At once charming and elemental, a great Riesling runs along the knife edge between sensuality and severity, extravagance and austerity. The aromatic riches that accumulate in Riesling grapes during the longest ripening season of any great wine provide the appeal; the mineral character from the soil and the grape’s hallmark racy acidity crank up the tension. Stuart Piggott, Planet Wine: A Grape by Grape Visual Guide to the Contemporary Wine World
Riesling is the signature variety at Thirty Bench Wine Makers and it’s obvious why after tasting the quality and unique varietal distinctions that emerge from each of their small lot wines.
The Beamsville estate has been carved into three vineyards: Wood Post, Steel Post and Triangle. The Wood Post’s vines are among the oldest in the Niagara region, planted in 1980, and, for me, capture everything a Riesling ought to be.
Some might complain that Riesling tastes too sweet, but no one can say that about the 2010 Small Lot Wood Post Vineyard Riesling. The nose offers delicate citrus notes, including pink grapefruit and tangerine, and the palate displays the same, along with a kick of lingering minerality on the finish.
It’s a medium-bodied, off-dry Riesling, with great balance — an ideal foil for those in the “It’s too sweet” camp.
But take heed: you won’t find these small lot goodies at the liquor store. Your only access to these rare bottles is to visit the winery or have it shipped. Yet have faith – it’s a Riesling that’s well worth the wait. KELLY SCHWEITZER
Add Kamloops, British Columbia to the places on the planet producing delicious Riesling. Newcomer Harper’s Trail made a juicy and appealing white from its first commerical crop of grapes from vines planted in 2008 in what’s dubbed the Thompson River Valley region.
Owners Ed and Vicki Collett converted cattle grazing land into a 20-acre vineyard, planting vines on cliff sides to take advantage of the site’s limestone rich soils. Their opening inventory includes a Field Blend White, made with Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc, and a rosé, which is a blend of Gamay, Pinot Noir and Merlot. The single vineyard Riesling is the star.
Made at Okanagan Crush Pad by winemaker Michael Bartier, Harper’s Trail 2011 Riesling Thadd Springs Vineyard (British Columbia, $19.99, okanagancrushpad.com) offers good, clean peach and apple aromas and flavours. The obvious sweetness on the palate is nicely balanced by racy acidity and abundant minerality. It’s an impressive first effort that represents one small step for man, one giant leap for Rieslingkind.