Viento Riesling Underwood Mountain Vineyard 2007
Every once in a while, something interesting comes in-that makes you smile. In this case, an aged Riesling, from a producer that I know….from a vintage that I trust.
Before we go on, I’ll mention off the cuff that Wine Spectator scored this at 91 points.
It’s an excellent example of Riesling in Oregon. You’ll note that unlike the Finger Lakes in New York, there’s no scale on the bottle denoting if there is any residual sugar in it or not (in essence, there is no sweetness scale).
This is the way I tend to like my Riesling’s-it’s said to be “off-dry” meaning that there is some residual sweetness-but that’s partially due to the grape itself, as well as being part of the winemaker’s choice.
It also reminds me that perhaps this shows my age a bit. Over the past few years there has been a rise of sweet wines, as well as semi sweet wines such as this. Those markets are heavily influenced by millennials, really one of the first generations that grew up with things sweeter than juice around-after all 2014 marks the 10th year of declining soda sales (http://www.wsj.com/articles/pepsi-cola-replaces-diet-coke-as-no-2-soda-1427388559) and if you believe that some things that happen in Berkeley before the rest of the country: we have an additional tax on soda in play that has cut down on sales more significantly locally than almost anything else has done.
Anyway, it all means that millennials are more likely to order a sweet wine than were any previous generation. The wine industry also typically finds that once drinking habits are established, they stick around.
Ok, ok….back to the wine. The folks in Oregon are known for allowing a greater amount of earthy type flavors to be imparted into their wines, than are the rest of the winemaking world. That means that they aren’t about to be caught dead making a completely sweet Riesling. Maybe that’s one of the rationale for not using the scale, largely becoming standard on grapes and wines that can swing wildly in the amount of sugar left over in your wine….but I wish everyone would use it. It’s one of the few labeling tactics that would actually make it significantly easier for consumers over the short and long term.
As an industry, isn’t that something we should be working toward doing?
I’ll also take a moment and talk about Riesling. If you’re a new member to our Explorations Wine Club and you’ve only bought wine at grocery stores and wine stores, without much help before….this might be the first version of the varietal that you’ve ever tried.
Riesling is one of the few grapes native to Germany, a country where the grape gains it’s greatest influence in the lush, cold Mosel Valley.
When we first opened Uncorked Ventures, our Explorations Wine Club was not limited solely to California, Oregon and Washington State. Instead it was international. Given that our higher end wine clubs were both focused exclusively on Oregon, Washington and California….it made for a marketing challenge and while we weren’t the smartest guys in the room….we listen well when multiple people make the same suggestion repeatedly. From winemakers to customers, everyone simply told us to stick to the west coast, where we actually knew people-
Back in the old days, one of the first wines we shipped was a dry Riesling from the Mosel Valley and when we were talking to the winemaker, he had sent an image that really struck me (he didn’t take it, but instead showed us that this is how it’s done where he lives. Retired and even elderly people work harvest in many parts of Germany. The vineyards are also incredibly steep and frankly, dangerous. Parts of the Mosel Valley don’t have much top soil, instead there are rather large rocks, boulders almost that will, on occasion, break off and roll down into the river. But, where you have grapes struggling for ripeness, rocks are a good thing. They suck in heat during the warm days and spit it back out in the cold evenings, helping to not only prevent frost, but according to the locals, help the vines reach a better and more acceptable level of ripeness.
That example of a good, affordable and yes, semi-sweet German Riesling stuck with me and I’ve been looking for something similar to this day domestically.
Oregon doesn’t have the retired harvest hands, but the struggle for ripeness that has helped to shape Riesling and Mosel together, epitomizes Oregon Riesling as well. It isn’t quite as cold, but the chances of multiple 100+ degree days in much of Oregon’s wine country, is minimal at best.
That means the Riesling here, might be a bit less mineral infused than its German counterparts, but it’s also perhaps more familiar since it isn’t so strikingly acidic.
Lastly, I’ll mention that even for Oregon….’07 was pretty darn cold. If you take a moment to read about the vintage online, people hate it. Well, consumers hate it. Wine reviewers hate it. Hell, the wineries take time to try and defend it….basically while saying that yes, they kind of hate it as well.
Everyone’s talking about Pinot Noir though-not Riesling. Here’s the main difference; that vintage in 07 was marred by a huge rainstorm in September that ruined a bunch of fruit and left winemakers with some impossible choices elsewhere-at least in terms of Pinot Noir.
For Riesling, the grapes had already been picked and were happily fermenting before those September rains began.