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A Tantalizing Riesling

Elin McCoy's Wine of the Week

2009 Poet's Leap Riesling
Price: $20
 Columbia Valley, Washington State
 100 percent riesling
 With white fish, not-too-spicy Asian fare

I’m a riesling fan, so I was delighted to find a tantalizing U.S. bottling that goes way beyond the simple and fruity style of the vast majority of domestic examples. The 2009 Poet’s Leap is fresh and zingy, with aromas of smoky flint and spicy fruit, flavors of white peach and wintergreen, and the racy acidity that makes riesling so food-friendly.

It also demonstrates the serious potential of Washington State’s Columbia Valley as a source of truly fine rieslings — especially when made with an Old World sensibility. Armin Diel of the renowned estate Schlossgut Diel in Germany’s Nahe region is the maestro winemaker, so maybe the quality of this vibrant, complex white shouldn’t be any surprise.

Poet’s Leap is one of the joint projects of Walla Walla, Washington’s Long Shadows Vintners, founded by Allen Shoup, former CEO of the giant Stimson Lane wine group that includes Chateau Ste. Michelle. For his own innovative venture, he pulled together a group of winemaking superstars from around the world to create a collection of wines that showcase the state’s terroir. Winemaker-partners, like Diel, each produce one wine under a different label.

The 2009, the fifth vintage of Poet’s Leap, is a blend of grapes from three vineyard areas. Older vines at Sagemoor Farms give the wine the white peach element, cooler conditions in Yakima Valley vineyards add juicy, citrusy acidity and young vines planted by Diel in one of Long Shadows’ vineyards, the Benches, contribute minerality. The wine’s faint hint of sweetness registers simply as intense fruitiness.

Riesling has been on a roll in the U.S. in the past couple of years, and from mid-2008 to 2009, sales were up 11.5 percent. When you taste a wine like this one, you know why.

Zester Daily contributor Elin McCoy is a wine and spirits columnist and author of “The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste.”