Michael Callahan has a thing for Riesling — an obsession, perhaps. But, as a Riesling-lover in general, and a big fan of California Riesling, I find it refreshing.
Michael, who works at Chamisal Vineyards, has scoured various Central Coast sites for Riesling , and has found some real beauties. Under his Maidenstoen label (which he started in 2013) Michael bottles single-vineyard Rieslings that speak clearly of their place. He seems to have set a mission with these wines: to pay homage to Riesling’s importance in the history of California wine, and to make sure Cali Riesling has a viable future.
“Although tastes change and financial decisions must be made, it is important to have advocates in order to keep some pieces of what California’s winegrowing history is,” Michael told me. “It is impossible to contribute to the greater world of wine without an understanding of our history and interpreting what is capable from our older vineyards. The story of California wine should be more than just Cabernet or whatever is selling for the most dollars.”
I say: Amen!
Even though dry Riesling is popular with consumers, Michael laments how some older Riesling vineyards in California have been pulled out or grafted to other varieties. And the price that growers can fetch for their Riesling make it a difficult endeavor. But lovers of dry Riesling have a lot to get excited about when it comes to California. Though few and far between, there are some thrilling Rieslings out there. And (like these wines that cost $22 a pop), the quality to price ratio can be incredibly high.
Michael recently sent me three of his 2016 Rieslings, sourced from select vineyards in Sta. Rita Hills, Monterey and Edna Valley. My notes on these exceptional wines are below.
2016 Maidenstoen Wines Riesling Lafond Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
Light gold color. Nose shows lime, apricot, lemon candle, and some chalky, oyster she and sea salt notes, mixed with some spicy/floral notes. Creamy presence on the palate, but lovely focus and acidity. Orange zest, pineapple and lime fruit is topped in mineral dust, stony-flinty elements, spiced white tea. I get some wax and honeycomb too, but the wine stays focused and bright throughout. Gorgeous, deep, complex, age-worthy stuff. Sta. Rita Hills Riesling is rare, but this site contains some vines dating back to 1971! (94 points)
2016 Maidenstoen Wines Riesling Coast View Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Monterey County
Pretty gold color. Lovely aromas of apricot, orange, lime zest, waves of white flowers, chalky and ocean spray notes – rocky minerals and mountain stream, too. Plump texture but such mouth-watering acidity, the balance is lovely. Tart lime, apricot, airy and fresh and floral with honeysuckle and dandelion. Some mineral notes, limestone, that exquisite Riesling minerality and vibrancy, with a chalky, floral finish. An exceptional California Riesling and absolutely delicious. From a 2,200-foot elevation vineyard on terraced rows, planted in decomposed granite soils. (93 points)
2016 Maidenstoen Wines Riesling Oliver's Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
$22Light yellow color. The nose shows sea salt, ginger, gorgeous lemon-lime and kiwi, yellow flowers, lots going on aromatically. Crisp acidity on the palate, such focus, but the fruit is rich and juicy (guava, kiwi, drizzled in lime). Brisk notes of mineral and chalk dust combine well with deep notes of honey and white tea. A long finish with stony mineral elements. Gorgeous depth but such freshness, too. From a clay soil vineyard six miles from the coast. (93 points)
This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.