BOISE, Idaho – It was the prospect of making Syrah from the Snake River Valley that helped lure Leslie Preston back to her home state of Idaho.
Now, the owner of Coiled Wines bubbles with enthusiasm for Riesling sparkling wine, a project she calls Rizza – a dry tribute to the Aussie nickname for the noble white grape from Germany.
“If I had to only make one wine, it would be Rizza,” Preston told Great Northwest Wine. “It’s just really fun.”
Preston’s path to Rizza has been a winding road, and it fits the theme of her Snake River Valley brand, which she named Coiled. (She recently created another brand called Translations, which includes fruit from outside of Idaho).
“We’ve gotten a lot of response from people who say they don’t like sparkling wine, but they love Rizza,” Preston said. “It’s not aggressive in the mouth, which I mostly attribute to the Riesling. I just love the flavor profile of Riesling and how beautiful the grape is.”
Preston admits to being late to the sparkling wine party. In 2005, she resigned from Stags’ Leap Winery in the Napa Valley, and a year later, Preston began making Idaho wine using Snake River Valley grapes. Her driving force a decade ago was Syrah.
“She just really wanted to make Syrah in Idaho. That was a really big thing for her,” said winemaker Robert Brittan, who resigned at Stags’ Leap to start his own winery in the Willamette Valley.
In 2011, Preston began working with Riesling from Skyline Vineyard and immediately won awards. Her 2012 Dry Riesling made The Seattle Times’ top 50 list for 2013, and her 2013 Dry Riesling made The Seattle Times list in 2014. This year, the 2014 Rizza ranks No. 30.
Editor’s note: This is the final story in our five-part series on Pacific Northwest sparkling wines.
Coiled ramps up Rizza production to 500 cases
Preston sold through her debut vintage of Rizza by October, and demand prompted her to increase production from the original 300 cases to 500 cases for the 2015 Rizza. Preston began working with Andrew Davis of Radiant Sparkling Wine Co., in Dundee, Ore., to help her with disgorging.
“I’m really, really excited to start this collaboration with Radiant for disgorging the bottles,” she said. “It will be less wasteful, and it’s a step in making this project more sustaining. We could do it by hand, but it would just kill us.”
The wine will be available to the public Dec. 17, and her customers don’t balk at the sight of a sparkling wine that requires a bottle opener in order to slake their thirst.
“We use a stainless steel crown cap, and a lot of people have asked me about it,” she said. “Most people wouldn’t look at the crown cap and think it’s a high-end product, but our audience is pretty amazing. They understand that I don’t use cork.
“Sure, it’s not a traditional closure, but then it’s not a traditional sparkling wine,” she added. “I’m going for a very fresh product, and I don’t want anything to affect the brightness of the fruit.”
This past year, Preston finally tried a raw oyster because it was paired with her Rizza by Juniper Restaurant in Boise. She now is a convert, which wasn’t a huge leap considering her love of sushi with Rizza.
“It’s great with cheese and great with popcorn,” Preston said. “I love it with everything. You can really dress it up or dumb it down, and it’s still yummy. I dumb down really well.”
Crossings Winery broadens approach with Riesling
The late Roger Jones cast a long shadow in southern Idaho’s agriculture community, and the founder of Crossings Winery in Glenns Ferry is given credit for suggesting to Procter & Gamble in the 1960s that it use surplus potatoes to create a new type of potato chip — Pringles.
With that in mind, it didn’t require too much effort from winemaker Neil Glancey to convince Jones in 2012 to allow him to make Bubbles – 200 cases of sparkling wine with Riesling from the Snake River Valley winery’s estate vineyard. After all, Glancey may have had a hand in more sparkling wine during his career than anyone in Idaho.
“I’ve made sparkling wines for years,” Glancey said. “I started at Lakeridge Winery in Florida, and we’d make 1,200 cases a year traditional methode Champenoise. That was a bigger place — 55,000 cases a year — so it was a great place to learn.”
The 2012 crush also marked Glancey’s return to working for the Jones family at their Carmela Vineyards. A year later, Jones died, but his son Doug took over the winery, hired Glancey full-time and continued with the rebranding of Carmela into Crossings. The new name serves as reference both to the winery’s transition and the nearby Three Island Crossing State Park.
Much like his father, Doug Jones has shown a keen sense of marketing. He’s trademarked Bleu Noir — the name for their increasingly popular Lemberger bottling — as well as Bubbles.
“It is unique and nice to see other wineries in Idaho starting to make sparkling wine,” Glancey said. “In traditional Champagne, you are looking for the minerality, and this region lends itself to that because there’s that minerality in the soil, particularly in Hagerman.”
The follow-up vintage of Bubbles is 2013. The 300-case lot will be released this spring and remain a fixture inside Crossings’ on-premise restaurant.
“So often, we start our wine dinners with the sparkling wine that it’s become a mainstay for them,” Glancey said. “I also work the farmers market in Boise every Saturday and suggest people serve it with fresh fruit like golden raspberries and appetizers. You can also work it into a breakfast situation with Eggs Benedict or a Belgian waffle with fruit topping.”
3100 Cellars set to join Idaho wine industry
Hailey Minder is another winemaker raised in the Treasure Valley who is fascinated by sparkling wine. She and her river guide husband, Marshall, plan to release their first wines under their 3100 Cellars brand in June 2016.
She was hired by Telaya Wine Co., in 2013, and the Sullivans have allowed their assistant winemaker to pursue her own sparkling wine program with a focus on Chardonnay from the Snake River Valley and methode Champenoise.
Minder, a graduate of Lewis and Clark College in Portland, made a trip to work harvest at a spumante producer in Italy and came back inspired to trade a job as a school teacher for a start in the wine industry. She moved to the Walla Walla Valley and worked on crush pads and in cellars for Figgins Family Wine Estates and Rôtie Cellars.
Earlier this year, she won the Idaho Wine Commission’s 2015 scholarship award, and she is continuing her wine education via Washington State University’s certificate program.