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Riesling Rising

Funny meeting a noble grape like you in a place like this

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The more I discover about Riesling—which is world-class not only in "cool climates" like Alsace and the Rhineland, but also in places like Clare Valley, Australia, where it stands nearly shoulder to shoulder with Shiraz—the less I accept the conventional wisdom about why it's lost favor in the North Coast. Here are some local surprises:

Gustafson 2013 Heritage Tree Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Riesling ($20) A nice, fresh style, smelling of powder-coated Aplets & Cotlets, lightly frozen, with flavors of zippy pineapple and pear.

Calder 2013 Napa Valley Riesling ($20) Sour lemon, melon rind with cashew nut, jasmine and Bartlett pear. From a dry-farmed, 50-year-old, half-acre block of Riesling vines in the middle of Cab-is-king Rutherford. Refreshing, but I'd like to see one or two more Brix.

Trefethen 2013 Oak Knoll District Dry Riesling ($25) Elegant balance of melon-rind bitterness and pear and lime fruit, plus a subtle hint of mineral oil (Riesling may display an aroma similar to diesel fuel—yet strangely attractive—especially after aging). Hailey Trefethen says that this family favorite gets the full treatment: two picks and special yeasts. I'll bet two years will add to its appeal. Runner-up of the tasting.

Imagery Estate 2013 Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak Riesling ($24) A light apple rain from the clouds; fitting for this new mountain vineyard, where Malbec is also grown. Faint pear, faint honeysuckle and searing green grape acidity.

Chateau St. Jean 2013 Alexander Valley Riesling ($15) Pear candy, flowering vines, lime rind with a bite of white peach. Disciplined palate, fruity and crisp. winemaker Margo Van Staaveren confirms my suspicion that this bottling's residual sugar has been reduced in recent years.

Dutton-Goldfield 2013 Chileno Valley Vineyard Marin County Riesling ($30) The orchard is ripe, but what kind of fruit? Maybe fruit cocktail, the kind in cans, especially that peeled white grape. Both weighty and zingy, with apricot and bitter melon.

Weingut Edelweiss 2010 Fence Row Block Napa Carneros Riesling ($17.10) Holy Alsace. This voluptuous, haughty honey is the real deal, displaying a toastiness, mineral oil and lemon marmalade quality that's miles away from the others. Perhaps it's unfair to include this with the 2013s, and I couldn't really taste it blind, as its hue is markedly deeper than the others. Nevertheless, I did not know what to expect from this ingenuously named small project from two industry denizens who wear their hearts on the bottle's back label. (There's a tally of how many relationship crises went into the bottle). But they hit it out of the park here. I can recommend all of the above wines, but this one stokes my hope for North Coast Riesling.

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