One of our Advanced students just spent a month drinking nothing but Riesling. I thought that was really cool, so I asked him to write about it.
One man’s journey to the light side, and back.
Tim is a graduate of our Advanced Wine Program
Several years ago, rose wines began a new era of respectability. This was because many American wine lovers who had spent time in France knew that the French, particularly in the south of France, loved, no, revered rose (dry rose) as THE wine to drink in the summer. Indeed, every French refrigerator in Provence had at least a 6 L. bag-in-box in its’ innards.
The Riesling Explosion
Riesling seems to be experiencing just such a resurgence. Gone are the days when the only Riesling available were sickening sweet syrups in annoyingly packaged bottles. Also, gone are the days when the only Riesling available was from Germany, or to a lesser extent, France, particularly the Alsace.
Indeed, there has been literally an explosion of Riesling from the new world, from dry to sweet, to eiswein, and much of it quite good. Here, the new world winemakers respond to the world market, while the traditional Riesling makers are, well, following traditions. Centuries-old traditions. But for the lovers of dry Riesling, take heart. Some of the Riesling coming out of Germany is a new style, as a new generation of weinguts takes over.
SOME QUALIFIERS: I made no effort to match foods with wines. I also just picked wines at random, mostly what I could afford that day. I also made no effort to arrange the wines into any order. All wines were purchased(sadly) from Pa Wine and Spirits shops. I didn’t get into very high-end Rieslings, mostly because that’s not what most people are drinking these days with their hot dogs, or pizza, or kung-pao.
Lastly, my wife will not drink any Riesling, so I had no sounding board to discuss my observations with; they are mine alone. So were the next day’s effects. But since Riesling is typically fairly low in alcohol, it wasn’t as bad as if I’d chosen zinfandels or cabs. Also, since I decided on the Friday of Labor Day weekend, I squeezed a couple of more days into the project. On the days that have no food observations, we either ate out or were not worth noting.
Willamette Valley Medium-bodied, lush, with pear and citrus on the nose. Good acidity, with a clean, soft finish. Just a tad more RS than I like. Balanced nicely with fried chicken from our local grocer.
Koonowla, Clare Valley. Fairly exotic tropical fruit opening, lychee, kiwi, apricot, and an herbal quality(basil, Tarragon), mandarin orange, too. Arid, very tight finish. Absolutely no RS. Worked pretty well with stone crab claws with herb butter.
Longview Vineyard, Adelaide Hills,. Lemon-lime, pineapple, just a hint of floral/ Granite, slate. Arid finish, with a burst of herb(lavender) on the close. No match for burgers and dogs, so I opened a zin. Better match, indeed.
Rolf Binder, Eden Valley Very lush, pear, lychee, kiwi. Very mineral mouthfeel, slate, with lemon-lime. Also, pineapple notes, with some floral qualities. Nice mineral-y, dry finish.
Angove’s, Clare Valley Apricot, citrus, blood orange. Nice bracing acidity, with a surprisingly soft finish. Cries out for spicy food.
Pierre Sparr Alsace Reserve. Apple and citrus balanced with slate and granite. Citrus, grapefruit finish. It was very good with a grilled ham steak and potatoes fried in duck fat.
Hogue Washington State, Columbia Valley. Stone fruit, melon on the open, with a surprising acid balance. Quite surprising, for $6.99, I’ll buy another bottle (or 6) to taste again.
Cave Spring, Niagara, Ontario. This is Riesling! Stonefruit, green apple, citrus, framed by bracing acidity. This is the last bottle of a case I bought when it was around a year or so ago. Did well with cold, boiled shrimp and potato salad.
Spy Valley, Marlborough, NZ Now, I love austere, stone dry white wines. This offering from NZ just is over the top. Very austere, like grapefruit giving way to lemon juice . almost all acid. That said, I liked it, but not for $18.99. No match for B-B-Q pork with chipotle sauce. I can’t think of a food match for this wine.
Gainey, St. Ynez Valley, CA. Very citrus-y, lemon and orange blossom, with a distinct minerality, almost metallic, but not unpleasant. Nicely balanced, with good acidity and a subtle finish. Would be good with food. Not a bad match for grilled kielbasa sandwiches on Conshohocken Italian Bakery Kaiser rolls.
Airlie, Willamette Valley, OR. Very mild citrus notes, some floral. Pretty one dimensional, off-dry.
Kallfelz, Estate Kabinett, Mosel Very lush, apricot peach opening, giving way to granite and shale. Very distinct acidity, almost lime-y. softer than expected on the close. Stood up, if a little awkwardly, to spaghetti marinara with Italian sausage
Hazlett , Finger Lakes, Home Reserve. Green apples and citrus blossoms, followed by some herbal quality. Nice stoney, tight mouthfeel, closing with an almost balanced finish, but falling just short of dry. No match for grilled steak and baked potatoes.
Studert-Prum Bernkasteler Spatlese Apricot, honey, apple, soft citrus, and diesel, with a bright, soft finish. Take-out pizza, no match, but I gagged it down.
A to Z, Newberg, OR. Fruit forward, floral, opening with notes of peach and tupelo honey. A bit sweet, but with a nice, citrusy acid finish, with just a whiff of clove. Not bad with grilled shrimp with angel hair pasta with pesto.
The Rail Trail, Leasingham, Clare Valley. Fruity, lemon-lime opening, kind of tart, with a short, mineral and honey finish. I guess for $8.99, not too bad.
Eroica, Dr. Loosen/Chateau Ste. Michelle My riesling review: Pear, tropical fruit(lychee, pineapple) The mouthfeel is first acidy, giving way to soft, lush fruit. Apricot, eucalyptus, diesel, then a burst of acidity on the close. This was so good; I forget what we ate.
Grant Burge, Thorn Eden Valley Citrus, particularly lemon and grapefruit, though slightly soft on the tongue, with a peppery note. It finishes tart and crisp, with minerality in overdrive. Stood up to chili con carne with extra jalapeno.
Salmon Run, Dr. Frank, Finger Lakes, NY. How can you not love Dr. Frank? This offering, from his second-tier line, is a steal. Orange blossom, apricot, and diesel fumes, with a soft mouthfeel, balanced by moderate acidity. Not off-dry, but just dry. My riesling review: very nice with grilled pork tenderloin with fig and rum sauce.
Cavit, Italy Mild apricot, apple blossom, grassy-herbal notes. Tastes sweet, rather than fruity, but closes with nice acidity, but with a slightly bitter aftertaste. This very cheap wine was the only Italian Riesling I could find in Pa., (big surprise there), and wasn’t too bad. And that’s not damning with faint praise. However, the Hogue for $6.99 kick its’ butt.
Dr. Konstantin Frank, Finger Lakes Again, how can you not love Dr. Frank? Anyone who brings Rkatsiteli to the Great Lakes has got to be great, right? Anyway, this wine was full of peach, pear, apricot, clover honey, with a whiff of butterscotch. Maybe crème caramel? Cantelope mixed with the apple on the palate, with a bracing, marble, acid balanced finish. This was a pizza nite, and Dr. Frank was not overmatched, if not ideally matched.
Hardys “S.E. Australia” Surprisingly, this is not the worst of the lot to date. Mild apple and apricot on the nose, a little floral and honey quality, too. Nicely structured, tight acid finish. A definite vanilla note on the close, not altogether pleasant.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley My riesling review: Pale golden color, medium body. Very exotic nose, with tropical fruit, particularly mango and coconut, flower blossoms, and a vague spice. Incredibly lush on the palate, with a nice acid balance to close. Almost old world in style.
Fisheye, S.E. Australia Golden color, not much else going on in the glass. Tight, bitter citrus nose, some vague floral notes, with a mouth puckering, tart close. A stinker.
Kendermanns, Pfalz Peach, a vague vegetal smell(asparagus water)?Pale golden color, tropical fruit on the palate, mostly pineapple, with a nice soft, almost dry finish. Quite pleasant for $10.99
Tony Jost Bacharacher Hahn Kabinett, Mosel Very distinct fruit-forward style, with orange blossom, spice, and floral(rose?) quality. Very pale in color. Nice soft fruit on the palate with a slightly soft acid finish. Very old-world style. Very nice with goat cheese and slightly stale bread.
Tarrica Central Coast. Slightly green in color, fresh thyme, clove, cinnamon, gon the nose. Green apple and clover honey a floral quality on the palate. Nice fruit with a tangy finish. With 2% residual sugar, it’s not quite dry. Matched nicely with smoked trout and horseradish and herbed goat cheese pitas.
Rudolf Muller Kabinett, Mosel This wine opened very tight, with very little nose, so I let it warm up some. It did give up some stonefruit, and minerals on the tongue, and a tight acid finish. I actually put this away for the next nite, and let it open for a few hours, tasting it again, this time at almost room temperature. Unfortunately, this didn’t help much.
Stringy Brae, Clare Valley Lime, kiwi, and some melon on the nose, with a greenish tinge in the glass. Very dry on the palate, with grapefruit, orange, and some grass. Very tight, slightly rough, acid finish. It didn’t work with Spicy cabbage soup, so we opened a ’04 Beaune-Theuron, that was positively decadent.
Marc Kreydenweiss Wiebelsburg, Alsace Grand Cru. Pale colored, with some citrus and stonefruit, particularly apricot, on the nose. Moderate acidity with a slate finish. This winemaker suggests letting this wine age for a few more years, and I think it will be spectacular. A note: while I liked this wine, I opened a pinot noir to go with our rotisserie chicken.
Dr. Pauly Bergweiler Bernkasteler Badstube Auslese. Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. Very fruit-forward, with cinnamon, apples, and peach aromas. Pale golden color. Some vanilla notes, with a lush, fruity finish. Somewhat sweeter than I like, but it is to be expected. Very soft, floral finish.
Pacific Rim Dry, NV While this label is no longer a Randall Grahm property (somebody tells the Pa LCB), it is still sourced primarily from Wash. State grapes. It is still a great wine and a great value. There is peach, apricot, and lime with a lush mouthfeel, yet quite dry on the finish. A good accompaniment to cold chicken sandwiches
A FEW CLOSING OBSERVATIONS
- There seems to be no price-quality equation. That is, some really low-priced selections kicked butt, while some of the higher-priced wines were found lacking.
- It was eye-opening to note the differences in styles, from both new worlds vs. the old world, as well as from country to country. The old world styles fancies lush, fruit-forward openings, with just enough acidity on the close to keep them from being off-dry. The new world selections, particularly from Australia and New Zealand, open more austere, gave more fruit up on the palate, but some, not all, were rather tart on the close. And Washington State and New York, and Ontario offered very nice, fruity, yet dry offerings.
- Just one question—while I’ve heard of sparkling Riesling, why doesn’t the state monopoly have at least one available?