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2011 Chateau Montelena Riesling

Uncork This! 2011 Chateau Montelena Riesling

If you've seen or read Bottle Shock, you may be familiar with Chateau Montelena's Chardonnay: the 1973 varietal won the Paris Tasting in 1976, putting Napa Valley and California wineries on the map. But the winery makes another white worth investigating: the Potter Valley Riesling ($25).

See what makes Chateau Montelena Riesling distinctive.

At only 1,000 bottles, this limited-production wine is known to run out quickly. This year, organic Riesling grape grower Guinness McFadden actually harvested more fruit than in previous vintages, but the winery can't increase its production by much; it's the coveted Potter Valley grapes that make this wine so special.

In 1986 — the heyday of Chardonnay in Napa Valley — winemaker Bo Barrett searched high and low for the right place to grow Old World-style Riesling and settled on Potter Valley, an area bordering Mendocino National Forest. Since then, the valley's high elevation and cold temperatures, which resemble the climate of Austrian Rieslings, have been ideal for Barrett's shade-grown grapes. In 2011, the wet weather conditions provided optimal conditions for noble rot to grow on the grapes, enhancing the wine with apricot and honey flavors.

"Riesling is like walking around town in a Speedo; all you've got is your fruit," Bo said of his bottling. Thank goodness his is standout, producing a pale-yellow wine that smells of pineapple and petrol on the nose, a scent common in Old World Rieslings. On the palate, the Riesling resembles the subtly sweet dew off of a honeysuckle flower, with a slightly viscous body and a crisp pear finish. It's intended to be consumed with food: I'm already thinking about stashing a bottle to pair with special-occasion foods like foie gras, scallops, or even Thanksgiving dinner.

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