Back in 1850, Queen Victoria enjoyed a glass of Hock, a German white wine made from Riesling grown around the village of Hochhein am Main.
These ‘Hochheimers’ became famous in Great Britain after Queen Victoria’s visit. So much so that the work ‘Hock’ was used for any white wine from Germany.
So ‘Hock’ is really code for ‘Riesling.’ The word is pronounced ‘Reez-ling,’ not ‘Rye-zling.’ Regardless of the pronunciation, there’s never been a nobler wine grape that manages to fade out of fashion so frequently.
Complete with guest rooms in their ‘Landgasthof’ – the German term for Country Inn – a restaurant which features European and German cuisine and wood-fired pizzas on Fridays, Crowsnest Vineyards is just outside of Cawston in the Similkameen Valley.
Grown in an unpretentiously family run style, Crowsnest Vineyards Family Reserve Riesling (138610) $16.90 has an honest and straightforward, barely off-dry green apple and lemon rind set of aromas and flavours. Fresh and sassy, chill this slightly for sipping on the deck.
Like the river valleys of Germany, that produce some of the world’s finest Riesling wines – clustered around the 49th and 50th parallels – most of British Columbia’s wine grape growing areas can be classified as cool climate zones. It is no surprise that here in B.C. we can produce our own exceptional Rieslings.
Another tiny family winery, located in Okanagan Falls, Synchromesh Wines consists of Alan Dickinson, his wife Amy, and his parents John and Kirsty Dickinson…and the terrier pack. Specializing in whites from Riesling and reds – and a new rosé – from Cabernet Franc, Syncromesh manages to sell out of wine – most years – within a month of releasing them.
Just released, Syncromesh Riesling (850115) $17.29 is the Dickinson’s ‘thoughtful blend’ of their three Naramata Riesling vineyards: Bob Hancock Vineyard, Thorny Vines Vineyard, Four Shadows Vineyard and their own home winery Storm Haven Vineyard in Okanagan Falls. Early and late picked fruit for each source – and a range of acid profiles combine to soar into aromas and flavours of candied orange, poached pear and ripe apple.
At its best, Riesling is all about bright, natural acidity balanced with rich apple, pear and tropical fruit notes. Invariably seductively sweet on first sip, the best wines finish dry. It can be delicate and intense at the same time and the best are as refreshing as they are complex.
Also just released, single vineyard, Syncromesh Bob Hancock Vineyard Riesling (635524) $23.29 opens with apricot, peach and apple blossom on the nose. Dried apricots, candied oranges and a medley of apple and lemon flavours sizzle over the tongue.
From some of the oldest Riesling vines in the Okanagan, in the rural suburbs southeast of downtown Kelowna, Tantalus Riesling (802280) $23.99 rides a knife edge of balance between texture, weight and bright acidity, with a long clean finish. Staggered picking at different degrees of ripeness contributes to the complexity: orange, pear, ginger and cardamom hover over a base of bright lemon, zesty lime and crisp green apple. Very nearly ‘bone dry’…
With enthusiastic assistance, John and Virginia Weber built Canada’s first energy efficient strawbale winery in 2004 and later added a significant solar power component to the tasting room.
Orofino Winery boats about their Gold Level Certification from the world’s largest and most credible sustainable tourism certification program – Green Tourism.
A second selection from the cool and rocky slopes of the Similkameen Valley, Orofino Hendsbee Vineyard Riesling (775668) $23.05 is ‘bone dry’. Grown on the Cawston Bench, it is a luscious wine full of lime, musky honey and rain-washed gravel with mouth-watering, lip-smacking acidity.
Joie Farm began in 2004, opening with two high-toned whites – an unoaked Chardonnay, their ‘A Noble Blend’ of Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Kerner, Muscat, Auxerrois and Ehrenfelser – and a sassy rosé from Pinot Noir. Winemaker Heidi Noble’s house style is bright, and ‘racy’, whether the wines are white, rosé or red.
As ‘racy’ as any of Noble’s wines, Joie Farm ‘En Famille’ Riesling (799460) $30.99 is mouth-filling and hedonistically richly fruited.
If it wasn’t so seductively drinkable right now, it would be tempting to keep it thre or four years and let it develop more obvious complexity. Subtle orange blossom aromatics set the stage for the amazing honeyed apple and perfumed mandarin orange rind flavours.
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