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Posts Tagged ‘Riesling’

[Spiral wine cellar I want, pic from dornob.com] I’ve developed the terrible habit of forgetting I have this blog for weeks at a time.  I have a bunch of good bottles to tell you about in the next few weeks, so sit tight just a bit longer.  In the mean time, here are a few odds and ends:

Food thoughts as of late:

Jim Norton at Heavy Table recommended to me the Chilaquiles at Uptown Cafeteria a long time ago.  Just had them last weekend, and I’m now angry I waited so long.  They’re hearty and just the right amount of spicy.  They’re also not topped with gravy or hollandaise like everything else on their brunch menu, so that’s a plus.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: I can’t get enough of the sandwiches at Clancey’s Meat & Fish.  Rustica bread topped with their amazing meats (the roast beef is my favorite, though you can’t go wrong with any of them).

Specials to Hit this month:

Cork Dork Wine Co‘s Thurdsay May 12th tasting will feature some good bottles, and all the Carbone’s Pizza you can eat for $5.  Not bad at all.

May 13th – 21st is Minnesota Craft Beer WeekCheck out an event or two, and check out these beer specials:

  • Lake Wine & Spirits has Brau Brothers 6-packs on special for $6.49 all month.  The Scotch Ale and the Pils are both terrific.
  • Surdyk’s has Microbrews on sale from May 19th – 28th, 10-15% off or more.

Booze News of Note:

Kudos to MN House Legislators for passing HF1326, better known as the “Surly Bill” by a 127-5 margin.  In other news, the 5 representatives in opposition to the bill plan to jointly introduce new legislation later this month proposing new restrictions on sunshine, puppies and ice cream.

Michel Chapoutier, famed Rhone Valley producer, claims the ‘petrol’ taste  in Rieslings that many people prize and enjoy is an undesirable winemaking-fault [via Decanter].  I say, who cares?  People say the same thing about the peppery aftertaste in Syrah/Shiraz.  If it’s not a toxic fault, and people like the taste (I loved it in this Riesling from Ontario), what’s wrong that?  The fault, he claims, is caused by an over-agressive pressing of the grapes.  Ok, fine, if he thinks it’s poor technique, then he shouldn’t do it.  But I think I speak for the 99% of wine drinkers that don’t care how the wine got in the bottle when I say, so what?  Saying that it’s unequivocally a fault and is “wrong”, is the kind of high-handed snobbery that turns people off to wine.  Get over it, Mike.

I’m a big Thomas Jefferson-ophile, so I loved this snippet [via Serious Eats] on reconstructing Colonial-era brewing recipes.

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A big thanks to Heavy Table for letting me indulge in my Falstaffian love affair with Uptown’s bounty of Pad Thai.   Thanks also to my crew of judges for helping me choose a winner in a contest that was like picking the cutest puppy in a litter.

Not mentioned in my article were the wines we drank with our Pad Thai feast.  I shopped a sale at Zipp’s to find two domestic Rieslings that might complement the noodles.  Rieslings with Thai or Chinese cuisine are getting to be one of those “so cliche but so good you can’t help yourself” wine pairings [like lamb and Bordeaux or oysters and Champagne].  Reasons? First, Riesling is usually semi-sweet, which tempers the chile-spice found on many Thai dishes.  Also, Rieslings are a lighter white wine with usually very high acidity.  These are both nice features when you have a weighty-tasting sauce on your plate [like a thicker peanut sauce or sticky Kung Pao].  Also, many of Riesling’s hallmark flavors are very much in sync with Thai cuisine – think lime and honey.  I like Zipp’s stock of Rieslings, pretty convenient that it’s across the street from True Thai. 

How about my first Riesling from Michigan?  I only bought it because I’ve never had a wine from Michigan before, and I very much enjoyed the last odd-region Riesling I got from Zipp’s.  The 2008 Chateau Grand Traverse ‘Whole Cluster’ Riesling [$14.45 on sale at Zipp’s, usually $16.99] was everything I enjoy in a Riesling – clean flavors, tart acidity, mild sweetness.  It was almost colorless with a nice grapefruit nose.  The lighter-bodied sip had nice tart green apples and was slightly off-dry – just enough sweetness to balance.  Light, bright and tasty – and very nice with the Thai.  Much recommended.

A less successful effort was the 2009 Badger Mountain NSA Riesling [$8.95 on sale, usually $10.49].  An organic wine [NSA = No Sulfites Added] from Washington’s Columbia River Valley, it had a deep golden color and a toffee, honey kind of nose.  The sweetness was sticky, almost cloying and the finish is unusually harsh for a Riesling.  It was confusingly buttery and the orange-fruit flavors were kind of disjointed.  Was it the Muscat Canelli in this wine that threw me?  Not sure, I guess all I can say is that for the same price, Chateau Ste. Michelle’s basic Washington Riesling is head and shoulders above this one.

Our judge’s contribution for the night was a favorite bottle of both mine and his – Sokol Blosser Evolution, ’13th edition’ [around $18, widely sold] an ever-changing Oregonian blend of nine mystery grapes, pressed separately and layered into an off-dry, mellow citrus flavor.  Low-acid, larger body, very smooth.

There’s lots of great content coming your way, big reds for the cold weather, good whites from Stillwater, good bubbly for the holidays.

Photos by Sarah Jane Walter

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Continuing my ‘I’ve Got Rieslings In Weird Places’ theme I started last week with one from Ontario, how about one from Idaho?  At my good friend R. LaParola’s cabin last weekend, we had brought up a few bottles and dug into his aunt’s storage space which included more than a few wines older than I am.  We selected a few to try, and nearly all of them were past their prime, including a 1971 Chateau La Noe Muscadet that had turned bronze and tasted like a bowl of pennies soaked in white vinegar.  One of his recently purchased bottles was the 2007 Ste. Chapelle Special Harvest Riesling [$7.99 (i think) at Cellars in Plymouth] from the Snake River Valley in Idaho.  What do I know about the Idaho wine industry?  Nothing.  So, let’s taste, shall we?  This wine had a brilliant lemon-gold color and a pleasing sweet honey nose.  The body, though, was a bit of a let down for me.  The tropical fruit flavors were fine, but the acidity was very much lacking.  I always like to think of acidity in wine like the skeletal system in the body [in reds, tannin is the muscular system].  This wine had no backbone to stand up with, which made the sweetness seem cloying and the wine overall just kind of flabby and disjointed.  It was a little heavier bodied than I like Riesling; I found the finish oddly bitter as well.

Alright, enough of this madness!  Let’s get a good grip on Riesling by going back to basics – a standard Kabinett Riesling from a well-respected producer, from a great region, from the best Riesling growing country.  The 2007 Schloss Schonborn Hattenheimer Riesling Kabinett [$11.99 at Zipp’s] is about as easily enjoyable as wines comes.  [***German terminology alert*** Hattenheimer means the grapes are sourced from the vineyards around the town of Hattenheim in the middle of the Rheingau region.  The region is known to produce a fruitier-tasting Riesling as opposed to the more slate/mineral driven flavors of the Mosel region.  Kabinett is the first in a series of terms Germans use to denote how ripe the grapes were at the time of harvest.  Kabinett grapes are picked first, at a lower sugar content, producing the (usually) least-sweet expression of the grape (though certainly not dry).  Kabinetts will also cost less than their Spatlese and Auslese brethren (the latter is usually considered a dessert wine)].

Sorry about that – hate to get bogged down in the technicalities.  This wine sports a pale white gold color with ever-so-slight fizz, and a nose that I’m sure would smell nice right now if I didn’t have a cold.  The beginning of the sip [what we wine dorks like to call ‘the attack’] prickles your tongue with acidity, but then mellows out to leave you with a ripe yellow pear/lime zest body with well incorporated sweetness, and a finish that tends towards minerals.  Whoa, this is seriously delicious.  If you want a good idea of the benchmark flavor of this terrific grape, ask any reputable wine seller for a $10-15 German Kabinett or Spatlese Riesling from a producer like Schloss Schonborn, JJ Prum, Dr. Loosen, Selbach-Oster or something comparable.  I call Riesling the Gateway Wine – it’s so easy to enjoy, you’ll be hooked for life after a few.  And after you’re comfortable with German Riesling, you can explore Rieslings from all over the world [I’ve had a few from the central CA coast that have blown my mind recently] because the wonderful thing about this grape is it takes on a unique flavor wherever it’s planted.  Apparently except Idaho.

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A few years ago, during one of my sommelier schooling classes, it took me a little while to wrap my head around the idea – Canadian Wine?  Really?  Minnesota needs the UofM to genetically engineer grapes for cold weather climates, and Canada is growing Riesling?  Upon closer inspection, it’s not so surprising.  I mean, they ripen the world’s best Riesling in Germany – a very cold climate.  And at 43 degrees north, today’s wine is on the same latitude as Bordeaux, and just over the Niagra River from New York’s Finger Lakes AVA, where they are growing some spectacular Riesling.  

The 2007 Vineland Estates Semi-Dry Riesling [$16.99 at Zipp’s] is from the Niagra Peninsula in Ontario.  Canadian wine is almost entirely produced in Southern British Columbia and Southern Ontario and the Niagra Peninsula VQA is Canada’s largest Viticultural Area with around 13,500 acres under vine or about 3/4 of the total Canadian crop [The Vintner’s Quality Alliance (VQA) is roughly similar to America’s AVA system].  In such a cool climate, these areas need the moderating influence of a body of water for wine grapes to ripen properly.  Breezes from Lake Ontario keep the Niagra Peninsula cold well into spring, delaying the onset of budding [thus preventing frost kill of any setting fruit].  After the summers have warmed the lake, it keeps the peninsula reasonably tepid well into fall.  The cool-climate grapes thrive there – the most planted varieties include Chardonnay, Merlot, Gamay and Cabernet Franc, but it’s Riesling that steals the show. 

I’m not sure how Riesling isn’t the most popular white grape in the world [I suppose German labeling doesn’t help matters].  Riesling is a grape with such terrific regionality, deftly displaying terroir wherever it goes.  The 2007 Vineland Semi-Dry is no exception.  This white-gold colored beauty begins with a haunting nose of lime zest, pencil eraser and a whiff of cleaning solvent [this is a good thing, seriously].  The sip is a bit more fruit driven, peaches predominate, but it retains a good amount of that rubbery-gasoline-industrial flavor from the nose with mild sweetness in the form of waxy honeycomb.  It has juicy acidity upfront, but it falls off leaving the finish somewhat short.  This certainly isn’t your Groβvater‘s Riesling, but it’s complex and interesting – I highly recommend it.  Drink it with your favorite Chinese takeout //#jadefountainporklomein.

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