Domestic Selection: Late Harvest Riesling, 1989. Snoqualmie

Snoqualmie Winery is one of Washington State’s on-rush of good new wineries. Founded in 1983, it released its first wines in mid-summer 1984. The winery is located 27 miles east of Seattle close to the town of Snoqualmie (the winery quips this translates as “Twin Peaks”). This facility cur­rently only serves for an ageing cellar, tasting room, and business office, as in 1986, Snoqualmie Winery’s parent company, Sno­qualmie Falls Holding company Inc., acquired the Saddle Mountain Winery in Mattawa, Washington. This latter facility is a state-of-the-art winemaking center combining the latest technology and equip­ment with a capacity of over 800,000 gallons. Many experts consider it to be one of the finest facilities in the nation. Both Sno­qualmie and Saddle Mountain brand wines are crushed and fer­mented at this winery all under the guidance of seasoned enologist Joe Norman, a U.C. Davis graduate with broad experience in all facets of wine making. His prior credits include (amongst others), work at Fetzer Vineyrds (high quality table wines), RMS Vineyards (excellent brandies), and John Culbertson Winery (premium sparkling wines).

The grape from which this dessert wine is made has been made is known in Germany, its original homeland, simply a “Riesling.” In the U.S. it goes un­der either Johannesburg Riesling or White Riesling interchangeably. Some wineries, like Snoqualmie, call their drier Riesling by one name and their sweeter by the oth­er. The fact that this label shows “Late Harvest” tips you that is of the sweeter designation. Every riesling producer whether here or abroad has the burning desire to make a luscious dessert wine show-piece, despite the severe hazards involved. With the weath­er around Seattle being wet, riskily leaving fruit to ripen further on the vine for many weeks beyond normal harvest (thus “late harvest”) opens the door to any number of possible snafus. Successful efforts like this one are considered great rarities.

The color is brilliant pale gold tinted with green. Fragrances of Bartlett pears, peach, and vanil­la rise intensely from the glass. It is big and ripe on the palate with subtle apricot and fruit cocktail fla­vors. A deliciously tangy aftertaste leaves you wanting more.

Serve moderately chilled with melon, fresh fruit, or Christmas cookies.

Cellaring Notes: Drink now through 1993.

Reviewed by Larry Tepper

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