Riesling 

Until recently, Riesling proved a tough sell in the Boise market. Though one of the noble grape varieties, it just didn't get the same respect as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris. That's a shame, because few white wines are more versatile than Riesling. It goes great with poultry, pasta, veggies, Asian cuisine, pork, fish and the Germans even pair it with beef. It can also be crisp and refreshingly delicious on its own on a hot summer day. Happily, Riesling's star is on the rise. The 2001 vintage in Germany drew rave reviews, followed by equally impressive wines in '02 and '03. The Northwest, once a sea of cheap Riesling, now produces more and more top quality wines. And the grape has made a big splash in Australia. We tried a number of wines from around the world, coming up with three clear favorites.

2004 Eroica Riesling, $19.50

This outstanding wine is the product of collaboration between Washington's Chateau Ste. Michelle and Germany's Dr. Loosen. Starts with pretty peach aromas backed by pineapple and subtle honeydew melon. Very rich and unctuous in the mouth, the creamy stone fruit is balanced by tangy pineapple with a clean citrus finish. Proves just how good Northwest Riesling can be.

2002 Serriger Schloss Saarsteiner, $15.99

This entry level Qualitatswein from Germany is low in alcohol (10.5 percent) but rich in flavor. Offers floral melon and apricot aromas alongside light clover and a touch of anise. Soft and smooth in the mouth, it's filled with lively apricot and lime flavors along with hints of herb and spice. Though lovely on its own, this wine really shines when paired with food.

2004 Seven Hills Riesling, $8.99

Very ripe melon, peach and apricot aromas are complemented by hints of pomegranate and sweet herb. This elegant Washington Riesling has a velvety texture in the mouth. It's a nicely balanced wine with enticing apricot and ruby red grapefruit flavors. Subtle sweet clover adds interest, especially on the lightly crisp finish. An exceptional bargain from the Walla Walla winery.

This week's panel: Fawn Caveney, Tastevin; Dave Faulk, Porterhouse Meats; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Karen McMillin, Idaho Wine Merchant; Kevin Settles, Bardenay.

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