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“With time, with learning, you come to Riesling and you’re like, ‘Holy sh*t. This encapsulates everything that I define a great wine by.’”

Paul Grieco, co-owner Hearth Restaurant and Terroir Wine Bars

Paul Grieco shares his mad love for the world’s greatest grape

Paul Grieco, co-owner of Hearth restaurant and the Terroir wine bars in New York City, doesn’t just enjoy Riesling, he’s fanatical about it. In fact, he describes his Summer of Riesling initiative as an über love affair in Technicolor with the world’s greatest grape.

For the fifth year in a row, unless you’re willing to spring for a bottle, the only white wine option you’ll have at Terroir this summer will be Riesling. And at Hearth, an entire half of the white wine list will be devoted to the aromatic white.

The Toronto native launched the Summer of Riesling program in 2008 out of a deep-seated passion for the grape and with an aim to get people drinking, talking about and reconsidering Riesling. “Riesling encapsulates everything that I define a great wine by: delicacy, balance, complexity, longevity, terroir and yumminess,” says Grieco. Last year, sponsored by the International Riesling Foundation, Summer of Riesling went from a project among Grieco’s enclave of restaurants, to 222 establishments around the U.S. This year, the goal is to sign up 500 U.S. restaurants and 100 retail stores, as well as get a foothold in the Canadian market by enlisting several restaurants around Toronto. Restaurateurs who partake in the program needn’t only serve Riesling, though. Grieco simply asks they serve at least three Rieslings by the glass.

The goal is to continually spread awareness, and with Toronto situated only an hour and a half away from one of the world’s greatest Riesling-growing regions — Niagara — the hope is that Summer of Riesling will get people talking and garner even greater international interest than it’s already accrued.

Australia and New Zealand adopted the Summer of Riesling movement last year, inspired and supported by Grieco. Last year also saw the initiation of 31 Days of German Riesling — a program Grieco and his partners teamed up with Wines of Germany to develop and promote.

Participants are asked to serve at least two German Rieslings during the month, so for those restaurateurs signed on for Summer of Riesling, two of the three Rieslings must be German.

Grieco’s philosophy is: If you drink Riesling you will become a better person. With 94 days of summer, there’s plenty of time to at least try. KELLY SCHWEITZER