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A Sommelier's Secret Weapon

by Jacob Brower, Wine & Spirits Professional


A lot of people dismiss Riesling as a ‘sweet’ style of wine, and because of this misconception spend most of their wine-drinking lives missing out on some really incredible wines. Don't be that person! Whether dry or sweet, Old World or New, Riesling is near the top of any good sommelier’s list of best wines for food pairings, especially with challenging cuisines. And because their reputation isn’t on par with, say, white Burgundy or even Vouvray, your hard-earned dollar goes a long, long way. 


So, if you want to be as hip as the somms at Manhattan's most popular restaurants, you owe it to yourself to explore the wide world of Riesling. Plus, even if you’re nervous about off-dry styles or confusing German-language labels, there are some truly exceptional dry Rieslings coming out of cooler climate domestic regions, such as Oregon and especially New York’s Finger Lakes. 

Here are five of my favorites, perfect for a casual picnic lunch or the highest-end dinner table:


1. Bloomer Creek ‘Tanzen Dame, Morehouse Road Vineyard,’ Finger Lakes, New York - $22.99
Bloomer Creek was one of the United States first completely natural wine producers, eschewing any commercial or synthetic winemaking additives, even the use of sulfur. Two decades on, they’re still going strong on the west side of Seneca Lake—this dry, floral, slightly funky Riesling sees just a little bit of skin contact, making it texturally complex and very interesting. Consistently a staff favorite!


2. Heart & Hands ‘Dry Riesling,’ Finger Lakes, New York - $24.99
For a more traditional—but no less delicious—take on Finger Lakes Riesling, look no further than up-and-coming producer Heart & Hands. This wine is crisp, bright, and incredibly refreshing, with restrained alcohol and hints of lemon peel and wet stone. Try it with sushi or roast poultry!


3. Ovum ‘Off the Grid,’ Rogue Valley, Oregon - $24.99
Incredibly age-worthy, this Rogue Valley Riesling is fermented with native yeasts and extended lees-contact in a combination of concrete eggs and neutral oak. Vibrant, lively acidity lifts a textured palate layered with flavors of citrus rind, grapefruit, and damp slate. Delicious already, but worth laying down a couple of extra bottles!


4. Hermann J. Wiemer ‘Dry Riesling,’ Finger Lakes, New York – $19.99
Offering exceptional value for traditional winemaking, Wiemer has long been one of the Finger Lakes most respected producers—especially for Riesling! Though technically dry, a small amount of residual sugar remains to balance out the high levels of acidity, making it a versatile partner for spicier cuisines, especially Thai, Indian, and Ethiopian.  


5. Brooks ‘Estate Riesling,’ Willamette Valley, Oregon - $19.99
Farming organically in the Willamette Valley’s desirably cool climate, winemaker Chris Williams is able to offer a well-balanced, desirably-priced dry Riesling that is delicious and refreshing on its own, but also serves as the perfect foil to most of your favorite spring and summer meals. Excellent QPR!


Whether you’re going out for Thai or Ethiopian, prepping in advance of the fall and winter holidays (Riesling is perfect for turkey & mashed potatoes!), or simply looking for some affordable but still age-worthy whites, these wines offer a lot of bang for the buck. And they’re super refreshing and delicious!

Still nervous? Trust me: It’s time to step outside of your comfort zone!

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