Washington winery Chateau Ste. Michelle and Dr. Loosen of Germany's Mosel region rolled out their new joint-venture Washington Riesling at New York's Mark Hotel on Wednesday night. Called Eroica, after Beethoven's Third Symphony, the 1999 Columbia Valley Riesling received a rating of 91 points in a recent Wine Spectator blind tasting. It sells for $20 a bottle, and 2,600 cases were made.
The Eroica partnership is the second of three global joint ventures recently undertaken by Chateau Ste. Michelle and its parent company, Stimson Lane Vineyards & Estates. In spring 1999, the winery released its first wines from the new Col Solare project with Antinori of Tuscany, and late last year, the company announced an agreement with Petaluma of Australia to market the Bridgewater Mill brand in the United States and to explore a joint-venture wine from Washington.
Made in an off-dry style, though deftly balanced, Eroica combines peach, apricot, mineral and spice notes with an elegant acidity that acts as a counterpoint to the fruit. Ernst Loosen, who was on hand to pour selections from his two German estates, Dr. Loosen and J.L. Wolf, in the Pfalz region, said, "We looked for a combination of finesse from the fruit and finesse from the acidity."
At the start of the joint venture, Loosen and Chateau Ste. Michelle winemaker Erik Olsen blind-tasted a number of Ste. Michelle's experimental wines. Independently, they both chose wines from Cold Creek Vineyard, so they decided that that site would be the backbone of the dry blend. The 1999 Eroica contains 60 percent Cold Creek Riesling.
The two Riesling producers are also collaborating on a sweet wine, Riesling Columbia Valley Single Berry Select 1999 (price to be determined), fashioned after a German Trockenbeerenauslese. Thick and unctuous, it tastes like apricot nectar, though it has not yet been rated by Wine Spectator in a blind tasting. Olsen said that with rain threatening, the majority of the grapes for this bottling were harvested in six hours by a team of 60 pickers. The total harvest resulted in 23 cases of wine.
Clearly excited about the future of Eroica, Loosen and Olsen continue to examine all aspects of grapegrowing and winemaking, in order to improve quality. But it was a recent trip to Australia that showed Loosen the potential for Riesling in new areas. "Every Riesling renaissance we have had goes through the New World," he said. "That gave me the idea to work with someone making Riesling in the New World."
Learn more about Chateau Ste. Michelle's joint venture with Dr. Loosen and the company's other recent projects:
To learn more about German Rieslings, read tasting director Bruce Sanderson's report:
To learn more about Washington wines, read editor at large Harvey Steiman's report:
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