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Thursday, 29 September 2011

Ste Michelle Estates at Boutique Wineries Tasting

Wines from the USA generally means California in this country - and even on a trip to Pennsylvania I made a few years ago on business, where my hotel had a fairly limited range of native wines.

However, the reality is that many other states produce wine and I got a chance to try some Washington State and Oregon wines at the Boutique Wineries Tasting event in London recently.

We started with the Chateau Ste Michelle Dry Riesling from 2009.

On the nose, there was a hint of what I took to be botrytis, but turned out to be the result of the grapes having been frozen on the vines and then thawing before picking (this is not icewine), as well as characteristic petrolliness.

On the palate, I found it ok-ish but underwhelming so, as the bottle had been open for quite a few hours, we then tried a fresh one.

This was a vast improvement - much crisper and more focused and a good textbook medium-bodied dry Riesling; very pleasant and refreshing, it retails for around £10.

Next was the Eroica Riesling from 2008 - its Beethoven-referencing name a nod to its origins as a joint venture with Germany's Dr Loosen.

And indeed, it is somewhat Germanic in style - with white peach on the nose, a lovely balance of fruit and minerality with a Mosel-esque sweet-sour finish.

This bottle was newly-opened and had a tautness to it that suggested it would benefit from more aeration or bottle age.

As a wine, it is somewhat off the beaten track - who out there buys Germanic Rieslings from Washington state ? - but it is fairly priced for the quality at £14.

We then moved on to a range of Pinots from Oregon. I had been underwhelmed by a Canadian Pinot I tried last week, so I was keen to see if these from just the other side of the border would be any more impressive.

The pale Erath Pinot Noir 2008 (£19.50)had a light nose of forest floor and mushrooms, simple but clean fruit on the palate and a touch of spice on the finish.

Not, in my book, a highly typical Pinot, but it did have the soft, seductive texture one associates with this grape.

The Erath Estate Selection Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (£29.50) from 2008 was darker in the glass with a fuller, more intense nose and sweet fruit and liquorice hints on the palate.

In fact, I rather preferred this wine to the final Prince Hill Vineyards Dundee Hills from 2008 (£34) which had a more mouthfilling texture and a more nuanced nose of forest floor, but was somehow less interesting overall.

Recommended Wine

I can't really recommend any of the Pinots as, for me, they don't really offer the whole Pinot package of aromas, fruit, acidity and texture.

And whilst the same can be said of many Pinots out there, that alone is not a reason to recommend them either, even before we consider price and value-for-money.

By contrast, both Rieslings were good and priced sensibly - and of the two the Eroica is the better.


Ste Michelle Wine Estates - http://www.smwe.com/

Boutique Wineries Tasting - http://www.boutique-wineries.co.uk/

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