I’ve been enjoying a lot of riesling wines in the last couple of months. Rieslings, when well-made (and I’m not talking about Blue Nun here), are some of the most complex and age-worthy wines on the planet. While I generally prefer red wine, great rieslings are some of the most food-friendly and complex wines that I’ve ever experienced. Recently, I’ve been on an Alsatian riesling kick, but this week, I’d like to turn my attention to the home of America’s best rieslings,Washington state.
The Washington state riesling I’m talking about today is from the Yakima Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA.) Interestingly enough, not only is the Yakima Valley AVA Washington’s oldest (formed in 1983), but the Yakima area also produces around 80 percent of the entire hops crop in the country, making the area a major influence in both wine and beer in the United States. At over 11000 acres, over a third of Washington’s vineyards are planted in the Yakima Valley AVA. As with all wines, being planted in an AVA isn’t a sure indication of quality; the soil, site selection, winemaker, and a number of other factors all come into play as well.
One of the better rieslings to come out of the Yakima Valley AVA is from Mercer. At $14.99 MSRP, this is an affordable wine and offers good value to those who enjoy drier styles of riesling wine. Currently, Mercer is offering its 2010 vintage of riesling, a year noted for being colder and wetter than normal. These conditions forced the winemaker to take additional measures to ensure that the grapes maintained their quality. Leaves were thinned to encourage airflow and to let more sunlight to reach the grapes, which allowed for a longer hang time and for the inherent flavors to more fully express themselves.
On the nose, Mercer riesling presents notes of apricot, nectarine, and peaches with a slightly waxy aroma. On the palate, a racy acidity is notable balanced by a small portion of residual sugar that allows for just a hint of sweetness to peek through. This is one of the few white wines that I would drink by itself; the acidity makes this wine refreshing and crisp on a warm evening. On the palate, more notes of apricot, peach, honey, and nectarine appear.
While Mercer riesling would be enjoyable on its own, this wine will particularly shine in the presence of food. Pair this with Dungeness crab from the Pacific Northwest, Thai food, blue cheese, or German-style cuisine for best results.
Overall, Mercer riesling is a great value at $14.99 a bottle. Drink this wine between now and 2015 to ensure that this wine is in its prime. If you are a fan of Washington state rieslings or drier styles of riesling in general, don’t miss out on this one.