Stuart Pigott’s five favorite U.S. Rieslings


Here are five American Rieslings that wine author Stuart Pigott finds remarkable, with his descriptions.

Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes, New York)

Riesling would never have become the most important grape variety in New York state (ahead of Merlot!) if Dr. Konstantin Frank hadn’t planted the first vines of this grape on the Eastern Seaboard back in 1958. From those and other old vines on the western shore of Keuka Lake, his grandson Frederic Frank makes this sleek wine with lemon and floral aromas. The 2012 (current vintage) has a pronounced mineral character and great balance. About $15.


Smith Madrone Vineyards and Winery Dry Riesling (Napa Valley)

Brothers Stuart Smith (vineyard manager) and Charles Smith (winemaker) have been making stunning dry Riesling on Spring Mountain in Napa Valley for more than 30 years. Their wine has intense aromas of melon, lime and dried flowers. The bright and “light” style is deceptive, though, for this is a wine that can age for more than a decade if properly cellared. This is an almost unknown masterpiece that proves Riesling can achieve greatness in Napa. About $25.

Navarro Vineyards Dry Riesling (Anderson Valley)

The soon-to-be released 2012 vintage from this winery in Mendocino County is one of the best dry Riesling ever made in California. Ted Bennett and Deborah Cahn have been perfecting the making of dry aromatic whites wines in this remote region for 40 years. The bouquet of white peach and apple blossom leaps out of the glass, and the wine combines ripe fruit with great elegance. Look out for equally elegant sweet Rieslings from this producer too. About $18.

Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen “Eroica” (Columbia Valley, Washington State)

This medium-dry German-American joint-venture wine first produced in 1999 was the dynamo of the modern American Riesling revolution, and it is still the benchmark against which new wines are most often judged. An intense white peach aroma and a racy-spritzy, just off-dry style are the hallmarks of this new classic. You don’t need the latest vintage either. The 2011 (very sleek and mineral) and 2012 (more succulent, but still very crisp) are also seriously refreshing. About $15.


Chateau Grand Traverse “Whole Cluster” (Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan)

This might seem to be the last place to look for remarkable Rieslings, but since 1998 Sean O’Keefe has pushed the development of this medium-dry wine ahead at a pace not seen in America since the Apollo space program of the 1960s. The fennel and anise notes add complexity to the apple and pear fruit (in warm years, like 2012, there are also some exotic fruits). If you wonder what the mineral taste in wine really is, then try this and look out for the salty note in the aftertaste. About $15.