I wasn’t long in the world of wine geekdom before I realized the common denominator that held wine geeks together…Riesling. Riesling? Yes, I said Riesling and I’m not talking the everyday stuff that comes from the likes of Chateau Ste Michelle or Fetzer (nothing wrong with these wines, they just don’t fit into this story as you will see). What I have observed over the past ten or so years, is that anyone that is passionate about wine and absorbed in its world (a wine geek) adores classic, old world style Riesling.
Now, when I say old world style, I’m talking (as wine geeks will attest), petrol, rubber boot, stone fruits, minerals and in some cases razor-sharp acidity. As far as sweetness goes, it doesn’t even have to be sweet. If it is sweet, we are not talking cane sugar sweetness here. No, like some of the best sweet German Riesling they show a sweetness that is both decadent, elegant, honeyed and shows top quality fruit sourcing. It’s kind of like the difference between Brachs chocolates and Sees chocolates…Does that help?
But why Riesling? Aside from being such a wonderful accompaniment to many food dishes, it is simply one of the most compelling whites you can find. Riesling is a terroir-expressive grape showing in it’s flavor profile the influence of the place of origin. Another words, it wears the dirt it was grown in on its sleeve. Having a high acid content, it can be razor-sharp on the palate and mouth-watering. And then there’s the petrol, diesel, rubber boot or whatever comes across on your palate. This can be off-putting to some, but for us wine geeks it is quite interesting (as you explore Riesling, I think you will come to the dark side). On top of all of this, there are Rieslings that are capable of aging for fifty years or more! Are you starting to feel the geekiness creeping into your blood? Seriously folks, Riesling is the bomb!
There is no better time to think about Riesling then now. Why? The traditional Thanksgiving meal lends itself perfectly to Riesling. Consisting of primarily savory dishes, is there anything better to match with the meal then a white wine with an edge of sweetness (or more than and edge)? Another good thing about choosing Riesling for your holiday meal is that you can find great quality juice for a prayer. With that in mind, I have a couple of suggestions for you to look for from your local merchant.
2012 Montinore Estate “Almost Dry” Riesling (Willamette Valley, Oregon)… $16.
Mouth-watering on the palate with notes of peach pit, tangerine and petrol. The acidity is there in spades, but never over-powering bringing the fruit notes into sharp focus and pulling them into a lingering finish. My mouth is watering as I write these notes, thinking about the deliciousness and focus of this wine as it kicks your palate with a rubber boot. (A-)
2011 Vin Du Lac “Lehm” Riesling (Lake Chelan, WA)… $18.
Petrol and rubber boot all over the nose with underlying peach notes (love it baby!). Very bright and steely on the palate with notes of quince, minerals, petrol and lemon grass. Intense and clean with a finish of grapefruit and lime pith. I encourage you to look to the Lake Chelan appellation out of Washington state, because there are some outstanding Riesling coming out of there. (B-)
2012 Barnard Griffin Riesling (Columbia Valley, WA) … $9.
Aromas of apples petrol and melon with an edge of dust and honey. A little edgy on the front of the palate with minerals, petrol, pears and a hint of honey. Stays relatively dry across the palate with minerals, pear and hits of honey and petrol on the finish. It could use a touch more acidity, but I love the petrol and fruit, and especially the price. It’s hard to find this kind of quality for nine bucks. (B+)
2012 San Juan Vineyards Riesling (Les Vignes De Marcoux-Yakima Valley, WA)… $11.
This baby steps outside the petrol theme a bit, which makes it a nice break-in Riesling for you doubters. Aromas of apples and white flowers with a peach and sugar hit. Sweet green apples come through on the front of the palate with a little sugar and peach juice thrown in. There is a nice bright back-bone to this Riesling with a touch of creaminess on the mid-palate showing notes of peach and apricot. The flavors flow into the finish which dries out on the back-end. This is a great Riesling for those who have not been baptized into wine geekdom, but I think the wine geeks will like it to. (B+)
2011 Monchhof Riesling (Mosel_Saar-Ruwer, Germany)… $17.
Aromas of petrol with a slight hit of peach and apple. Nice acidity on the palate with a hit of crisp, sweet apples and peach followed by a hit of rubber boot on the finish. Simple yet effective, leaving your palate thinking where a delicious Riesling like this disappeared to so quickly. (B)
2012 Waitsburg Cellars Riesling (Columbia Valley, WA) … $16.
Wine writer and critic Paul Gregutt, has ventured out on his own in the wine making scene with his Waitsburg Cellars label. He has a couple of really nice Chenin Blanc a Pinot Gris, and this outstanding Riesling. Again, this Riesling doesn’t fall into the “petrol” category, but it has a lot of things I like.
Aromas of sweet peaches, apricots, white flowers and a little cane sugar coming through. There is sort of a reductive element that comes through on the nose. It starts out sweet on the palate and finishes dry with a nice beam of acidity coming through. Apple notes are prominent backed by citrus and grapefruit notes that linger for some time. Excellent Riesling from a man who is no doubt buried deeply in wine geekdom. (A-)
2012 Clean Slate Riesling (Mosel, Germany) … $11.
Aromas of tangerine sorbet, honey and a hit of petrol. Very clean on the palate with notes of tangerine, honey and orange coming through. This baby gets creamy on the mid-palate with the petrol notes showing up, and finishing clean and on the drier side with tangerine notes lingering. The acidity is there and in nice balance with the fruit notes giving them a steely edge. This is a really nice Riesling for twelve bucks and it’s from Mosel no less. (B)
If you are not on the Riesling train yet, I encourage you to go out and find a couple and see how they do with food. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with how well it compliments spicy or savory dishes. It is not only versatile, it is a delicious and interesting white wine. If you are one of those folks that don’t drink whites (I can never figure that one out), and you fancy yourself a wine geek, I think you may be in the wrong room. I true wine geek will try any wine at least once or twice. They have a diversified interest in wines both red and white, and they most certainly are on the Riesling train.
Happy Holidays & Cheers! Stan The Wine Man