TROON VINEYARD | Applegate Valley | Oregon | Riesling, Whole Grape Ferment — 88 Points | An Utterly Unique Summer White

88 Points | “Recommended”

And now for something completely different…but first, a little reminder: white wines are customarily made by pressing juice from the skins following crush, and then fermenting that juice into wine without skin contact. Skins, therefore, play little or no role in a white wine’s color, aromatics, or flavors, and tannins in the skins do not leach into the wine. Red wines, by contrast, are fermented directly on the skins for an extended period to extract color, tannin, flavor, and texture. Only after or near the end of primary fermentation is red wine separated from the skins.

Riesling fermenting on the skins

So here is the something completely different: a “whole grape ferment” wine made from a white grape variety — in the present case, Riesling — that was fermented on the skins in the method of making a red wine. The result is what is called an “orange wine” (some prefer to call this style “skin-fermented”), as the juice has acquired darker pigmentation along with tannin, texture, and flavor from the skins during fermentation.

While this approach may be unusual in modern winemaking, the method actually harkens back to ancient winemaking practices in the nation of Georgia in the Caucasus region of Eurasia (generally considered to be the cradle of winemaking). Over time, the method made its way to eastern and southern Europe, and today orange wines are most commonly found in Slovenia and Italy where they are made from an array of white grape varieties.

Troon’s rendition has a warm glow to it — more the color of a super-ripe peach than orange — and delivers an intriguing, though elusive, aroma and flavor profile wholly unlike Riesling made in the customary fashion. On the nose are impressions of melon, banana peel, and tarragon; and on the palate, notions of orange peel, raw almond, and rosemary — all framed by undertones of pear, spearmint, and saline minerality over a lean, savory finish. 

The wine is bone dry, medium-bodied, and fresh on the palate, with moderate acidity and no discernable oak. After 10-day fermentation, it was pressed into mature/neutral French oak barrels where it sat for only three months before being bottled.

In terms of style and character, there is really nothing to compare this wine to (except, perhaps, another orange wine), but it should appeal to fans of the lean, dry white wines from wine regions along the eastern Mediterranean.

The folks at Troon Vineyard continue to impress us with their embrace of natural, creative, and age-old (though today unconventional) winemaking techniques. They employ only native yeasts in ferments, use no additives — such as acids, sugar, and enzymes — in their wines, and use only mature oak barrels for aging (no new oak). Here is hoping they continue to think outside of the wine box.

12% ABV | Bottled 03/09/2017 | $20

Food Pairing: Well-suited for springtime and summer sipping with mild or funky cheeses, oily fish (salmon, trout, tuna), and Mediterranean fare — especially assorted tapas.

Availability: For information on how you may obtain Troon’s 2016 Whole Grape Ferment Riesling, visit the winery virtually at www.troonvineyard.com.

For our previous reviews of other Troon wines, go to our main page and search “Troon.”

–Scott Hendley

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