Long before the sweet wine craze and even before grocery-store rieslings like Chateau Ste. Michelle, there was Pacific Rim. It was part of the Randall Grahm empire, and offered affordable, mostly well-made riesling for those of us who were feeling adventurous. Because, of course, no was supposed to drink riesling in those long ago days.
Much has changed since then. Graham sold Pacific Rim to the Banfi family, and riesling and sweet wine have become au courant — so much so that the wine companies that looked askance at the varietal five years ago are making as much riesling as they can, sweetness be damned.
Through all of this, Washington state’s Pacific Rim ($10, purchased, 13.5%) has been a touchstone for what’s going on with riesling that most of us can find and afford to buy. Sometimes, to be honest, it isn’t all that interesting, more sweet than it should be, and without much more than sweetness going for it. In other words, professionally made, but not all that different from Chateau Ste. Michelle. Sometimes, like this vintage and the 2011, it showed what can be done with riesling in the Pacific Northwest — zingy lime fruit, tell-tale riesling oiliness, a finish that has some minerality, and the correct amount of sweetness for a dry riesling.
The wine made the $10 Hall of Fame this year, a trend that I hope continues for the forseeable future. When it’s right, the Pacific Rim is a wonderful introduction to riesling, a grape that not enough of us know about but should. Because, when it’s sweltering in July and August, a riesling, dry or off-dry, is an alternative worth drinking.