If your first introduction to riesling was in the form of Blue Nun, that oh-so-popular incarnation that ruled in the '70s, or if you dismiss it as a sweet wine (and you just don't like sweet wine), you need to get reacquainted with what is easily one of the most misunderstood white wine grapes in the world. Sure, some of the finest and richest dessert wines are made from riesling, and at all levels, it can have some residual sugar, but that is typically balanced by crisp acidity. Still, for this go-around, we limited ourselves to dry riesling--those with sugar levels below the threshold of sweetness--and the winners came from three widely separated regions. Here are the panel's picks for one of the world's best wines, perfect for spring and summer sipping:
2007 Dr. von Basserman-Jordon Riesling, Trocken, $18.99
The German word "trocken" translates as dry, which this wine definitely is. It offers classic riesling aromas of ripe peach, citrus and spicy apple with an intriguing bit of diesel, which is definitely varietal and smells better than it sounds. Creamy peach and juicy nectarine fruit play against crisp citrus and grapefruit on the palate. This is an exceptionally well-balanced wine, and the finish lingers nicely.
2008 Vale Riesling, $13.99
Bright and zesty aromas are highlighted by sweet lime, pineapple and mandarin orange with a light touch of nutmeg. The green apple and citrus fruit flavors are crisp and lively, dominating the palate and showing persistence through the long, smooth finish. Score one for an Idaho winery as Vale continues to prove that their world-class offerings are worthy.
2007 Yalumba Riesling, $9.99
This Australian entry opens with soft honeysuckle, gooseberry, grapefruit and ripe apple on the nose, backed by a nice hint of mineral. Light and refreshing in the mouth, that mineral element comes through as well, complementing the sweet grapefruit and tart apple flavors that linger nicely. This is a well-made, bone-dry riesling with a refreshing finish that is punctuated by a nice hit of lemon zest.
Update: Idaho Wine Competition: It's been brought to my embarrassed attention that I left out one of the Gold Medal winners: the 2006 Parma Ridge Reserve Merlot, an outstanding wine dense with dark cherry aromas and filled with beautiful berry fruit flavors backed by smooth, ripe tannins. My apologies for the unintentional omission of this top- flight wine. :
This week's panel: David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op Wine Shop; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Karen McMillin, Young's Market; Kevin Settles, Bardenay.