You've been reading about Riesling all week, so here are some suggestions from fellow Spotlight contributors on their current favourites.
Rick VanSickle's Picks
Thirty Bench Small Lot Steel Post Vineyard Riesling 2011 ($30, 93 points)
I am always drawn and seduced by this Riesling. It is one of my favourite wines every year. I was blown away by its charms in 2010 (94 points) and find myself enthralled with the 2011 version. I think this will evolve into a finer wine than the 2010, with greater cellaring potential. It is open-ended on the nose with gushing lime, grapefruit, hints of peach and apple and the most interesting minerals of the three. This is heady and complex on the palate, a structured Riesling with concentrated lime-citrus, steely acidity, an interesting yet subtle white pepper note and a mouthful of minerals that carry through the finish. This has it all: Power, length and balance and will reward for years down the road.
Hillebrand Showcase Ghost Creek Vineyard Riesling 2011 ($25, winery only, 92 points)
Only 500 cases are made of this sensational Riesling from the Peller-owned Ghost Creek Vineyard in the Four Mile Creek sub-appellation, a unique property that delivers Bench-like minerality. It’s tight on the nose at the moment but starting to reveal citrus, fresh apple, tangerine and lovely minerals. It’s made in an off-dry style but shows classic tension on the palate with lemon, Mandarin orange and a touch of tropical fruit fighting it out while a seam of minerality cuts through the core. Plenty of racy acidity adds balance to the wine. Should age well.
Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2008 ($30, 92 points)
It’s just now starting to open up to show grapefruit, exotic tropical fruit, peach and honey aromas to go with stoney minerality. In the mouth it displays white peach, citrus, and spiced-apple fruits that are playfully ripe and tart in the mouth and linger on the finish. It’s fresh, bright and racy and sure to age beautifully.
Charles Baker Ivan Vineyard Riesling 2011 ($35, at Stratus or website now, 92 points)
A fascinating Riesling, cropped to insane levels and hand sorted to leave only pristine fruit. The result was a tiny production of 50 cases, which, I’m guessing, will disappear rather quickly. The nose reveals gushing grapefruit-citrus, wet stone minerality, summer peach and lime. Even with 15 grams of residual sugar, it is laser sharp on the palate (Charles Baker calls it “rapier-like”) with focused citrus-lime-grapefruit that washes the palate in wave after wave of pleasure. “I love this dry style, frankly,” says Baker. This will age gorgeously over time.
Fielding Estate Lot 17 Riesling 2011 ($26, winery only, 91 points)
Another benchmark white for the estate winery. The Lot 17 is sourced entirely from the Beamsville Bench estate vineyard. Such a wonderful nose of green apple and lemon-lime with distinct minerality that shines from nose to palate. It is finished in an off-dry style and shows that sweet-tart tension that you want in a good Niagara Riesling that’s derived from racy acidity. It’s lovely on the palate with harmonious fruit and minerals that are persistent through the finish. Buy and hold some to watch as it evolves.
Michael Di Caro's Pick
2010 Good Earth Dry Riesling, $19.95
I'll let you in on a secret, more often than not Riesling labels lie. The old axiom is that people say they like dry, but they drink sweet. Knowing that, many producers label their off-dry and medium-dry Rieslings as dry. That works perfectly fine when all that residual sugar is balanced with the requisite amount of acidity. Unfortunately, when liberties are taken too far that kind of creative labeling creates a whole new problem as the once-bitten-twice-shy crowd refuses to drink Riesling for fear that it's even a little sweet. It's an issue that the IRF is trying to slove with a scale.
With that dilemma in mind Andréa Glass, winemaker at the Good Earth Food and Wine Co., crafted a truly dry Riesling for lovers of that style like herself. Made from estate-grown Weis 21B clone vines planted in 2008, Glass picked the grapes in Oct. and used a German yeast and a long, slow and cold fermentation to create a refreshing citrus-forward Riesling. The result is a wonderfully aromatic and crisp Riesling which is sure to please Riesling lovers and the less-is-more when it comes to R.S. (residual sugar) crowd. The core of this wine is a crisp and pithy gin-and-tonic-like lemon and lime combination with an undercurrent of white peach and white grapefruit. That's supported by a steely minerality which carries through on to a finish that's long and dry. Glass admits it's the kind of wine that cries out for a food pairing, which is convenient because fresh shucked oysters on the Good Earth's patio is just type of food to convert those still on the fence regarding Riesling.
Shawn McCormick's Picks
Rick Van Sickle's excellent coverage of Ontario Riesling on Monday only missed one small point: Niagara isn't the only place in Ontario with the right soils to make fantastic Riesling. The other place, of course, is Prince Edward County, affectionately known to most as simply "PEC". The PEC region's terroir is not unlike that of the Niagara "Bench" area in Niagara; A mixture of clay and loam over limestone that provides that core signature minerality.
Unlike the Niagara region though, the winters here are harsh, and grape growers are forced to bury the vines underneath the soil in an annual ritual called "hilling up". The problem with this process arises in the spring, when an early warm spell (like 2012) forces a premature unburying which then exposes the new buds to late spring frost. Needless to say, the growers and winemakers of PEC include some of the most passionate people that deal with these extremes year after year. Here are three recent (and very different) examples of PEC Riesling that I tasted.
Sugarbush Vineyards 2011 Riesling, $17
Available at the winery
Robert Peck and his wife Sally are not unusual in the PEC wine industry – Rob has kept his day job (working in the tech industry in Ottawa) and spending all of his free time as a farmer and winemaker. With their 5th anniversary just behind them, the Pecks now have a total of 10 acres planted and plan to reach their peak of ~1500 cases/year in the next couple years as their latest plantings from this spring mature.
2011 Riesling VQA: Beeswax dominates the nose on this beauty, with honey, lemon, and lime zest chiming in. On the palate, this wine is very crisp, with mouth watering acidity, not unlike some of the classic Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Rob explained that with the wet fall conditions, he had to harvest a bit sooner than he would have liked and he used a Suss-reserve style where he retained some unfermented juice to offset the higher acidity in the finished product. The great minerality combined with the acidity almost gives a light chalky mouthfeel. Tart crabapple, lemon zest, and grapefruit pith dominate the palate, masking the unexpected residual sugar of 17g/L. Very refreshing with a mouth-watering finish.
Karlo Estates 2010 Lake on the Mountain Riesling, $22
Available at the winery
With a start as an award-winning amateur winemaker, the change to professional was a natural progression for Richard Karlo. The Karlo Estates iconic red barn, stacked stone wall and footbridge are wonderful additions to a welcoming wine tasting that serves up County hospitality like no other. With partner Sherry Martin who looks after the social media and hospitality side of things, Karlo Estates has become a "must visit" stop on the tour. They have been slowly expanding over the last couple of years to keep up with demand, adding a large screen porch on the back and a mezzanine tasting area for tour buses.
2010 Lake on the Mountain Riesling: Richard likes to try different processes (he's well known for his CHOA Chardonnay which adds a variety of non-traditional woods to the barrel) and he decided to experiment with this Riesling. With a wild ferment in 6 year old barrels and aged in even older oak, this Riesling shows more colour than most. The nose is a little more difficult to decipher, with melon, red apple, lemon, and as it warmed, mineral and light petroleum notes emerged. On the palate, the wine retains a crisp lemon-lime, nectarine, and green apple acidity despite the smooth and mellowing characteristics of the oak. The county minerality provides an ever-present backbone and the finish is long and mouth-watering.
Huff Estates 2011 Riesling Off Dry, $17.95
Available at the winery
With a sprawling complex including the winery, inn, and art gallery (Oeno) set on 150 acres, Huff Estates has quickly become a major attraction in the County. Installing French winemaker Frederic Picard has resulted in multiple awards, including Wine Access' Gold Medal for their CUVÉE Peter F. Huff sparkling wine in 2011.
2011 Riesling Off Dry: With a nose of fresh-picked peaches & nectarines, lemon, with light honey and floral notes, this juicy Riesling oozes Ontario. The palate repeats with sweet stone fruit and honey, and then finishes in a dry citrus burst of lemon and grapefruit pith accompanied by a flinty minerality.