Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen’s inaugural Riesling Rendezvous last week drew some 160 winemakers, journalists, restaurant professionals and consumers to celebrate all things Riesling at Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville, Washington. The event featured tastings, seminars and food parings designed to showcase the versatility of Riesling from around the world. More than 50 winemakers from Germany, Alsace, Austria, Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, Canada, Michigan, Washington, Oregon, California and New York presented some 220 Rieslings throughout the three-day event.
“It was truly an honor to host the world’s Riesling experts in Woodinville to celebrate one of the world’s great grape varieties, particularly because it is the variety that put Ste. Michelle and Washington on the map 40 years ago,” says Ted Baseler, president of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. “We are glad people are understanding and enjoying the complex flavors of Riesling.”
Riesling Rendezvous kicked off June 24th with a welcome reception and concert with singers Madeleine Peyroux and James Hunter on the picturesque grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle. June 25th & 26th featured in-depth tastings and seminars moderated by Riesling authority/author Stuart Pigott. Enlightening discussions on various Riesling styles and growing regions were led by panels of winemakers and wine writers, which included German winegrowers Ernst Loosen, Katharina Prüm, Philipp Wittmann, Nik Weis, Carl Von Schubert and Fritz Hasselbach, Alsace winegrower Maurice Barthelmé, Australian producers Judi Cullam and Louisa Rose, New Zealand producer Josh Scott, Oregon winemaker Harry Peterson Nedry, Washington winemaker Nicolas Quillé, New York producers Frederick Frank and Dave Breeden, Michigan producer Sean O’Keefe, Ontario winemaker Angelo Pavan, Okanagan winemaker Grant Stanley, Chateau Ste. Michelle’s winemaker Bob Bertheau, Australian author/journalist James Halliday, New Zealand author/journalist Bob Campbell, MW, New York journalists Howard Goldberg and Mary Ewing-Mulligan, MW, Northwest author/wine writer Paul Gregutt, along with many others.
"I think the first Riesling Rendezvous went extremely well,” says Ernst Loosen, owner of Dr. Loosen estate who also has been collaborating with Chateau Ste. Michelle on Eroica Riesling since 1999. “We had a great turnout, and it was a really good introduction to the great diversity of Riesling. Riesling is so much more complicated than other varieties because it has both horizontal and vertical dimensions: in addition to extreme regional differences, it's a variety that can be made in many different styles, from bone dry with high alcohol to moderately sweet with light alcohol, to lusciously sweet with very low alcohol. Because of this, Riesling needs events such as this to help everyone - consumers, press and trade - understand it better.”
During the seminars, participants and panelists also raised interesting issues including the ageability of Riesling, the importance of decanting young Rieslings and the need for a “sweetness chart” on wine labels to give consumers a guide to better understand Riesling styles.
The seminars were complemented by expertly paired meals by Chateau Ste. Michelle Culinary Director John Sarich and Executive Chef Janet Hedstrom to showcase the tremendous food affinity of Riesling. To demonstrate Riesling’s ideal pairing with Asian cuisine, Sarich presented a Bento Box lunch with curried chicken salad with spicy peach-tomato chutney, Asian noodle salad, Ahi Poke with sesame and Nori and house smoked black cod with cumber salad. Lunch on the second day was designed to show how well Riesling stands up to smoky, hearty Old World flavors, and included braised pork shanks with onions & fennel, herb Spaetzle and sautéed red cabbage & apple. The grand dinner menu showcased fresh Northwest ingredients with a Dungeness crab salad, soy glazed Copper River king salmon with Washington cherry salsa and roasted lamb rack with Morel mushroom and thyme sauce, Washington asparagus, and finished off with a dessert of Apple Galette with vanilla bean crème Anglaise.
“Our culinary staff and I really enjoyed coming up with the parings for this wide spectrum of Rieslings,” says Culinary Director John Sarich. “Riesling is so incredibly versatile and truly travels the culinary globe.”
The Rendezvous culminated with a gala tasting on the evening of June 26th of producers’ top wines at the Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park with beautiful views of the Puget Sound.
In addition, on June 27th Chateau Ste. Michelle winemaker Bob Bertheau and education director Joel Butler, MW, led 35 of the guests on a bus tour of Riesling vineyards in Washington’s Columbia Valley. The group visited Viewcrest and Horse Heaven Hills vineyards and enjoyed lunch at the winery’s vineyard at Canoe Ridge Estate, overlooking the Columbia River. Ste. Michelle director of vineyard operations Kevin Corliss revealed to guests first hand how Riesling thrives in the dry, desert-like conditions of the Columbia Valley, where warm days and cold nights allow this late-ripening grape to reach full flavor maturity, while retaining excellent acidity.
Chateau Ste. Michelle has been a champion of Riesling for more than 40 years and was among the first to plant Riesling in Washington state. Ste. Michelle was catapulted into the national spotlight when its 1972 Johannisberg Riesling won the now-famous blind tasting of nineteen White Rieslings sponsored by the Los Angeles Times. Today, Chateau Ste. Michelle offers up to eight different Riesling styles designed to showcase the versatility of Riesling and the regional styles within Washington’s Columbia Valley, which produces more Riesling than any other American wine region.
“Riesling Rendezvous was a great event and we hope to do it again in 2009,” says Ted Baseler.
About Chateau Ste. Michelle This year marks Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 40th year of Washington winemaking. Founded in 1934, Chateau Ste. Michelle pioneered vinifera grape growing in Washington state and has been producing classic European varietal wines under the Chateau Ste. Michelle label since 1967. The winery combines an ongoing dedication to research with a commitment to classic winemaking traditions. The winery owns 3,400 acres of vineyards in the Columbia Valley of eastern Washington, including Canoe Ridge Estate and Cold Creek. Chateau Ste. Michelle enjoys winemaking partnerships with two of the world’s most distinguished vintners. Col Solare is an alliance with Tuscany’s Piero Antinori and Eroica Riesling is a partnership with the Mosel’s Ernst Loosen.
About Dr. Loosen Estate The Dr. Loosen estate has a 200-year tradition of producing Riesling in Germany’s Mosel region. With his modern world view and his traditional approach to winemaking, Ernst Loosen strives to produce wines that unmistakably express the character of Riesling and of the vineyards where they are grown. Decanter magazine named Ernst Loosen 2005 “Man of the Year” for his perseverance in promoting and producing great Rieslings around the world.
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