This year marks the fourth annual Summer of Riesling in the United States, a hostage program established in 2008 by “Acid Overlord” Paul Grieco of the restaurant Terroir in New York, in which white wine by-the-glass programs are hijacked by what most sommeliers and wine professionals think of as the most thrilling Germanic beverage this side of St. Pauli Girl.
Riesling is the noble white grape of Germany, adopted by the rest of us as one of the most exhilarating varieties in the world, a thing that many Americans have been somewhat slow to grasp. That doesn't mean it's easy to understand: More than most varietal bottlings, rieslings aren't overt. It is a variety that's more intellectual than visceral, more feminine than masculine, more receptive than penetrating, more pliant than powerful — its strengths are transparency and subtlety.
For this reason, many U.S. consumers still exhibit an aversion: Many remain fickle, still believing, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the wines are sweet. Some are. But many more are not, or are so exquisitely balanced you'd never notice — and few white wines are as gifted in the task of slaking thirst.
Hence this annual intervention. With each passing year, the number of participating restaurants, wine bars and retailers has grown. This summer, more than any other, L.A. represents, with no less than two dozen establishments participating. This means that among their white wines poured, all or nearly all of them will be riesling, from Germany of course, but also Austria, Alsace, New Zealand, New York, Oregon, Washington and points beyond.
Participating restaurants and wine bars: 3Twenty Wine Lounge, El Vino, Lukshon, Melisse, Vertical, Craft, Cut and Sidebar, Providence and Wirtshaus. In addition, the Four Seasons hotels in Beverly Hills and Westlake Village are running multiple riesling placements in their various restaurants and lounges.
Participating retailers: Domaine L.A., Woodland Hills Wine Company, K&L Wine Merchants, Hi-Time Wine Cellars and Wine Country.
Patrick Comiskey, our drinks columnist, blogs at patrickcomiskey.com and tweets at @patcisco. Have a spirits question for a future column? Ask him. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.