Potter Valley Riesling 2019
Riesling is a hidden gem within the Chateau Montelena portfolio. Many people don’t know it exists, and once they do – they keep coming back for more. Stylistically, it is amazingly refreshing with notes of lemon blossom, honeysuckle and rose petal that are balanced by lively acidity
Winemaker Matt Crafton best describes the experience associated with this unique wine:
“I love sharing our Riesling when I travel. Primarily, it’s because very few people actually know that we make Riesling and even fewer have tried it. But, secondarily, and this is my favorite part, I really enjoy the responses I get when I offer someone a glass. By far, the most common reply is some flavor of ‘No thank you. I don’t drink sweet wine.’ Once I coax them into a taste, however, few don’t finish the glass. “
Many years ago, Chateau Montelena selected a certified organic vineyard in the Coastal Mendocino Mountains from which, even today, it sources the fruit for the Potter Valley Riesling. The basic winemaking truth — “The Right Grape in the Right Place”—drove that decision then, and it is every bit as valid now. The Riesling grape is a noble variety that requires moderate days and cool nights to allow proper ripening and mature flavor development.
Potter Valley is a sublime setting for growing Riesling. Situated northeast of Ukiah at the headwaters of the East Fork of the Russian River, the floor of this tiny valley sits at 1000 feet of elevation, higher than some hillside vineyards in Napa Valley.
The floor of this tiny valley sits at 1000 feet of elevation, higher than some hillside vineyards in Napa Valley. The Riesling is grown on the backslope of an alluvial fan that extends from the hillsides above. The soil is deep but drains well, ideal for deep roots and resilient vines. Additionally, the consistently mild temperatures and persistent fog make Potter Valley an ideal vineyard site for Riesling.
What a difference a year makes. Deciding not to harvest the 2018 Riesling due to smoke exposure in the vineyard was agonizing but it was the correct decision. For the first time since 1972, Chateau Montelena did not make Riesling, but the 2019 was well worth the wait. Not only is it delicious and certainly fills the void from the missed vintage, but the entire episode, capped with the comeback of an amazing wine, serves as yet another example of our unwavering commitment to integrity and honesty. The rhetoric of “high standards” and “no compromises” is bandied about, but the idea of crafting a wine contrary to our values wasn’t even considered. Welcome back Riesling.
The 2019 Potter Valley Riesling was fermented entirely in stainless steel using three different yeast strains, at cool temperatures of 55-60 Fahrenheit. The wine was then racked on fine lees and matured in a combination of neutral barrels and stainless steel.
The vineyard in Potter Valley tends to bud out slightly later than those here in Napa Valley. Consequently, the late spring rains galvanized the period of grand growth as summer began. The excess moisture put a premium on managing the vine canopy to encourage dappled sunlight for ripening and discourage any unsavory pests as fall approached. Harvest was based primarily on flavor and balance in the fruit, and this year that balance was achieved at slightly higher ripeness compared to previous vintages. The result is an opulent, voluptuous, but still fresh and dynamic wine.
On the nose, ripe and tropical, the aromatics simply pop, sashaying from lychee to pear, and peach to melon. As the wine warms in the glass, star jasmine is revealed and the wine leans toward decidedly more floral and perfume elements, without relinquishing that beautiful varietal character.
The palate, on the one hand lush but also lively, pineapple, apricot, and honeycomb belie the razor sharp acidity that cuts through mid-sip. The honeycomb in particular transitions to a sultry marzipan like nuttiness that adds richness to an already flashy palate.
On the finish, the ginger emerges along with lychee once again as the wine’s density is clearly evident. Citrus appears as well in the form of fresh lemon peel as the acid slowly begins to fade with one more hint of tropical passionfruit.
Enjoy the 2019 Potter Valley Riesling with Asian cuisine, such as spicy pad Thai, or perhaps with citrusy grilled shrimp
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