Sometimes, the results of a wine tasting are not what you thought they would be. This week, we compare two 2010 Rieslings from two regions separated by 5,000 miles of land and ocean. We will compare Chateau Ste Michelle’s 2010 Riesling against Willm Vineyard’s 2010 Riesling.
First, we have Chateau Ste Michelle’s 2010 Columbia Valley Riesling, from a region known for it’s warm sunny days and cool nights. The Columbia Valley AVA is Washington state’s largest AVA, and has a small section reaching into Oregon. Chateau Ste Michelle is the world’s largest producer of Riesling, making over 1,000,000 cases annually.
The Columbia Valley Riesling is moderately sweet, with some minerality, and I get a nice river stone flavor note in the mix. The nose is surprisingly tart compared to the Willm Riesling, yet the actual taste is not tart at all. It has no harsh alcohol burn with an ABV of 11%. A full, silky and balanced mouth feel makes this a dream to drink.
With a profile right in the middle of the sweet-dry range, there is no tartness and is just the right amount of sweet for those of us who typically enjoy wines on the dry side. At $10.99 a bottle this is the one to buy and I rated it 90 points. *Note* Chateau Ste Michelle produces three Rieslings each year that vary across the sweet/dry spectrum.
Bob Bertheau, Chateau Ste Michelle’s head winemaker says, “Our Columbia Valley Riesling is a blend of Riesling from throughout Washington’s Columbia Valley. We craft it to be a refreshing, off-dry Riesling vintage after vintage. The wine delivers sweet lime and peach character with subtle mineral notes. This is our “every day Riesling” that is a pleasure to drink and easy to match with a variety of foods.”
Willm Vineyard’s 2010 Riesling has a beautiful, floral aroma with lavender notes which is much nicer than Chateau Ste Michelle’s. I would describe the aroma like grape flavored Spree candies that your kids dropped down the seat of your car and melted in the hot sun. Unfortunately, that beautiful aroma didn’t translate into a sweet floral taste, as this Riesling is exceptionally tart and will make you pucker.
It has a slightly richer color than Ste Michelle’s, and has a long finish with delicious creme brûlée after taste. At 12% ABV it’s just a touch higher in alcohol and overall is on the dryer side of the Riesling spectrum with bright acidity. I rated this bottle 85 points, as I was disappointed that it’s tart nature made it difficult to drink. This juice is also priced at $10.99.
So, why did I choose these two 2010 Rieslings? Even though the producers and regions may be a world apart geographically, the characteristics of the regions are remarkably similar.
For starters, both Columbia Valley and Alsace owe the makeup of their terroir to geological formations and shifts that occurred millions of years ago. In Alsace, these shifts have put their mark on the soil composition to include sand, granite and volcanic rock.
In Washington, glacial flooding during the last ice age brought in basalt rocks and other stones that make up the soil today. A wonderful in-depth explanation of the history is given by vineyard manager Mimi Nye below.
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Secondly, both regions share a very similar terrain. Alsace is cut off from the rest of France by the Vosges Mountains to the West and the Rhine River to the East. Columbia Valley is also cut off by mountains on the west- the Cascades- and the Columbia Valley River to the East of the mountains.
Which of these Rieslings you choose is up to your personal taste, though the winner for this edition of Wine Battle is Chateau Ste Michelle. These will pair well with seafood, shellfish and your favorite spicy Asian dish.
Riesling not your thing? Read another Wine Battle between two white blends from Connecticut producers here. Be sure to visit us on Facebook or chat on Twitter and let us know what your favorite Riesling is!