Staff Estate Winery Semi-Dry Riesling 2008
$16, Available from winery at www.staffwines.com
If every picture tells a story, as Mick and Keith would have us believe, then a wine bottle can too, revealing the character of the wine inside in its very shape, and, of course, in its label. Labels featuring everything from cats to shoes grace the LCBO shelves, all trying to pull the attention of the wine consumer, suggesting by way of colour, font, and composition what one might expect inside. Sue Ann Staff’s Semi-Dry Riesling, then, with its Old World style black bottle, and its dramatic red logo and vertical printing, seems to suggest that this is a wine to be taken seriously, and indeed, it is.
Sue Ann Staff is a woman-about-town in the world of Niagara winemaking. She trained in Australia and had stints at Pilliteri and 20 Bees and most recently was the winemaker behind the idiomatic wines from Megalomaniac. Born and bred in Niagara, Staff decided to go it alone with her own label. When we had a brief chance to speak with her at the Salut Wine Festival, it was clear that Staff is passionate about making wine her way, using family vines that have for years given their juices to the winemaking efforts of others. Staff believes in making her wines accessible, and with the price point under $20, this Riesling is certainly as approachable as she is.
Though summer loves a citrusy sprightly Riesling, Sue-Ann Staff’s Semi-Dry shies away from the overwhelmingly sweet and embraces other in the Riesling spectrum. The nose reveals minerals and even gasoline – “like the exhaust pipe of tractor”, said one taster – but citrus is always at the centre. On the palate, fruit and citrus flavours abound, but the mouthfeel is more substantial than that on many Ontario Rieslings, leaving the taster with an impression of the wine’s inherent structure. This wine reminds you you’re drinking wine, not just any tasty summer beverage. Without being cloying, the balanced minerality and weight of this Semi-Dry demonstrate Staff’s measured approach to Riesling that we first tasted in the Narcissist from Megalomaniac, an approach that betrays the $16 price point. Taste this wine and you will be pleasantly refreshed and left wanting more, but you won’t drink it too fast – you may, however, still finish the bottle.