2008 Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling

Sweet Oregonian Converts My Bitter Palate

I used to hate “sweet” wines.

I put “sweet” in quotation marks for a reason. I don’t mean to refer to dessert wines—in fact, Tawny Porto has long been something I have treasured.

No, I mean your Gewurztraminers, late harvest wines in general, and of course, most Rieslings that did not bear the “Dry” adjective stamped right on the label.

But, apparently, tastes change.

Many moons ago, I made a stink on Twitter by saying something along the lines of “Burgundy still kills it with pinot noir.” Not exactly a controversial statement, or so I thought. California—and more so, Oregon—wineries responded to me staking a claim to the pinot noir crown.

And Willamette Valley Vineyards decided to put their money where there mouth is. Or, perhaps more specifically, but certainly less poetically: to put their wine where my mouth is.

They sent along a couple selections of their pinot, suggesting I put their offerings through the Pepsi Challenge with the finest Burgs I can get my hands on. And I will. But as of this writing, I can’t really afford anything from Burgundy one would consider particularly “fine,” and so the eventual Oregon-vs.-France-by-way-of-my-little-condo-in-Walnut-Creek,-California Battle Royale de Pinot will have to wait.

In the meantime, WVV also decided to hand off a bottle or two of white. One of which, was this: their 2008 Riesling.

Notice it does not say 2008 Dry Riesling.

The label admonishes that “prime drinking time” is 2009-2011, and so, not wanting to let a good thing go bad, I popped the cork and took this wine for a spin just recently. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I figured it was now or never.

I’m glad it was now.

I’m still not sure I like “sweet” wines. But I know something I do like: balance. And this wine has it in abundance. There is sweetness here, enough of it to notice, but not enough of it to drown out other flavors (my normal complaint regarding excess RS). More than that, there is acidity up the wazoo. Plenty of acid, some weighty residual sugar, and a pleasant, crisp flavor profile all welcomed me when I first put glass to lips.

This isn’t a gush, though; there are issues I have here. The nose kicks off with a kind of unfortunate rubbery smell. Kind of a tire-meets-wet-road thing. It’s not huge, but it was impossible not to notice. The nose also plays around with more of what’s to come, tossing you a ripe, juicy green apple along with its more industrial component.

On the palate, luckily, any hint of the nose’s rubber is gone, out of town, non grata. Not there. A bit one-note, the wine pretty much sits around the green apple arena of flavors, but it is very crisp and refreshing.

The mouthfeel is a bit viscous, what I would call “medium-full” bodied. That sweetness is here, and attacks the front of your palate, the tip of your tongue and all those salivary glands you have up front there (trust me, there’s quite a few). As the wine passes through your mouth, just when you think you can’t take any more sweetness, the back nine are given a nice kick of acidity, almost enough to get you in the lymph nodes like A1 Steak Sauce.

The overall experience, then, is a pleasurable one: you’re left with a more lingering memory of the acidity than of the sweetness, and the whole time you’re tasting the most exhilaratingly crisp Granny Smith apple.

Tart, sweet, acidic, crisp, with a full-bodied feel. If you like your wines like you like your French cinema—complex, contradictory, packed with imagery, with just a hint of something that smells funny—you really ought to give the 2008 Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling a shot. I’m glad I did.

Verdict: 90/100

Full Disclosure: This wine was provided to me by someone involved in its production, sale, or marketing.

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