Riesling's sweet spot

Back in July the Northwest really was invaded…by International Riesling Foundation-sponsored or inspired events with a goal to bring recognition to this oft-misunderstood grape.

Consumers have for years regarding Riesling as a cheap wine with a sweet profile best reserved for entry-level wine drinkers. Sadly, that was never the intent.

This versatile grape, which hails from the Rhine region of Germany, does some of its best work as a dry wine and is an ideal food-friendly choice. In an attempt to better educate consumers, the IRF developed the Taste Profile; a graph placed on the back label of Rieslings that indicates the sweetness level of the contents.

Courtesy of IRF
Courtesy of IRF

According to the IRF website, this extremely helpful tool is now featured on more than 30 million Riesling bottles in the U.S. market.

But the proof is always in the pudding, right? That’s where Riesling Rendezvous in Seattle, Riesling Invasion in Portland, a Wines of Alsace dinner and pre-International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) Riesling tasting came into play from July 17 thru 31.

German food and wine expert Ursula Heinzelmann presented a selection of dry Riesling and cheese at the Riesling Rendezvous Olympic Sculpture Garden tasting. IRF
German food and wine expert Ursula Heinzelmann presented a selection of dry Riesling and cheese at the Riesling Rendezvous Olympic Sculpture Garden tasting. IRF

This combination of public and media events was aimed at first-hand education. Riesling Rendezvous began with an outdoor Sunday Grand Tasting on the gorgeous grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville. Attendees enjoyed more than 250 Rieslings from Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, California, Idaho, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Washington. Alongside perfectly-chilled pours, guests could nosh on Riesling-friendly food and enjoy live music.

Monday and Tuesday were reserved for serious amateurs and experts to attend a variety of Riesling-focused seminars including blind tastings. If you missed the celebration, mark your calendar in advance; Riesling Rendezvous only happens once every three years.

Fun was had by all at the 2016 Riesling Invasion. Dan Eierdam
Fun was had by all at the 2016 Riesling Invasion. Dan Eierdam

The following weekend, Riesling Invasion descended upon Portland as literally hundreds of people lined up to sip over 100 Rieslings from 41 Northwest producers at Jacobsen Salt Company. Riesling Invasion is an annual event and, judging from the attendance, one that is highly anticipated in the area.

If you follow my blog, you know all about the Wines of Alsace media dinner held July 20 at Taylor Railworks. Hosted by Thierry Fritsch, head oenologist and chief wine educator for Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins d’Alsace (CIVA), it was an intimate, food and wine pairing experience.

IPNC has been putting on a pre-IPNC Riesling tasting in the back room of Nick’s Café for 10 years now (so secretive, right?) and July 31 proved to be largest selection of Oregon-made Rieslings to date. In total, 52 wines, organized from dry to sweet, were on ice for industry professionals to taste through. Some had poured at Riesling Invasion but several were different vintages or did not attend the public Portland event.

IRF has put together a fun and educational website which includes an entertaining video of four unsuspecting wine fans blind tasting a selection of Rieslings and having the varietal revealed to them in the end. Seriously, it’s pretty good. Find it at www.drinkriesling.com.