A half hour before the International Riesling Foundation (IRF)’s annual board meeting in Woodinville, Wash., this past summer, I was chatting with IRF marketing vice president Janie Brooks Heuck.
“Millions of Americans would fall in love with riesling if only they tasted it,” she said. “One sip is all you need.”
Later in the day, the Riesling Rendezvous at Château Ste. Michelle was scheduled to begin, and Janie, of Brooks Wines in Oregon and an ardent supporter of riesling, said the several hundred Rendezvous attendees were among the few Americans who understood the greatness of riesling.
Over the next two hours, IRF board members discussed plans to gain more recognition for this important grape variety, which I consider the finest white wine grape in the world.
The underlying theme of that meeting was sad. The IRF, headed by Jim Trezise of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, is a nonprofit organization that has great plans to promote riesling, but which is hugely underfunded.
What Janie said, however, rings truest of all: What’s not to like about riesling? A single sip proves it.
It is a grape blessed with a gorgeous floral aroma, usually has good acidity, and is a joy to appreciate even if you know nothing about wine.
“One sip,” Janie repeated to the board. All IRF board members agreed that was the best way to get riesling nonbelievers into the fold.
Mendocino County has believed in this variety for decades. It is one of the blessed places on earth in which to grow this Germanic grape variety and it remains a beneficent place for the variety.
Production of riesling in the United States remains small, probably because most Americans think of the variety as producing only sweeter wines.
However, dry riesling production in the United States is increasing dramatically, and many of these will be on display in late February in the Anderson Valley, when the 2017 Alsace Varietals Festival is once again staged.
Historically, riesling is German but since Anderson Valley today also makes many wines from the other grapes of Alsace, that region’s name was chosen for the festival.
The county also grows fabulous pinot gris, pinot blanc, muscat and gewurztraminer. So wines from those grapes also will be served at the festival.
Attendees will be treated to foods appropriate for these wines.
Roughly 40 wineries, many of them local, will pour their wines at the Saturday, Feb. 25, grand tasting, which is open to the public. Included will be wines from Germany, New Zealand, Alsace and California.
That evening, two optional Alsace-style banquets will be staged that feature great Alsace-heritage wines. Although most of the wines at the grand tasting will be white, red wine lovers are certain to get some reds at the dinners because Alsace also makes stylish pinot noirs.
Details of the various events occurring in Anderson Valley in late February can be found at http://www.avwines.com/alsace-festival.
One feature of the Alsace festival each year is an 8:30 a.m. to noon symposium that will feature a seated tasting of wines led by local wine makers. It’s slightly geekier than the normal wine-tasting experience and carries a higher price tag than just the grand tasting alone.
A special combination price ($95) for both the symposium as well as the tasting has been established, with a Dec. 31 deadline to acquire the lower-priced option for both events.
A series of Sunday open-house winery events concludes the weekend.
Wine of the Week: 2015 Jana Riesling, Mendocino ($22): The attractive tropical fruit aroma of this excellent Mosel-styled wine reflects it’s inland vineyard site (south of Ukiah), and it’s excellent acidity and delicate mineral notes make it a sensational match with Thai cuisine. From Napa Valley wine maker Scott Harvey, who was trained in Germany.