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Teutonic The Bridge Riesling 2012
Without a clue as to how to start or find investors for financial backing, we (Barnaby and Olga) started on a long journey into one of Oregon’s most difficult industries- the wine business. As our luck would have it, a friend of ours offered her fallow farm land in Alsea, Ore., to start a vineyard. So in 2005, along with a handful of good friends, we put 2000 vines into the ground, mostly Pinot Noir and some Pinot Meunier and Pinot Blanc. As we were learning how to manage the vineyard, Barnaby left his restaurant career and started as a rookie at a shared winery facility in Carlton.
Because we love the wines from the Mosel Valley so much, we began traveling there every summer and have met many local producers who make superb Rieslings. As we got to know them, we convinced some of them to let us import small quantities to the U.S. [Most local wineries in these small villages sell directly to customers and don’t bother exporting their wines out of the country because of the hassles associated with the paperwork and delayed payments.] Through time, we have made good friends there and look forward to our annual visits. In addition to importing their wines, these winemakers have been very helpful with sharing their winemaking techniques with us. Thanks to this exposure, our wines, especially our Rieslings, are known for being stylistically close to the wines of the Mosel, Alsace and other old world winemaking regions.
We produced our first commercial vintage in 2008: two barrels of Pinot Noir from our estate vineyard and three barrels of Pinot Meunier made with fruit from a U-pick vineyard. From there, we have increased our production by purchasing fruit from vineyards in colder sites, higher elevation and always look for dry-farmed vines that are ideally 30 years old or more.
Today, Teutonic Wine Company produces roughly 5,000 cases of wine per year, including a rich variety of wines that are typical to the Germany’s Mosel region. These varietals include Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chasselas, Gewürztramer, Silvaner, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. All the wines we make, with the exception of one blend, are single vineyard wines.
One of Pinot Noir’s most successful New World outposts, the Willamette Valley is the largest and most important AVA in Oregon. With a temperate climate moderated by a Pacific Ocean influence, it is perfect for cool-climate viticulture—warm and dry summers allow for steady, even ripening, and frost is rarely a risk during spring and even winter. Mountain ranges bordering three sides of the valley, particularly the Chehalem Mountains, provide the option for higher-elevation, cooler vineyard sites. The three prominent soil types here create significant differences in wine styles between vineyards and sub-AVAs. The iron-rich, basalt-based Jory volcanic soils found commonly in the Dundee Hills are rich in clay and hold water well; the chalky, sedimentary soils of Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill-Carlton, and McMinnville encourage complex root systems as vines struggle to search for water and minerals. The silty loess found in the Chehalem Mountains, somewhere in between the other two in texture, is fertile and well-draining but erodes easily, creating challenges for growers but necessitating careful vineyard management.
The celebrated Pinot Noir of the Willamette Valley typically offers supple red fruit, especially cranberry, without the powerful punch often packed by its California counterparts. Elegance is paramount here, and fruit flavors are balanced by forest floor, wild mushroom, and dried herbs—much more in line with Burgundian examples of the variety. Chardonnay too takes its inspiration from the French motherland, focusing on tart, crisp fruit and minerality, rarely relying upon heavy new oak. Pinot Gris here is fleshy and bright, and Riesling is dry, aromatic, and citrus-focused.
A regal variety of incredible purity and precision, Riesling possesses a remarkable ability to reflect the character of wherever it is grown while still maintaining easily identifiable typicity. This versatile grape can be just as enjoyable dry or sweet, young or old, still or sparkling, and can age longer than nearly any other white variety. Riesling is best known in Germany and Alsace, and is also of great importance in Austria. The variety has also been particularly successful in Australia’s Clare and Eden Valleys, New Zealand, Oregon, Washington, cooler regions of California, and the Finger Lakes in New York.
In the Glass
Riesling is low in alcohol, with high acidity, steely minerality, and stone fruit, spice, citrus, and floral notes. At its ripest it leans towards juicy peach and nectarine, and pineapple, while in cooler climes it is more redolent of meyer lemon, lime, and green apple. With age, Riesling can become truly revelatory, developing unique, complex aromatics, often with a hint of gasoline.
Riesling is very versatile, enjoying the company of sweet-fleshed fish like sole, most Asian food, especially Thai and Vietnamese (bottlings with some residual sugar and low alcohol are the perfect companions for dishes with substantial spice), and freshly shucked oysters. Sweeter styles work well with fruit-based desserts.
It can be difficult to discern the level of sweetness in a Riesling, and German labeling laws do not make things any easier. Look for the world “trocken” to indicate a dry wine, or “halbtrocken” or “feinherb” for off-dry. Some producers will include a helpful sweetness scale on the back label—happily, a growing trend.