Best White Wine on Earth
Top 10 Rieslings – Under $15/€10:
1, Leitz, Ens-Zwei-Dry (Rheingau)
2. Pacific Rim, Dry (Washington)
3. Charles Smith, Kung Fu Girl (Washington)
*4. Cave Spring, Niagara Peninsula (Ontario)
5. Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Valley (Washington)
6. Pacific Rim (Washington)
7. Loosen Bros., Dr. L (Mosel)
8. Red Newt, Circle (New York)
9. Nik Weis, Urban (Mosel)
10. Pacific Rim, Sweet (Washington)
Top 20 Riesling Producers – Medium Dry:
Cave Spring (Niagara Peninsula, Ontario)
"Since its founding in 1986, Cave Spring has been perfecting a just-off-dry style of Riesling. The most recent addition to a range topped by its CSV is the dazzlingly elegant Adam's Steps. Every time I taste these wines, they get better!”
Top 20 Riesling Producers – Sweet:
Cave Spring (Niagara Peninsula, Ontario)
“The Niagara Peninsula produces a lot of ice wine, and although the Rieslings are often the best, they seldom achieve the wonderful purity and brilliance that Cave Spring seems to manage every time.”
Ontario’s Delicious Riesling Contradictions:
“ … In Ontario, vines older than 30 years are rare and have an aura of holiness.
That certainly applies to some of the first Riesling officially planted on the Niagara Peninsula at Cave spring Vineyard, six acres of which date back to 1978. Ten years later, Len Pennachetti (president) and winemaker Angelo Pavan (vice-president) founded Cave Spring Cellars, which acquired its present facility, dating back to 1871, in Jordan in 1990. By the time of my first visit in 2004, their medium-dry CSV was already the most renowned Riesling produced on the peninsula. With the Inn on the Twenty restaurant and eponymous hotel that opened in Jordan in 1993 and 1996, respectively, they had already constructed an elegant setting in which to display this and their other top wines to best advantage.
Clones don’t have a good image, but the story of those “old” vines from which the grapes for the CSV Riesling come ought to enormously improve their image. Nearly all modern vineyards are planted with clonally selected grape vines, and Cave Spring is planted with the Riesling clone 21B, which Hermann Weis of the St. Urbanshof winery and vine nursery in the Mosel introduced to the region. He was convinced that Niagara was the polace in North America with the best potential for producing Riesling wines with the same kind of aromatic subtlety and racy elegance of the wines of his home region. It’s a dream that still haunts the majority of the region’s Riesling producers in various ways. The association of the two families became yet closer when Tom Pennachetti, Cave Spring vice-president for sales and marketing, married Hermann’s daughter Anne. That, together with the fact that today most Riesling vineyards in Niagara are planted with clone 21B, makes Cave Spring the right place to start digging into Niagara Riesling and the region as a whole. …
What does this mean for the wine in the glass? …the five main Rieslings in this house area are medium-dry, although this is a rather inadequate description for some of the best white wines on earth. With its apple, peach, and floral notes, the regular Niagara Peninsula Riesling is rounder and less tart than the other wines in the range – also because more than a third of its grapes come from vineyards on more fertile soils below the escarpment. It’s Dolomite Riesling, made entirely from fruit grown on the escarpment, is more elegant, although less aromatic than the Estate Riesling, with its elderflower aroma and a mineral note (yes, it’s real!) that help it taste pretty dry. The Adam Steps Riesling is even more floral, with a lemony freshness and a supermodel silhouette. It is a high-end Niagara Riesling for a rather friendly price.
It was quite something to sit with the Pennachettis and Angelo Pavan and taste through the CSV Rieslings (the top wine of the range) going back from 2012 to 2003. not least because during my previous visit in 2004, I’d tasted the last of those wines, which had just been bottled and was still unreleased (the current vintage of this wine is usually three years old). Then, I had described it as being like a “tightly wound watch spring.” Nine years later, it was richly textured with caressing flavors of toast and cooked quince. Even more delicious were the more powerful 2005 and 2007 CSVs, with their herbal and fennel notes. At one and two years of age, respectively, the 2012 and 2011 CSVs were still like tightly wound watch springs but packed with flavor (the ’12 with exotic notes; the ’11 smelling of flowers and apple). Also of sensational quality are the ice wines, of which the 2008 is still youthful, with a slew of exotic fruit aromas and a dazzling interplay of fruit, acidity and heaven. The late-harvest Indian Summer is less opulent but still luscious in flavor, with an intense peach character. These are a stunning sweet Riesling duo in any context.