dulles International Airport. Laser-sharp acidity makes you sit up and take notice at the first sip of this energetic wine, from one of Washington state’s best sites for Riesling.
After that initial jab of acidity, the wine expands to feature lush apricot and peach flavors. It hails from Evergreen Vineyard and is skillfully made by Charles Smith, one of Washington state’s most iconoclastic winemakers.
Country Vintner: Available in the District at Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, DE Vines, Rodman’s, Whole Foods Market locations at P Street and Glover Park. Michelle’s basic line of Rieslings, all of which are excellent values and cover the range from dry to sweet.
The label was originally founded by Bonny Down eminence Gris Randall Graham and was recently sold to Bani Vintners. Country Vintner: Available in the District at Cairo Wine & Liquor, D’Vines; on the list at Café of India.
Available in Virginia at most Total Wine & More locations; on the list at Chadwick’s of Alexandria, Sea Pearl in Fairfax. Michelle’s Rieslings, which range from dry to sweet, are widely available in area supermarkets and wine stores.
We made sure to include Riesling options that won’t leave you broke but will impress your guests or friends at the dinner party nonetheless. Before we get into our top Riesling picks for the year, we wanted to give you some insight into why and how we chose the wines that we did.
Some will say yes, but we argue that many of our readers are looking for discount wine options that will still blow the socks off of your dinner guests. We wanted to make a list that would apply to beginners just as much as they would to seasoned Riesling drinkers.
With that in mind, we neglected some of the more exclusive and difficult to find Riesling options for the purposes of our review. This Riesling is a bit on the drier side, but won’t disappoint too heavily for those who prefer a sweeter wine.
You can buy this one for around $20 as well, and enjoy a crisp Riesling with green apple and citrus aromas. It’s sweeter than some other options we’ve included and provides citrus and stone aromas.
The Château Ste Michelle Riesling is another widely-available option that you can regularly find at your local Trader Joe’s. You’ll get notes of peach and lime, along with moderate acidity that helps to cut some sweetness of the Riesling.
The Kung Fu Girl Riesling out of Washington State might not come with a name that screams high-class wine, but the flavor profile certainly jumps off of the page. The 2013 Carl Graph Preacher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese is another German wine that comes in at under $20 that can wow your dinner party.
The acidity helps balance things a bit here, but it’s still something that leans toward the much sweeter end of the spectrum. On the other hand, there are a lot of subtleties that take a more experienced nose and palate to find.
Ahead, we’ll give you some deeper information on some of the most popular regions in the world that are known for producing high-quality Riesling. Germany is the birthplace of Riesling wine, and where much of the world’s production takes place today.
It’s far from the only country that grows Riesling grapes, but it’s the hallmark of what people expect when they pick up a bottle. There are several sub-styles of German Rieslings out there, so it’s hard to pin down exactly what you can expect just because the bottle is from Germany.
Most of the other areas of the country are a bit warmer on average, which translates to a richer Riesling than those from Model. Since Germany produces multiple different subtypes, some will be sweeter and lighter, and others will be dryer and fuller.
France is another country that has a major hand in the Riesling market, and that’s largely due to the Alsace region. Alsace is right on the border of Germany and France, and they have a storied history of producing wine that’s classically German.
They have strong hints of citrus flavors and generality, especially the ice varieties coming out of New York. There are thousands of acres dedicated to Riesling in Washington State alone, which is one of the reasons it leads the country in the production of the wine.
The grapes that go into the wine prefer cooler climates and much of Australia runs a bit warmer than you might expect. Still, the country has been producing the wine for over 150 years at this point, and offer some great options if you know where to look.
South Australia has vineyards that are high above sea level, which is a place where Riesling grapes feel right at home. Similarly, the cool sea breeze in Western Australia makes the growth and development of Riesling grapes possible.
You can expect the Riesling from New Zealand to have a lighter, more generality aroma to it, with slight variation depending on where in the country the grapes come from. With their 2017 vintage, production director Rick Small and winemaker Kevin Mott have added to that legacy with a brilliant Chard sourced from their usual two sites: Cello Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge, and their own Woodward Canyon estate vineyard in the Wall Wall Valley.
Not so for winemaker Michael Savage, whose Cello Chard is a fine value, offering nervy acidity and a dry flavor profile that combines lemon curd, mineral and subtle spice notes. Whether the wine’s insistent generality comes from those rocks or is inherent to the grapes seems not to matter once it’s in the glass.
Pink debuted with the 2015 vintage, and in four short years has captured the imagination of Satellites and become one of the fuzziest roses released each spring. The fruit purity is exceptional here (strawberries and raspberries abound), and the texture is seamless and polished.
Vintners 2015 Rhone Blend Brushed Vineyard, Yakima Valley, $40 Winemaker Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen splits his time between W.T. Here he has crafted a blend of about one-third each of Grenade, Sarah and Mourned, all from a single hillside of Brushed Vineyard in the Yakima Valley.
This beautifully balances elements both fruity (blackberry) and savory (smoky bacon, briny olive), all on a supple, easy-drinking frame. Fermented with 50% whole clusters (stems and all) and then aged in a mix of large puncheons and small barrels, this wine revels in the funky, savory side of Sarah, with meaty smoked sausages and brackish seaweed complementing a core of blueberry fruit.
The blend of 65% Merlot and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon was aged entirely in new French oak, and it offers an appealing nose combining plummy fruit with dusty earth notes, mocha and rosemary. The palate features no shortage of Red Mountain’s signature power and tannin structure.
Honorable Mentions Beta Family 2016 Close de Betz Bordeaux Blend, Columbia Valley, $60 Ravenna 2016 Bravura Bordeaux Blend, Columbia Valley, $40 Cadence 2015 Bel Canto, Cara Mia Vineyard, Red Mountain, $60 Winemaker Andrew Trio, who splits his time between Wall Wall (where he works on Collins, Tranche and Secret Squirrel wines) and his home country of Australia, has put together a five-variety Bordeaux blend (39% Merlot, 26% Petite Vermont, 18% Male, 15% Cabernet Franc and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon) that over delivers for its $25 price point.
This Merlot includes 13% Cabernet Franc, and all the grapes come from Stillwater Creek Vineyard. Aged in French oak (60% new) for just shy of two years, this wine displays a pair of the characteristics that make Washington Merlot so compelling: complexity (in the form of earth and tomato-paste savory notes overlaying a core of cherry fruit) and structure (in the form of toothsome finishing tannins).
The BEST OTHER RED BLENDS Underground Wine Project 2015 Idle Hands Red Mountain, $30 Trey Busch and Mark McNally’s Underground Wine Project takes home a second prize this year (their Mr. That new American oak adds appealing notes of vanilla bean and cocoa powder to a wine bursting with cherry and raspberry richness.
Classic Cabernet notes of crème de cassis and cedar coexist with subtleties of beetroot and rhubarb, all on a supple, polished frame. BEST SPLURGE CABERNET SAUVIGNON Canvasback (by Duck horn) 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain, $40 In 2013, Napa Valley stalwart Duck horn purchased a 20-acre parcel of land on Red Mountain and launched Canvasback, its first foray into Washington state.
Industry veteran Brian Ruin is the local winemaker for Canvasback, and this is his first Cab that includes a portion of fruit from the estate vineyard, called Long winds. In total, this wine includes 13 Red Mountain vineyards, so it is a fine representative of the AVA as a whole, offering chewy, black-tea-flavored tannins aplenty as structural underpinnings for a wine bursting with black currant fruit and rose petal nuance.
BEST SPECIAL-OCCASION CABERNET SAUVIGNON Passing Time 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills, $80 Washington native Damon Hard partnered with fellow quarterback Dan Marino to launch Woodinville-based Passing Time four years ago with the 2012 vintage. Their winemaker from the beginning has been Chris Peterson (Ravenna), and he works wonders with this Cabernet, primarily from a pair of special Horse Heaven Hills sites: Campus and Discovery.
The wine sees 21 months in French oak (80% new) and offers wonderful pencil-lead generality to complement a core of black currant fruit and smoky baking spice. Nominees that received the most votes in the categories of wineries, winemaker, vineyard and homelier were selected as winners.
The approximately 90 wines receiving the most votes in the varietal categories qualified as finalists for a blind tasting held on March 18. That tasting was conducted by a panel of three industry professionals (Paul Literally of Full Pull Wines, Mark Sakai of Metropolitan Market and Chris Horn of Heavy Restaurant Group) who evaluated the wines on the basis of appeal in regard to sight, smell and taste in order to come to a consensus on the winners within each category.
Also, a minimum of 95% of the grapes used in the production of the wine must be from a vineyard located within Washington state, or from one of the three federally recognized interstate Ava that include acreage in Washington state (Columbia Valley, Wall Wall Valley and the Columbia Gorge Ava). Winners in categories involving people, places and wine experiences also must be located in Washington.