There are many reasons to believe in Riesling, that versatile and brutally honest grape. Riesling holds no punches, speaks its mind, tells it like it is. Grown worldwide and vinified in so many varying styles, Riesling is not so much a chameleon but rather a mutant. It takes root in every vineyard, marking its terroir, expressing itself singularly and without apology.
Canucks make Icewine from many different varieties; Vidal, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and most often, Riesling. This coming weekend the most passionate Icewine lovers will gather to get silly with Niagara’s nectar gift to the gods. The annual #icewinefest is set to begin on Friday, roll through the weekend and continue on for three more activity filled weeks. Wine Country Ontario has all the details. For more information, click here.
In 2006, a Gothamist author made a poignant call in the column A Riesling to believe. Quote, “there was so much going on in the glass that it truly captured our undivided attention.” There’s one rub. In 2012, The BC Wine Guys stated in their post, You Give Me a Riesling to Believe, “thankfully, a hand full of the original vintners in the province held to the belief that world-class Rieslings could, and would, be made in BC.” True that. Wineries of Niagara on the Lake also employs the catch phrase in their discussion on several local wineries fashioning excellent versions of Riesling, notably Between the Lines, Cattail Creek, Konzelmann and Strewn. Montreal Gazette wine columnist Bill Zacharkiw‘s more than appropriate recent rodomontade stated that 2014 will be the year of Riesling. His stance? “It’s time to spread the gospel about this glorious and misunderstood grape.”
Riesling held centre stage in this column twice last year. In the post, 100 kilometre wine for spring, there was this: “A modern-day Riesling narrative takes place less than a 100 kilometres away, along the Niagara Escarpment and above the pictorial towns of Beamsville, Jordan and Vineland.” In June, there was the Brock University Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute’s Riesling Experience 2013. It was there I asked the $128,000 question, “are you wine experienced?” It was also there in St. Catherines that Nik Weis of the Mosel’s St. Urbans Hof winery furtively suggested, “Riesling is better than an isotonic sports drink.”
Over the past two-four months I have exonerated and upheld with the highest Riesling belief that Canada does the variety justice above and beyond the pale, in the vineyard and in the glass. Gushing praise has been doled out to Tawse, Greenlane, Flat Rock, Angels Gate, Sperling, Hidden Bench, Thirty Bench, Rosewood, Charles Baker (Stratus), 2027, Cattail Creek, Chateau des Charmes, 8th Generation, Featherstone, Fielding Estate, 13th Street, Calamus, Cave Spring, Tantalus, Colaneri, The Foreign Affair, Hinterland, Vineland Estates, Malivoire and John Howard. More reviews have been written, designed and pushed down your throats on Canuck Riesling than on any other grape. What’s up with that? Quality, that’s what.
If there is a better place to produce Riesling than up on the Beamsville Bench and the upper reaches of the Niagara Escarpment (the Mosel in Germany notwithstanding) then I’d like to know about it. With no disrespect to the Rheingau, Pfalz, Baden, Nahe, Rheinhessen, Alsace, Wachau, Clare Valley, Eden Valley, Marlborough or the Finger Lakes, Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula and to a lesser extent, British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley should and will be making some of the planet’s finest juice.
As if the list of nearly 25 Niagara producers was not long enough, here are two more to add along with their three combined terrific Riesling interpretations.
SUE ANN STAFF LOVED BY LU RIESLING 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (322636, $16.95, WineAlign)
Perhaps camping in that gray area between a laugh and a tear, ostensibly off-dry and simple in succulence yet an undeniable stonking acidity manifests its ability for give and take. Honey, lemon, melon and yellow plum combine for fruit forgiveness, with no petrol and “I know there’s a balance, see it when I swing past.” Really terrific. 88 Tasted December 2013 @SueAnnStaff
SUE ANN STAFF GRACE’S DRY RIESLING 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (367086, $18.95, WineAlign)
Hard lemon drop sour candy, beautifully medicinal and waxy Riesling, dry yet intimating something more, something hung and harvested longer. More lemon, freshly squeezed and grapefruit too, with Alsatian promise but with a bent towards what I don’t know. Intriguing, beguiling and herbal, like a lemon balm tisane. “I know that you are strong enough to handle what I need.” Very unique Niagaran giving yet another reason to believe in the Peninsula as a dashboard confessional for Riesling prayer. 89 Tasted December 2013
HINTERBROOK RIESLING 2012, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (270512, $17.95, WineAlign)
Despite the pale hue this has body and a certain, distinct clarity. Nearly but not quite off-dry, this makes use of lake-effect for balance. There are fresh herbs, the tang of yellow plum and even an odd licorice note. Springs a full stein of mouth-watering Riesling belief, so much so that a “congregation gathers down by the riverside.” Another hymn to Riesling is sung. 88 Tasted December 2013 @Hinterbrook
Good to go!