What first appealed to me about this week's Wine of the Week, the Goose Ridge Riesling 2007 ($10) from Washington State, was the delicious ripe fruit flavors brimming out of the glass. It was just so dammed drinkable.
But what also caught my attention was the price—an amazing $10.
A tad off-dry in contrast to the often astringent acidity in inexpensive Rieslings, it glows with ripe pears touched with bright citrus notes and a fine, gravel-like minerality. At this extremely modest price, what's not to like?
Pondering how the winemaker pulled off this feat, I called Goose Ridge Vineyards in Richland, Wash., and spoke to Bruce Womak, hospitality and retail manager. His response was revealing.
"Well, unfortunately," he says, "the answer to that kinda throws away all the passion and love and mystery of wine and comes down to pure economics. In 2007 we had a lot of Riesling available in terms of grapes that weren't under contract, and it was an incredible year, so, instead of going out and trying to sell all that wine as bulk, we decided to bottle it under the Goose Ridge label."
Goose Ridge started life as a grape grower for other wineries. Only later did it begin bottling its own wine, as Womak explains, "so we could see what's going on in our vineyard compared to what people we were selling grapes to were doing with our fruit."
This led us to the key issue, the reason for our conversation: How do you make a wine with that great intensity of fruit, beautifully balanced and structured, and sell it for $10?
"The key," Womak responds, "is, one, supply and demand, and two, volume. Because we are such a large vineyard, we have the ability to produce wines at a much more economical cost, and we're not out at the whims of the marketplace buying grapes, so we get the chance to control our costs there, too."
The bad news is the 2007 Riesling is sold out at the winery, but some is still in the supply chain, and—good news for thirsty consumers—the vineyard is planning on bottling a few hundred cases of the 2010. So if you live in the Pacific Northwest, keep your eyes open. As Womak enthuses, "The fun part is we do have the ability to make high-quality wines, premium, hand-crafted wines, and put them in the marketplace at what we call a consumer-friendly price."
Now this is how I like to hear winemakers talk.
When to Drink: Now
Breathing/Decanting: Not necessary
Food Pairing: Any fish or shellfish, simpler veal and chicken, roasted vegetables
Appellation: Columbia Valley
Region: Washington State
Availability: Very limited