We tasted about 50 Rieslings in the course of researching this story ― more than we knew at the outset were being made here.
Amity Riesling 2005 (Willamette Valley; $17). Delicate honeysuckle belies intense orange zest, mango flavors, and a rich, gravelly finish.
Amity "Wedding Dance" Riesling 2005 (Willamette Valley; $17). The wedding bouquet in a bottle ― a lovely sweeter version, with ripe stone fruit, honeysuckle, and the perfect herbal balance.
Anam Cara Nicholas Estate Riesling 2006 (Willamette Valley; $21). Off-dry, with an exuberant mix of ripe nectarines, spices, and citrus blossoms that gives way to mouth-filling tangerine and mango (complete with that haunting diesel fuel quality that mangoes have). It's almost Viognier-like, with honeysuckle along with the tangerine.
Anne Amie Riesling 2005 (Willamette Valley; $25). A rich, off-dry Riesling, with golden fruit ― apricots and pineapple ― with good acidity and minerality.
Argyle Riesling 2005 (Willamette Valley; $25). Very barely off-dry, with fresh white peaches, honeyed apricots, and a delicate edge of mineral aromas over tart nectarine, grapefruit, and orange-zest flavors through a long finish. In fact, tartness is almost a texture in this wine.
Belle Pente Riesling 2005 (Willamette Valley; $18). A soft minerality wrapped in floral aromas gives way to pleasantly bitter orange flavors on a rich, dry palate.
Bergström "Dr. Bergström" Riesling 2005 (Willamette Valley; $20). Steeliness and petrol qualities mix with white peach blossoms for the adventurous. There's sweetness here, but it comes along with tart green apples, lemon-lime flavors, and enough of a bitter edge to keep the wine alive and intense.
Brooks "Ara" Riesling 2005 (Willamette Valley; $25). This one's not about fruit: The minerals on the nose have a floral backdrop, with just a hint of citrus. Its flavors have a straight-arrow focus of peaches and herbs. The final effect is a balance between something you know is a good food wine but is a fun sipper as well.
Brooks Riesling 2005 (Willamette Valley; $18). Dry and steely, with that characteristic hint of fossil fuel, then tart apricots, citrus zest, and pineapple.
Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen "Eroica" Riesling 2005 (Columbia Valley; $22). The partnership between Washington's second-largest winery and one of Germany's most prominent Riesling producers resulted in this prototype of what Riesling can be ― every year ― in the West: complex and steely yet beautiful, with white peaches and apricots over floral and mineral qualities through a long, long finish.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Vineyard Riesling 2006 (Columbia Valley; $14). An intense, off-dry version from one of the few old-vine Riesling vineyards in the West. Apricot nectar over wet stones.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling 2006 (Columbia Valley; $12). This Washington giant has been making a dry Riesling for 15 years but only releasing it to its wine club and within the Northwest. This year is the first time the rest of the country will have a crack at this steely Riesling, reminiscent of the first apricots in June, with a hint of minerals softened by honeysuckle. The palate is classic ― intense apricots, mango, and pleasantly bitter orange zest.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling 2006 (Columbia Valley; $10). A great-value Riesling in a slightly off-dry style, with a nice balance of acidity. White peaches, honeysuckle, and a pretty minerality.
Chehalem Corral Creek Riesling 2005 (Willamette Valley; $24). There's creamy lemon and just the right hit of classic petrol and wet stones on the nose here. The citrus on the palate heads toward tangerine and mandarin, with hints of almond blossoms.
Chehalem Reserve Dry Riesling 2005 (Willamette Valley; $21). A hint of orange blossoms, a whisper of sweetness, a layer of white peaches, pulled together with good acidity in the footprint of lime zest.
Claiborne & Churchill Dry Riesling 2005 (Central Coast; $18). Fresh peach and almond orchards lurk on the nose. The tiniest bit of residual sugar lifts the aromatics and turns the peaches to honey; minerals and citrus zest keep things lively on the finish.
Clos du Bois Riesling 2006 (California; $12). This is the first year Clos du Bois has released a Riesling, but it makes sense ― head winemaker Erik Olsen put Riesling on the West's wine map up at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington. This one is slightly off-dry but well balanced, with good minerality, pretty honeysuckle, and fresh citrus, apple, pear, and tangerine.
Columbia Winery "Cellarmaster's" Riesling 2006 (Columbia Valley; $12). Another good value on the sweet side of Riesling. Rich, mouth-filling fruit and flowers (nectarines and roses) meld with classic minerality and petroleum, with enough good acidity and citrus zest to keep the wine from being cloying.
Elk Cove Estate Riesling 2005 (Willamette Valley; $18). If you can imagine the promise of wet paint in your house, this is it ― followed by delicate peaches and apricots and a teensy bit of sweetness, with ethereal minerality through a long, light finish.
Esterlina Off-Dry Riesling 2005 (Cole Ranch, Mendocino; $19). A tiny bit off-dry, with a beautiful mix of white peaches, juicy apples, fresh limes, and limestone.
Greenwood Ridge White Riesling 2005 (Mendocino; $16). A rich, interesting Riesling with a little sweetness to it. Apricot and pineapple end in beautiful citrus zest.
Handley White Riesling 2005 (Cole Ranch, Mendocino; $17). Creamy peaches, minerals, and hints of flowers on the nose are packaged with a little spritz. The fruit on the (long) palate runs the gamut of grapefruit and apricot to mango.
Lazy Creek Riesling 2005 (Anderson Valley; $23). Bone-dry but sumptuous, with mandarin orange flavors and a black-tea minerality.
Lazy River Private Lumpkin Riesling 2006 (Yamhill-Carlton District; $18). Elegant, with the barest hint of sweetness and perfect balance between fresh peach and faint diesel on the nose; green apple and zippy citrus on the palate.
Naches Heights Riesling 2005 (Columbia Valley; $16). Classic Riesling character: pear, apple, and other green fruit, with good minerality. A fair amount of sweetness is balanced by good acidity, and golden fruit kicks in on the palate ― apricot, mango, pineapple, and lemon zest.
Navarro White Riesling 2004 (Anderson Valley; $16). A pleasant balance of tart and creamy fruit ― peaches and apricots ― is set off by classic (but faint) diesel fuel and lime zest, with a tad of residual sugar.
Pacific Rim Dry Riesling (Columbia Valley, WA, and Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany; $11). With distinct diesel but delicate stone fruit aromas, this Riesling's not quite bone-dry, but it's crisp, with tart apricot, tangerine, and lime flavors, in that order. A steal!
Paraiso Riesling 2004 (Santa Lucia Highlands; $14). Three Ps on the nose ― petrol, petals, and faint white peaches ― then more beautiful peaches edged with minerals and citrus on an off-dry but refreshing palate.
Penner-Ash White Riesling 2006 (Willamette Valley; $22). A beautiful nose, with those classic wet stones out in front, over delicate peach and exotic blossoms. Tart, dry citrus flavors and a slightly steely herbal quality follows. This would be a great wine with vegetables.
Poet's Leap Riesling 2005 (Columbia Valley; $20). You can smell your gas stove sparking on (in a surprisingly pleasant way) in this slightly off-dry wine. Then green fruit ― apple, white peach, and a little lime ― lead into rich, full-on mandarin orange notes.
Seven Hills Riesling 2005 (Columbia Valley; $12). A juicy fruit cocktail of a Riesling (including the maraschino cherries) ― golden apricots, mango, and more, with just enough acidity to pull it off.
Snoqualmie "Naked" Riesling 2005 (Columbia Valley; $12). A well-balanced off-dry Riesling, with fresh, creamy hints of peaches and minerals on the nose and a touch of pineapple and mandarin on the pleasantly steely palate.
Trefethen Dry Riesling 2005 (Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley; $20). Crisp and light, with the barest hint of sweetness balanced by lively citrus and beautiful white peach flavors.
Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling 2006 (Willamette Valley; $12). A sweeter-style Riesling, with enough acidity to make it a great sipper. Beautiful aromas of green apple, apricot, and a little granite, with flavors that run to peach and mandarin orchards, then tropical fruits.