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Jul 20, 2006 04:17 PM

Good to great California rieslings?

Picking up an off-topic thread from the Bay Area board ...

Is there any great riesling in California? Even any good dry riesling?

Anderson Valley (Mendocino) makes some excellent gewurtztraminer (Lazy Creek, Navarro, Handley, Husch), but I've never been very impressed with the riesling, with the exception of some Navarro late-harvests.

Thomas Fogarty makes good gewurtztraminer from Ventana / Monterey grapes but no riesling.

Bonny Doon makes some decent but not great riesling, not sure where they get their grapes.

There's some riesling in Santa Barbara but I haven't had it.

The Napa and Sonoma wine regions don't have a good climate for German / Alsatian varietals.

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  1. About the only one I've had which *might* match up to European ones is the Navarro Select Late Harvest, which you mention above. Other than that, the drier ones I've had are OK, but not much more than that. That includes Navarro, Trefethen and Eroica (Loosen's operation in Washington). I'm a Riesling nut, and I just can't see the point in buying the domestic product when the imports are so much better and in the same price range.

    1. I haven't tried the Navarro, but the Eroica from Washington is the best west coast dryish riesling I've tried. I second that you'll get a much better wine from Germany for the same price or less. I think the soil has a lot to do with it. Is there slate in California?

      1. Bonny Doon's is sourced from Washington with a bit of Mosel added in.

        I can't think of any truly great new world rieslings. Some, particularly from Washington state, make (imho) decent accompaniment to Chinese food. But I wouldn't think about drinking them just to drink them.


        3 Replies
        1. re: Phoo D

          > I can't think of any truly great new world rieslings.

          I've had very good ones from New Zealand, e.g. the Isabel Estate.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Or from Margaret River in Oz. Recently had a Dr. Frank from NY, a label I hadn't tasted for several years and it was quite lovely.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Sorry, meant "Western Hemisphere." Have not tried NY rieslings.

          2. My mother in law likes the Firestone. I've never tried it but she thinks it's great. I believe Firestone is in the Santa Maria area but I could be wrong.

            3 Replies
            1. re: rtmonty

              Firestone used to be drinkable but flabby and boring with an unpleasant finish. Given that it's still off-dry, cheap, and the AVA is Central Coast, I doubt it's changed much.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                She drinks it while smoking her Salem's and thinks it's good. I buy it and she's happy, all that matters.

              2. My go to for the past year or so has been Clairborne & Churchills Dry Riesling, @15 at the local (central CA) discounter. It's from the CA central coast, I've found it able to compliment all the spicy asian dishes we love.

                3 Replies
                1. re: PolarBear

                  Forgot about C & C. I haven't had any in probably 15 years, but I do have a memory that it was pretty good.


                  1. re: PolarBear

                    The Central Coast appellation is close to meaningless: it includes around a million acres in counties from Alameda to Santa Barbara, and I'm pretty sure that some of the vineyards in fact have no coastal influence.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Central Coast viticultural area is even larger than that. Here's the amendment in 1999 to include the San Francisco Bay, which is also a meaningless designation.