Riesling- It Lights Me Up!

When it comes to Riesling, the wine market has a split personality.   You have the people who enjoy sweet wines and love drinking sweet Riesling.  Then, you have the people who hate sweet wine and, therefore, won’t drink Riesling.  But if you are in-the-know… You can fall in love with dry but fruity, racy but voluptuous, bold but elegant,  Riesling.  The trick is standing in the aisle and figuring out which Riesling is which.

img_5801Albert Mann Riesling Cuvee Albert 2014.   Vin D’Alsace.  I bought a case of this wine un-tried and un-tasted.  Most Alsatian Rieslings are on the dry side of the spectrum, so I felt comfortable with my purchase.  Once, I opened it and took my first sip, I had this insane desire to hug the bottle to my chest and shout “Mine!!!!”  However, since I am in the business of selling wine and always love to share my good deals (clothes, shoes and good lawn care, included), I instead started pouring this wine for everyone to try.  It was universally enjoyed because this Alsatian Riesling has something for everyone.

The aromas of Albert Cuvee leap out of the glass and perform a pirouette.  There is that first whiff of diesel gasoline that whirls with the fragrance of white and yellow flowers and candied ginger.  People often call that smell Petrol, but I haven’t pumped enough European gas to know the difference.  What I do know is that the aroma is iconic to several terroirs of Riesling, particularly when aged.  Moving on to the first sip… This Riesling trumpets flavors of ripe, sweet lemon, lime, tart green apple skins, ginger.  It coats the tongue with a little lanolin and then washes the coating away  with bursting, citrus acidity like lemonade.  Who doesn’t like lemonade?  Particularly on a hot day!  The mouth-watering flavors linger for a nice, long finish.  Wow.  I enjoyed just re-living the memory of it!!  The alcohol by volume (ABV) is 12.5%… typical for Alsatian Rieslings.   They have long, dry, beautiful summer days making gorgeously ripe grapes.

So, how do you capimageture this sublime moment?  First off,  you probably won’t want to look for this type of quality wine at your average grocery story.   What you want to do vist an upscale local wine store or big box liquor store.  Often, they  will have a specific Riesling section.

Some wineries may include  the term “Dry”, on their label.  Dry can be a relative term as it is not legally defined.  Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling from the  Finger Lakes region of New York is dry  with bright flavors of lemon-lime, grapefruit and honey.  Notice the 12.5% ABV.

Some Riesling labels will have a sweet to dry scale on the back label, which is a nice idea, because the average person hasn’t memorized the Kabinett, Spatlase, Auslase, Trockenbeerenauslese of German labeling and most Riesling regions have not come up with a wine labeling plan for sweetness levels.  Dr. Loosen’s Blue Slate Riesling Kabinett  one example of  a Riesling showing  a sweetness level scale.  (I’ve included a few other examples, as well.)  Dr. Loosen  balances on the scale at Medium Sweet.  The ABV is 7.5%  The label also recommends this wine with spicy foods which is spot on for sweeter Rieslings.  Nothing quenches the fire of hot and spicy Thai curry like a sweet to medium dry Riesling.


All the above noted ABV’s point to another tip  for making a Dry/Sweet determination.   Look at the alcohol on the label.  A 12.5% ABV can indicate that all the sugar in the ripe grapes was converted to alcohol during fermentation, so there isn’t a lot of sweetness left in the juice.  Therefore, wines with a higher ABV are usually dryer.  A 7.5% ABV generally reflects that there is still sugar remaining in the wine that has not been converted to alcohol.  Definitely sweeter.   That is a general rule.  IMG_5835

If you are new to Riesling, on a budget or just serving a bunch of your friends during a hot summer day, Clean Slate Riesling from Mosel,Germany  (ABV 11.0%) is a fun starter wine from one of the lower shelves. $8-ish.  Medium-dry and tasting of lime and stone fruit, this very inexpensive Riesling still shows some of its regional minerality.  Not remotely as complex and gorgeous as the Albert Cuvee, but I’ve shared it with friends over some everyday Asian cuisine and on theIMG_5839 patio in the summer –everyone smiled.

Another fine example is Famille Hugel Classic Riesling 2014 from Alsace.  In the $20 range, this Riesling is dry and flavorful with lime, peaches and ginger.  (ABV 12.7%)  This wine is elegant and I would love it with some grilled white fish, seafood or even sashimi.

Just to keep it interesting, I have to mention this Ulrich Langguth Riesling Trocken 2014 Deutcher Seckt.  A sparkling German Riesling from the Mosel region.  It makes a nice aperitif .  $13-ish in price.  Easy to drink and delightfully dry (ABV 12.0%).   Trocken means dry in German, so that helps.   Sekt refers to the fact it is sparkling.   Try this instead of Prosecco or Cava.  Your guests will be excited to experience a  different sparkling wine.

Well, this was fun!!  Enjoy your day!

Sometimes You Get Surprised!

 Big Companies Still Make Good Wine!  Surprise!IMG_1634

Chateau St. Michelle is the oldest winery in Washington state.  Two million cases produced a year.  That is Big.  Huge.   Very mainstream.  However, I cannot lie…I’ve heard they make consistently good wines.  Further looking reveals they were the  Wine Enthusiast magazine’s Winery of the Year in 2004.   I found it  necessary  to get off the beaten path and back onto the wine super highway

I was rather taken aback by this glass!!!  This Chateau St. Michelle Riesling has big flavors of lime, bruised apple, peach and nectarine jumping out of the glass.  Honey and notes of petrol, to me, and minerality, to others, kind of clinging to the edges.  Screaming acidity — ya, I like it like that!  So, I turn the bottle around and look at the back label for more information.  ABV 12% and they have a sweetness scale!  According to the label,  this wine is balanced right smack in the middle of Medium Dry and Medium Sweet.  I consider that to be waaaaaay too sweet and I am not sure how this bottle ever made it into my shopping cart.  But it wasn’t too sweet, at all.

That screaming acidity that I loved kept any sugar in the wine from being cloying and tongue coating. The wine was refreshing.  My wine instructors have pointed out several times that acid has that effect in wine.  I have often found with inexpensive wines, sweet is still just sweet.   In this case, my mouth’s perception was on the dry side.  That was the real surprise.  And the price is surprising too!  $10.   Available everywhere.

An extra knowledge tidbit…  

When you look at this Chateau St. Michelle Columbia Valley Reisling label, it says, “100% Vinifera Rootstock”.  The fine wine grape species, Vitas vinifera, is susceptible to a microscopic, sap sucking aphid called phylloxera.   Sadly, the aphid was introduced to Europe in the mid 1800’s because it traveled on some vines sent from the United States. Within 3o years the aphid had made its way through much of the Old World vineyards causing almost complete destruction.   Although the aphid  was native to US soils, our native species of grape vines were resistant.   

To our good fortune, several horticulturists worked on this phylloxera problem and  found that those vitis vinifera vines could be grafted onto a variety of hybridized American root stock  and become resistant to phylloxera. Let those aphid suckers choke on that American Sap! (I think that is how it worked!)  This grafting technique seemed to be very effective.  European vineyards replanted their beloved vines onto the new American rootstock and the vineyards thrived.  All was well until the aphid crossed the ocean again in the early 1900’s and attacked all those wonderful vitis vinifera vines that we had imported from  Europe.  So we had to make the same changes here — European originated Vitis vinifera vines grafted onto hybridized American rootstock.  And just to be sure you understand, although our native species of vines were resistant  to phylloxera, their grapes were not particularly wine worthy.   The vitis vinifera species is the hands down, fine wine making  winner.  Thank God for good science!!!

So, if we were grafting all those vinifera vines onto non-vinifera rootstock, why does the label say “100% Vinifera Rootstock’?  It appears those sap sucking aphids don’t survive well in the sandy, desert soils in Columbia Valley Washington.  Chilean wines are also planted on their original vinifera rootstock.  The Mosel area in Germany, the Greek Islands  and some scant acreage in Montalcino, same way.  Areas of Australia remain phylloxera free due in parts to their soils and also their strict laws regarding the movement vineyard equipment, planting materials, and vines from area to another. 

So, to all my friends looking for some daily consumption wine…grab some chopsticks, order in some dumplings or a little tuna tartare or salmon.  Or just pour.  Pouring is good.  And  $10 to pour a  Chateau St. Michelle  Riesling means you can be downright cheerful about it!!  I love good surprises!

If you want to try a higher tiered Riesling from Chateau St. Michelle, give Eroica a shot.  This wine has been a partnership between Chateau St. Michelle and the Dr. Loosen Estate in Germany since 1999.  Better vineyard site selections mean enhanced flavor and minerality.  $22.  Still a great deal!


Wine & Paint Samples


What does wine have to do with paint samples???IMG_1223I look at that answer as the Rule of Threes.  It seems to take me at least three paint samples (sometimes five) to find the right color.  And I like to taste wine in groups of three.  Three of the same varietals.  Three of the same wines from different years.  Three of the same varietals from different regions.  Five samples could always be better, but if I’m tasting alone or with my husband,  I am trying to make sure they can be finished before they go bad!

My example today is three different Rieslings.

IMG_0921Dr. Loosen 2014 Blue Slate Riesling Kabinett.    This Riesling comes from the Mosel River Valley in Germany.   Germany is cold!!  Growing wine in optimum vineyards on the hillsides of the  Mosel River means the grapes have a little temperature protection from their proximity to the river and receive heat from reflected sunlight, which promotes ripening.  The dark blue slate also absorbs the sun’s heat much like black asphalt in the south!  Vineyard location along the Mosel is EVERYTHING  in determining the quality of wine.

This wine is labeled Kabinett. This is a measure of ripening.  These cool climate grapes are picked relatively early in the harvest season and have a lower alcohol level of 8 -9%.  Unless the label tells you the wine is Trocken (dry) or Halbtrocken (off dry) OR has a level of sweet to dryness scale on the back label, it can be a little bit of a guess.  In this case, the wine is on the semi-sweet side.  ($16-18)

Kung Fu Girl 2014  Washington State Riesling  A great value wine from Ancient Lakes in Washington State.  These grapes grow on steep cliffs on the Columbia river.  Beautiful flavors of lime, peaches and minerality and an alcohol level of 12%.   This medium bodied wine is a house favorite at our home for our frequent dinners at our favorite BYOB Asian restaurants, Vieng Thai on Long Point, and Vinh Hoa for seafood on Bellaire.  Off dry, this wine has the perfect amount of residual sugar to tame the hot peppers that we can’t help but loving in our spicy dishes.  ($12-13)

Trimbach 2012 Riesling Alsace, France    This family winery has been engaged in making wine since 1626.  Alsace is sunny!  It receives very little rainfall throughout the year.  Its climate gives the grapes plenty of time to ripen and you can feel the ripeness in the fuller body of the wine.  (12.5% alcohol)  This is the driest of the three wines and it is truly dry, but with pleasant fruit flavors.   This is dry enough that I would not eat it with hot and spicy foods.   This would be excellent with sushi, shellfish, grilled fish or a summer day.  ($18-$22)

For students of wine, Trimbach Riesling  is a CLASSIC!   It is fun to compare it to other producers and to Riesling from other regions.  All of these wines should be available at your larger liquor/wine retailers and some at well stocked wine departments at your grocery store.