Most of our military men and women who have served a tour in Germany come home with a taste for Riesling wines. And till the last few years, they have been generally disappointed in the Rieslings produced in our wine regions. Riesling likes cool temperatures and just will not show its best in the heat of Napa or the Midwest. Even along the California Coast, the exposure to sun ripens this hardy grape too fast, and it loses much of the character it enjoys on both sides of the Rhine Valley.
There have been steely dry Rieslings and richly sweet Rieslings in the Finger Lake Region of New York for decades, but they don’t make it to Indiana retail stores. Producers in Washington State and Oregon have been getting the hang of working with this grape in recent years and are now producing it in all the various ways its versatility allows. Riesling is neither a dry nor a sweet wine. It can be either or a wine of varying degrees between.
Hoosiers no longer need to go without well-made Riesling at moderate cost. True, those semi-sweet Mosel wines are readily available and a handful of truly dry Rheingaus appear here and there in Indiana shops but often at prices that discourage average consumers. No, the Riesling is not grown in Indiana. Our summer heat and humidity won’t permit it, but Bill Oliver has the knack with Riesling grapes he finds in the Northwest to turn into those wines our soldiers learned to know and enjoy in Germany.
He describes them as “semi dry”; my palate finds them slightly sweet, somewhat like the Halb-Trocken Rieslings from the Mosel. No matter, they are very well made, light and refreshing as a result of the Oliver cool fermentation process and the use, of course, of excellent fruit at the peak of ripeness.
The 2012 vintage is now available at the Oliver Winery, so Hoosiers, head for Bloomington to get your summer-time Rieslings — and while there and in a Rhine Valley mood, pick up a few bottles of Bill’s Gewurztraminer as well. Foie gras anyone?