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Rieslings are refined little angels

Riesling may be my most beloved white varietal. I know this sounds funny, with all the well-made white wines being produced today, but a beautifully made Riesling is a thing of joy.

Nothing can be masked, hidden or overblown in a Riesling without being revealed through the nose or palate. Well-made Riesling needs to be a wine of good balance, or harmony, from the very first impression to the last sip. It is such a delicate being that messing with its inherent beauty can be a recipe for disaster.

Some wines, especially the big reds, can be played with in a variety of ways — skin contact, filtering, the use of oak — but Riesling, to be the refined little angel that it is, should be left alone as much as possible. Tricks or fancy winemaking only obscure the wonderful complexities of the grape.

Rieslings come in a delightful range of flavors. Some are dry, others sparkling and many are sweet to the taste. Rieslings can display flavors ranging from quite tropical to pear, apple, peach, apricot and other light fruit tastes in between.

The main thing to remember about Rieslings are that good ones remain thirst-quenching throughout the experience. Nothing is worse than a sweet Riesling without the acids necessary to carry the flavors through to the finish. The cleanliness of the wine, its food pairing and its overall articulation rest on these natural acid levels.

The best Rieslings come from Germany, its native home. Some of these wines are magical, delicate, lengthy, palate-rich offerings that simply cannot be beat. That being said, let me give you a few ideas, German and domestic, for some fun Riesling experiences:

  • Spindrift, Willamette Valley, 2009. At about 10 percent alcohol, this Riesling shows lovely, tropical fruit, crisp acidity and a wonderful palate feel. I have always liked the wines from this winery (its 2008 pinot noir is amazing), and the clean releases, year after year, show Spindrift is on top of its game. Under $20.
  • Grey's Peak, New Zealand, 2009. A drier release, this wine exhibits mango and pineapple flavors, good palate weight and refined acids in the finish, just the kind of acidity that goes well with heavier Thanksgiving fare such as mashed potatoes and gravy. I like this release very much. Under $15.
  • Troon Vineyard dry Riesling, Applegate Valley, 2010. This is a delicious white wine from the Troon folks and defines what a wonderful dry Riesling can obtain when well made. I just love the fresh flavors of this wine, the compact feel of the fruit and the concentration of the varietal from the nose to the finish. $17.95.
  • Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt 2006 Scharzhofberger, spatlese. OK, that's a mouthful. But this sweeter-styled and wonderfully crafted wine gives us German excellence in Riesling on every level. The nose is rich with tropical offerings and displays hints of peach and pear as well. The palate is rich, long and full with exquisite flavors all around. A very fine release. About $30.

Lorn Razzano is owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland. Reach him at razz49@aol.com.