Colorado riesling is the truth


Though 2020 continues to pose challenges for Colorado’s winemakers — from wildfires to frosts to tourism declines (see more in Feast, page 33) — there is plenty of quality from past vintages to sample this winter.

Take riesling, for instance, which’ll pair well with holiday turkey, goose or other white meats. Riesling battles two issues among the casual wine-consumer crowd: 1) The misperception that it’s overly sweet; and 2) the cost of securing a decent bottle from overseas.

Enter Colorado. For the price of a good bottle of riesling from Germany, Austria or France — and oftentimes less — you can get an excellent expression of the variety, from dry to sweet. 

Riesling thrives in cool climates, as it’s resistant to frost and it’s cold-hardy, which is particularly important in light of two frosts that decimated crops in Colorado this year. Its buds can also withstand cold temperatures in early growing months.

It’s also sensitive to soil and climate from a taste perspective — meaning the microclimates in Palisade that provide unique profiles to other varietals have a substantial impact on the rieslings Colorado growers produce. 

You can taste the breadth of the grape by just picking up a few bottles from Colorado producers.

For something toward the dry side, check out The Storm Cellar’s 2018 riesling ($20). It pops with stone fruit like peach and nectarine and has a silky texture and clean finish. It’s one of three styles the winemakers concocted out of a robust 2018 harvest, but which had the qualities to be the core expression of the grape Storm Cellar brought to market.

But don’t take it from me; the 2018 riesling won double gold at the 2019 Colorado Governor’s Cup, a gold medal at the 2020 American Fine Wine Competition, and was featured in Wine Spectator magazine.

For a semi-sweet offering, Boulder’s own Bookcliff Vineyards has a 2019 that’s perfect by itself. Reminiscent of velvety ice wine from the Finger Lakes in both texture and taste, the 2019 riesling ($14.99) pops with fresh apricot, has a lush feel on the palate and runs right up to the point where it’d be too sweet for a second glass and stops. If you do want to pair this with some food, try some hard cheese.

As with all Colorado varietals, Settembre Cellars in Boulder is the place to go to taste what riesling grown in the state can be. Its 2015 riesling ($28) was hand-sorted to remove imperfections in the harvest, which came after a relatively mild growing season that produced a lot of fruit. In this, you’ll get a dry riesling with exceptional minerality and pops of apricot (that seems to be a trend here), along with a crisp mouthfeel.

Check out each vineyards’ website to purchase.