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Wine Review: FIGGINS 2011 Estate Riesling

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Spring is almost here. You can just about taste it on the tip of your tongue, the promise of bluebird skies and the warmth of the sun on your bare arms and flip flops. With that promise comes the quest for the perfect white wine…something to enjoy with one hand in the pool and the smell of barbeque in the background, but intriguing enough that it doesn’t disappear into oblivion and can stand the test of your next wine pairing at Daniel. That tall order comes in the form of Figgins Family Walla Walla Valley 2011 Riesling, a newly released irresistible vintage.

FIGGINS is a dream born of a very special place of land that my team and I have spent many years cultivating into what I believe is one of the finest vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley. – Chris Figgins

The roots of the Leonetti Cellar Figgins Family Estate go back to 1977 when Nancy and Gary Figgins founded the areas first commercial winery. A true family estate, everyone from Great Uncle George to Uncle Bill to their son Chris eventually became the tenants, caretakers and inheritors of this precious plot of family ground. The farm had an unknown little gem for its time — a south facing hillside of an acre and a half. Gary established an entire industry for the valley out of the back of a ’67 Chevy pickup with a few hundred cuttings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling bare root grapes that he planted there.

Chris Figgins now runs the estate with his other family members, preserving the longevity of the Leonetti Cellar legacy. In his own words, “We are, in the purest sense of the word, farmers. We are entrusted with three unique vineyard sites each chosen for their ability to deliver world class fruit as a result of our careful labors. The finest winemakers, and thus the finest wines, spend far more time in their vineyards than cellars. Only then can one sense the needs of his vines and react – or not – accordingly.”

We found a lot of that passion in FIGGINS recently released 2011 Estate Riesling. FIGGINS, (not to be confused with Figgins Family Wine Estates, which is their umbrella) came to Chris as an idea when he found a very unique piece of vineyard ground so special that he felt confident it could produce a single vineyard wine expressive of place at a very high quality level. He applied his viticultural masterpiece to it using varietals as a tool – a palette of paint if you will – to most highly elevate this piece of ground to its greatest possible quality. It shows in every bottle. FIGGINS is now a winery producing a single vineyard non-varietal (Bordeaux style) blend, and a tiny amount of dry riesling.

2011 is remembered as a career maker or breaker in the wine world. In Chris Figgins’ career, the last vintage his estate harvested this late and cool was in 1993. “I was working my way through college and freezing my constantly wet hands all summer installing a vineyard irrigation project for a friend. 2011 was a repeat of that vintage, with June- normally our turning point for true summer weather – earning the name ‘Junuary!’” An extended spell of warm weather into October allowed them to bring in all the fruit before any potential freezing. The late year gives the FIGGINS Riesling exceptional acidity and fruit…the perfect year for the perfect white wine.

It is a little known fact that the first wine Leonetti Cellar would release was a White Riesling in 1978. “The quest to create an incredible Riesling came to fruition though the virtues of my Figgins Estate Vineyard. One half-acre parcel, purposely escaped planting to Bordeaux varieties as it would be too cool to fully ripen that fruit but perfect for Riesling! The first vintage was made in 2010 – a mere 40 cases – thus, the wine only touched the lips of family and guests at our winemaker dinners.”

Riesling can shine in so many interpretations from dessert to dry. The 2011 vintage is very dry. It has brilliant fruit, pear, florals, and pineapple but is backed by bracing and palate cleansing acidity. This one has it all—balance, power, purity, density, levity, focus.

When a wine accomplishes all of these things in a single sniff and sip, something truly remarkable has been created.

About Alister & Paine

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*Tried & Tested. Alister & Paine practices old-school journalistic integrity. We only write from experience–never press releases. If we haven’t tried it and loved it you won’t find it in our magazine.

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