Today in Smackdowns: Oregon vs. Washington Riesling
Wild Ginger's end-of-summer showdown pits the country's largest riesling producer (that would be us) against the upstart to the south.
As evidenced by last weekend's meaty mountaintop summit, people in Portland and Seattle love comparing Portland to Seattle. Whether this rivalry exists outside the minds of marketers is another question, but Wild Ginger is expanding this existential dilemma to include Oregon and Washington wines.
Oregon is Pinot country, and Washington vintages leans boozier, largely cabernet sauvignon, syrah, and merlot. But we also make some serious riesling, and have for half a century. The grape is also experiencing a bit of a resurgence south of the state line; riesling plantings are up 50 percent since 2004, according to the Oregon Riesling Alliance.
Wild Ginger has spent the summer examining rieslings from around the world, and Friday, September 14, its summer of riesling celebration concludes with a showdown between Oregon and Washington bottles. The stalwart Asian restaurant and wine destination terms this a David vs. Goliath event, a description that's reasonable on point considering Washington is the largest producer of riesling in America. The Goliath, in this case, is Brennon Leighton, the affable, many-tatted winemaker who made a name for himself at Efeste, but is joining on with Charles Smith this fall with a goal of reinventing Washington's chardonnay (think of the future Oregon-Washington smackdown possibilities).
Representing Oregon: Matt Berson, who works as a winemaker at Brooks Handcrafted Wines in Oregon's Eola Hills. but does his own label, Love and Squalor, on the side. Awww, the name itself is so adorably Portland, and a Salinger reference to boot. Berson's Fancy Pants riesling is already quite the darling of Portland restaurants like Irving Street Kitchen and Riffle NW.
The two are conjuring up five Washington pairings and five Oregon pairings for the five-course meal. At the end, guests who still have their faculties about them after drinking all that wine will vote on the winning state. The victor gets his own riesling featured as a glass pour at Wild Ginger's two locations, as well as the Triple Door, for at least a month. A wine from the winning region gets some love too, as a featured high-end glass pour at Wild Ginger.
Washington has been doing this a while, so our versions run the gamut from training-wheels sweet to dry as a BBC comedy. Oregon's more of a wild card, in an exciting sort of way. The dinner is $75 a person; call the restaurant at 206-623-4450 for a spot.
And if that's not enough scrutiny of Oregon wines, RN74's next Behind the Bottle dinner compares some of the top names in Willamette Valley pinots with Burgundies. The five-course dinner runs $135, including pairints, obviously. Lead sommelier Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen heads up Team Burgundy, while somm Chris Tanghe leads the charge on Team Oregon. Commence Twilight quips...now.