Few international grapes do justice to a multitude of regions as well as riesling.
When planted in the right climate and soil, riesling has the wonderful capacity to reflect the characteristics of a particular place better than most grapes. At Wine School, we have examined rieslings from Germany, both dry and moderately sweet, and dry rieslings from Austria.
Now, let’s look at dry American rieslings and see how they compare.
“American” is a more generalized view than I would prefer, but it is the best of several alternatives.
Ideally, we would focus tightly on a particular region: Finger Lakes rieslings, for example, or rieslings from the Old Mission Peninsula of Michigan. But such a narrow examination poses a fundamental problem: These wines are not distributed widely enough. I can’t find three Michigan rieslings in New York — good ones, at least — while few Finger Lakes rieslings are available in, say, California.
One option might be to look at several mass-marketed American rieslings. But again, too few of these wines would bear up under close examination. So I have chosen good American rieslings from three different states (California, New York and Oregon) with the hope that readers will be able to find at least one of these, or good alternatives.
The three bottles I suggest are:
Ravines Finger Lakes Dry Riesling 2015 $17
Tatomer Santa Barbara County Kick-on Ranch Riesling 2016 $50
Teutonic Willamette Valley Riesling 2016 $22
If you have difficulty finding these bottles, which I expect may be the case, good options are available. Tatomer makes other cuvées, which will be fine, even though one or two might have a bit more residual sugar than the dry Kick-on Ranch bottle.
Ravines makes two single-vineyard rieslings, Argetsinger and White Springs, which I highly recommend if you can find them. Teutonic also has several cuvées, including a 2017 “Rauchwine,” or smoked wine, from the Columbia Gorge region of Washington State: If you are curious to know how a wine made from grapes exposed to forest-fire smoke tastes, this is it.
Beyond these producers, look for California rieslings from Smith-Madrone, Stony Hill, Navarro and Trefethen; Finger Lakes dry rieslings from Hermann J. Wiemer, Dr. Konstantin Frank, Forge Cellars, N. Kendall, Red Tail Ridge, Red Newt, Eminence Road Farm and Bloomer Creek; and Oregon rieslings from Brooks, Trisaetum, Lemelson and Love & Squalor.
And if you find rieslings from Michigan, Washington, Idaho or anywhere else, why not see what you think?
Serve these rieslings cool to chilled, but not icy, lest the nuances be overwhelmed by cold.
Wondering what to serve? Delicate seafood preparations are excellent, particularly freshwater fish. Dry riesling goes very well with Asian dishes, unless the recipe calls for chiles, in which case you want a riesling with some residual sugar. Vegetable dishes and salads will be fine, as will chicken, particularly if you use some of the riesling for a sauce.