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Rieslings thrive in Oregon Pinot Noir region | Kitsap Week

October 13, 2013 · Updated 3:08 PM
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Melissa Burr is the head winemaker at Stoller Vineyards in Oregon’s Dundee Hills. / Andy Perdue / Northwest Wine

By Andy Perdue   and Eric Degerman

It’s easy to think of Oregon as a wine monoculture.

Indeed, of the state’s 41,500 tons of wine grapes harvested in 2011, Pinot Noir accounted for 23,726 tons.

Yet, one of the true gems in Oregon is Riesling, the state’s No. 4 wine grape at 1,900 tons harvested in 2011. In total tonnage, it is far behind Pinot Gris but doesn’t trail Chardonnay by much.

In quality, however, Oregon Riesling can stand alongside some of the best in the United States, including examples from Washington, New York, Michigan and Idaho.

Perhaps the biggest issue with Riesling is the cost to produce it in Oregon. The cool Willamette Valley will not allow Riesling to grow more than 3 tons per acre in a typical year — half of what vines can handle in the arid Columbia Valley of Washington. Yet the price per ton for Riesling is about the same in both states, but in Oregon, it fetches half the price per ton as Chardonnay.

The low price per ton for one of the most noble grapes in the wine world discourages growers from expanding plantings because they can make more harvesting Chardonnay, Viognier and Pinot Gris.

In recent weeks, we have tasted several world-class examples of Oregon Riesling. Ask for these at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.

— Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.


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