Riesling Wars at the St. Helena Wine Center Napa Valley vs. Germany

by Jana Harvey on July 24, 2009

Our local wine shop, the St. Helena Wine Center, does weekly tastings which are pretty creative.  A couple of weeks ago it was Napa vs. Germany in a Riesling tasting.  Among the Napa producers was our Jana 2007 Old Vine Riesling, Trefethen 2007 Dry Riesling, the 2008 Smith Madrone Spring Mountain, 2008 Terra Valentine Spring Mountain, Egelhoff 2008 Riesling and the 1995 Stony Hill. 

The German wines were a 2007 Von Simmern Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen Kabinett Troken (troken means dry), 2007 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Spatlese Troken, 2007 Stephan Erdener Treppchen Feinherb Kabinett, 2007 Dr. loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatelese, 2007 Donnhoff Schlossbockelheimer Kupfergrube Spatelese and the 1990 Richter Veldenzer Elisenberg Spatlese.

Three of us Napa producers went through the wines together, Jana & I, Stu from Smith Madrone and Hailey from Trefethen.  All the wines were great showing both ageability and the many sides to Riesling.RieslingWars

The Napa Rieslings except for ours where produced in a higher alcohol richer style.  Napa Valley produces grapes with full maturity, but not over ripe maturity at 22 Brix, while Germany gets mature flavors at lower brix.  Germany being a cold climate grape growing region needs to let the grapes hang longer into the fall to reach grape maturity, and because of the long hang time reaches maturity at lower brix maintaining higher acidity.  The difference betwwen Napa (what I call warm climate Riesling) and Germany (cold cimate Riesling) was well shown in the wines poured.  Both styles are delicious.  You could tell by what we all purchased what each of us preferred.  I ended up taking home the Von Simmern and the Selbach-Oster.  Our Rieslings are made more in the German Halb Troken Kabinett style.  It takes some careful experienced winemaking to develop this cold climate style from Napa's warm climate grapes. 

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