Winery: Mount Palomar Winery
Product/Varietal: 100% Riesling
AVA on Bottle: Temecula Valley
Winemaker: James Rutherford
How They Describe It
“Velluto” translates to velvet and is appropriate for this wine. Velluto exemplifies an unusual style of a true Dry Riesling (NOT sweet) that captures the varietal character of Riesling but was produced by methods mostly used for big full-bodied Chardonnays. Aged in neutral oak barrels and matured through the old Sur Lie Method, this wine is both bright and complex. The wine is fragrant with pineapple, lily, lemon, and guava. It is round and full in the mouth with tastes of lemon, peach, lime, pineapple, baked apple, and lychee that ends with a velvet smooth finish. Like Chardonnay, Velluto is best served only slightly chilled rather than cold…. Wunderbar!
How I Describe It
The 2016 Velluto is medium-pale lemon yellow in appearance. This foreshadowed the aromas and tastes to come.
Putting nose to glass, there’s a blast of bread dough from aging sur lie. Aromas of lemon, mango, and pineapple waft in, along with green pear and petrol (the latter being a normal aroma in Rieslings). Subtle fragrances of honeysuckle and chamomile add depth.
The bread dough in the aroma is much more integrated when tasting Mount Palomar’s 2016 Velluto. Rather, the characteristic petrol, lemon, and pineapple stand out. Elements of gooseberry, peach, and honeysuckle are detected.
This is a dry wine with high acid. At 14.1%, the wine has medium-high alcohol. Its medium body, pronounced intensity, and medium finish make the 2016 a delight to drink.
Why is This Wine Special?
Riesling is a varietal native to the Alsace region in Germany. This appellation is known to be particularly cold and wet. That’s why one of the most expensive forms of German Riesling uses frozen grapes! To grow quality Riesling in sunny, dry Southern California is truly a feat of winemaking sorcery, and Mount Palomar does an excellent job at it.
Riesling also sometimes gets a bad rap. In today’s wine world, where dry is on trend, it seems like every other Riesling is syrupy-sweet. In fact, finding a crisp dry Riesling takes a little work. For one, it’s somewhat easier to make a sweet or off-dry Riesling; it takes less time to ferment, and the sweetness can mask some faults from under-ripeness. Mount Palomar’s 2016 Velluto showcases dry Riesling in the best way it could.
Additionally, Mount Palomar added an extra layer of interesting to the Velluto: aging sur lie, or on its lees. In the white wine world, this method is most commonly found in toasty Chardonnays and White Burgundies (also Chardonnay). Sur lie means allowing some of the yeast particles to settle in the wine while it ages (usually in oak barrels), rather than filtering it out. Doing so adds flavors and aromas similar to freshly baked bread, toast, or bread dough, the latter of which is very clearly in this wine.
On a side note, don’t mistake sur lie with MLF — another common method used in Chardonnays. The former makes the wine bready; the latter makes it buttery or creamy. The 2016 Velluto retains its crisp acidity, indicating no MLF (which, to this author, is a good thing).
It’s also worth noting the 2016 Velluto’s performance at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Glancing at the other Double Gold winners, most of them originate from some of the coldest AVA’s in the United States (e.g., Finger Lakes in New York, Old Mission Peninsula in Michigan) — aligning more closely with the grape’s native Alsace. Riesling is grown well in other parts of the US, but only Mount Palomar’s local grapes performed at the same level, which is a tremendous testament to the winemaker’s skill.
When & How I Would Drink It
I’m a bit of a rebel, in the nerdiest of ways, when it comes to Riesling: I like my wine cold. The convention is to serve it only slightly chilled. To me, the wine is aromatic enough to stand low temperatures, and I enjoy the crisp, tart acidity.
To that end, this is a wine best enjoyed on warm afternoons. My first exposure to Riesling (not Velluto) was at a friend’s barbecue. The wine paired surprisingly well with beef ribs, which is not the norm with white wines. The Mount Palomar 2016 Velluto would also do well with darker meats. I enjoyed a glass with a Greek gyro wrap. But it could also pair well with fowl (e.g., chicken, turkey, duck) or grilled pork chops. Creamy or fatty sauces would also cut into the acid a bit, revealing more of the wine’s fruitiness.
How to Get It
Order Online: https://www.mountpalomarwinery.com/product/2016-Velluto
Bottle Price: $35
Cases Produced: unknown
Have you tried the Mount Palomar 2016 Velluto? How did the tasting notes compare with your experience? Leave a comment below.