Wines of Wisconsin: Botham Vineyards Riesling

Wines of Wisconsin: Wisconsin Winery Association Members MapBeing a wine lover and a native son it is somewhat surprising that tasting the wines of my birthplace has yet to occur. On the other hand we are known for our beer and cheese and I personally didn’t even realize that this chasm existed. But like a good parent my mother was aware and chose to rectify by lugging a number of bottles to the Bay Area on her last visit. Among those was this Botham Vineyards Riesling. Before we get to the bottle, let’s do a 30 second version on Wine and Wisconsin to provide some perspective.

Wisconsin was the original American home of Agoston Haraszthy, a pioneer, who is sometimes referred to as the “Father of California Viticulture” having introduced more than three hundred varieties of European grapes to the region. Needless to say it didn’t take him long to figure out Wisconsin wasn’t the promised land for winemakers. That said, others would step in to continue his quest and today Bob Wollersheim is recognized by many as the father of the Wisconsin wine industry”. A pioneer as well, Bob began his work in 1972 and experimented 1972 with hundreds of varieties of grapevines to see which would suit the colder climates. Today Wisconsin is home to one AVA (Lake Wisconsin) and some forty wineries. Typically most wineries import grapes (from California, Washington, and New York States) and do the production here in the state. Others mix imported grapes with estate-grown grapes while only a few producers actually make wine entirely from locally grown grapes. I couldn’t find any statistics on how much wine the state is producing but I did keep finding one sentence that appears to be a local favorite. I will use it here to summarize my findings: “The Wisconsin River Valley isn’t the Napa Valley. But it also doesn’t have a shred of snobbery.”

NV Botham Vineyards Riesling
NV Botham Vineyards Riesling

Price: $9.50 @ Friend/Gift

What They Said:

Per Botham Vineyards “Crafted in the Johannesburg style for gentle sweetness, our Riesling is smooth, rich, mouth-filling pleasure. Imagine drinking velvet and you’ll understand the essence of this wine’s deep and beautifully balanced character.”

What I Think:

Botham Vineyards is located 110 miles due west of my hometown Milwaukee or 30 miles from the state capital of Madison. Their story begins around 1990 when Peter Botham, after dabbling with vines in Maryland, decided to return to Wisconsin and begin a winery of his own. The inaugural vintage was a thousand cases (if my conversion from gallons is correct) in 1993 and today they produce roughly 12,000 cases annually. When asked about his winemaking style Peter said he tries to create a regional flavor in his wines by growing 10 percent to 15 percent of his grapes and buying the rest from New York’s Finger Lakes region, which has a similar but slightly more moderate climate. In addition to a passion for wine Peter shares the same for vintage cars. The winery holds an annual Vintage Celebration to merge these two passions with a car show at the winery with the vineyards just at the peak of its growing season. Knowing Wisconsin as I do I can imagine this is a well attended and a huge hit!

So, finally to the juice, what did I think? For starters; semi dry can mean a lot of different things to different people. In this case for me it meant semi sweet, given my preference for Rieslings made in a dry style. This one had floral notes on the nose, a great mouth feel and a unique mineral, flintiness that kept the sweetness in check (just barely). If you want to taste something local or want to explore different regions and/or interpretations of a varietal this one is worth a try. Interesting enough for me I have wanted to explore the wines of the Finger Lakes in New York. Looks like in a roundabout way I got a head start with this one.

Rating: 12th Bottle