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Jun 26, 2010 07:28 PM

West Coast Rieslings

Wouldn't there be some good Rieslings from California or the Pacific Northwest?

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  1. Trip, there are a handful of *okay* Rieslings from the West Coast, but most lack the breadth or depth of German Rieslings. Of the ones I've tasted that I don't mind drinking include Hagafen, Handley, Navarro, and Smith Madrone.

    3 Replies
    1. re: CarrieWas218

      Thanks, Carrie. Just curious, that's all. I know there are some quite good Gewurztraminers out there from the West Coast.

      1. re: Tripeler

        The best WestCoast Gewurtz that I like is made by Gundlach-Bundschu. They used to have a Riesling as well (along with a Kleinfelder), but those vines were pulled out several years ago.

      2. re: CarrieWas218

        Have you tried Clairborne-Churchill's Dry Riesling? Tried Airlie's up in Oregon last summer, quite nice, but as you say they're not German.

      3. Most domestic Riesling is flabby and meh. Some exceptions I've come across recently:

        Long Shadows Poet's Leap

        A couple of relevant topics on the Wine board:

        1. As Carrie and Robert mentioned, Rieslings of European depth and subtlety from North America are rare. And it'd be a big mistake, as a US consumer, to approach any wine search as if US sources were the natural or first choice (rather than seeking best quality and value available). Also the query was for German Rieslings.

          Rieslings exceed even the difficulty of Pinot-Noir wines (the US has only made good Pinots in numbers for a couple of decades, despite much longer success with other old-world grapes). Historically, US Pinots were grown in regions much too hot, yielding coarse wines. They are STILL often grown in rather hot regions, giving high sugar levels at phenolic ripeness and consequently high alcohol. (Yet good Pinots, even cheap ones, were available all along in California, thousands of them, from the 30,000-plus named plots growing this grape in its home soil of Burgundy.)

          With Rieslings it's worse. Soon after Prohibition's repeal, Schoonmaker accurately predicted many of today's successful US fine-wine growing regions from climate data, but despaired of any Rieslings of German subtlety. Nowadays we get some not-bad Rieslings from CA and the Northwest but those with good fruit and minerality still show much higher alcohols than their German prototypes (which are amazing for simultaneously very concentrated flavors and very low alcohol).

          The German Wine Society's SF chapter, a low-cost educational group with help from (and big tastings at) the local German consulate, is one famous way to pick up efficient information and experience of these amazing wines.


          1. The best domestic Riesling I've had is from Belle Pente in Oregon, but sadly their last vintage was 2006 and they lost their source of grapes. There's another Oregon producer that's actually the U.S. arm of a German winemaker but I can't recall the name right now.
            Stony Hill makes a nice Riesling, too.

            10 Replies
            1. re: SteveTimko

              The best Domestic Rieslings come from NY State, and Michigan. Sadly Californians pretend these regions don't exist. The California wine mind can kind of get around europe as a place to buy wine, but I think is not able to accept that great wine can be made anywhere in this country other than CA OR and WA.

              1. re: jason carey

                Jason, many of us have been drinking, tasting, and WRITING professionally about wine for some time -- not just California wine, but wines from many regions. To have that sort of opinion about Californians is fairly shortsighted.

                It is not that Californians can't accept that great wine can or cannot be made elsewhere, it is that the production from other locales is so limited that it does not get distributed in this giant state on any scale to be noticeable. I know where I can go buy New York wines here in San Francisco, but -- as I said -- I write about wine and have more than a cursory knowledge about the subject. I doubt there are others here that could find a New York wine if they wanted to.

                When/If the wines from New York, Michigan, or any other state in the union starts producing a product in enough volume and quality to get wider distribution, then perhaps we will take notice.

                1. re: jason carey

                  I don't know wherefrom Jason gets his notions about either rieslings or California wine enthusiasts (this native Californian, for one, worked in the Finger Lakes for years, knew leading winemakers there, and has more experience with NY-state rieslings than most New Yorkers do). But the limitations I mentioned in West Coast riesling wines apply even more strongly to NY State. It may be appropriate also to repeat that this thread requested information specifically on _German_ rieslings.

                    1. re: eatzalot

                      "has more experience with NY-state rieslings than most New Yorkers do"

                      Which is likely true, but wouldn't be saying much. I don't think NY State could ever be considered Riesling-centric firstly, and they tend to under-appreciates the local wines in general.

                      German Rieslings have enjoyed warm summer in recent years (2008 was notable), making it a cheap good specialized product which is easily found in SF. There are good domestic regional Rieslings, but few with the same control, and full range of purchasing options (Spatlesse, Kabinett, etc.) to suit your tastes.

                      1. re: eatzalot


                        The OP's question was "Wouldn't there be some good Rieslings from California or the Pacific Northwest?" which does not appear to me to have anything to do with German rieslings.

                        That said, reislings from the West Coast tend to be best when made as icewines or late harvest wines. There are some very acceptable reislings made in the Pacific Northwest. A couple of good producers are Chateau Ste. Michelle-Dr. Loosen and Chateau St. Jean.

                        They do make some very drinkable reislings in NY, especially in the Finger Lakes, but as Robert and Carrie noted (and you agreed with) it is difficult to find domestic reislings with the depth and sublty of European ones.

                        However, terrior being what it is, why would you espect any domestic wine to be the same as a European one?

                        1. re: dinwiddie

                          Yes, dinwiddie, we have similar perspective. This was a thread on German riesling sources in the San Francisco area -- the actual OP's question. Tripeler's response produced off-topic replies about US (not just West Coast) riesling sources, without comparing their styles and limitations to the German products originally sought. That's the context of postings here until a few hours ago. The thread was then split, the original regional discussion is here:


                          1. re: eatzalot

                            I see. I hate when Chowhound does that and doesn't say so at the top of the new post. But then, since I live on the east coast, I have no opinion on where to get German Reislings in San Francisco.

                            However, one must admit, a great reisling is a great reisling and they are a great buy for the cellar.

                      2. re: jason carey

                        The best domestic Rieslings I've had were from Long Island and Michigan. Haven't seen any around recently, though.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          K&L usually carries one from New York state. I keep meaning to try it. They just don't get distributed out here.

                    2. A good recent example of West Coast Rieslings wines I've bought (this was a sort of "house Riesling" at home for a while) is Kings Ridge 2007 Oregon Riesling. It's an inexpensive label from a producer with multiple wine lines (and available in the SF Bay area).

                      With some complexity and minerality, I recall the style of this Riesling as more German than Alsatian or Austrian, except for the higher alcohol that one learns to expect in the US.

                      I should mention that of the hundreds of decent Rieslings I've tasted (usually blind), made notes on, and sometimes bought, the Germans outnumbered any other single region by maybe 40:1 and also were usually the best values (purchased in California). The extensive run of good vintages in late 90s and early 00s yielded excellent Germans of Kabinett and even Sp├Ątlese weights for around $10, occasionally even less. Albeit with the dollar then favorable vs the Euro. And maybe even more importantly, these were wines bought by taste and merit, not the endorsement of some fashionable critic (the wine is the same -- equally good -- whether such critics recommend it or not, but the market price changes, in my extensive experience).

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: eatzalot

                        It's true. One of their great appeals is that a good bottle doesn't break the bank or take excessive knowledge to stumble on. Save for a few brands, the Germans produce really drinkable wines. I find the domestic versions aiming to go dryer, possibly to suit the wine tastes of their wine clubs.