Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Riesling Resolution

Last night, I found myself sipping a Riesling at Sojourn Restaurant on the Upper East Side. As I sat there, admiring its bold flavors and mouth-watering acidity, the Sommelier came over to introduce himself. A few moments later, he asked what I thought of the wine. After a brief exchange about what was in the glass, he went on to explain his frustration over how few people appreciate Riesling. It is such a versatile wine, capable of expressing itself beautifully from bone-dry all the way to sticky sweet and all the while saturating yet stimulating your palate… So why don't more people drink Riesling?

“Maybe it's the Tolkienesque script on the bottles,” I replied. Or that the average person doesn't know the difference between a Kabinett and an Auslese, a Trocken or a Feinherb. Or, maybe, it's that the average wine and liquor store doesn't provide a quality selection or one that even comes close to representing what the region is capable of. In fact, I think it's all of these things… One thing I’m sure of, however, is that Riesling is worth overcoming these challenges.

Thinking back over the last few years, there are a lot of great wines that stick out in my mind. Among those wines is a smattering of whites, which convinced me long ago that if I’m going to drink white wine, I want it to be Riesling. However, it seemed that each time I wanted to put some effort into experimenting with the varietal, something Italian would come along and turn my head. And so, I decided to make a commitment; that 2011 will be the year in which I truly explore Riesling, and it’s a journey that I hope you will take with me.

Like any journey into unknown territory, I required a guide. After polling the opinions of many trusted sources, the decision was unanimous: The staff at Crush: Wine and Spirits, were the people to see. One glance at their inventory and the writings/blogging of Wine Director, Stephen Bitterolf was all I needed to know that this team was serious about Riesling, and they have been more than helpful in getting me started.

So where to start? In my opinion, the biggest challenge with Riesling is in understanding the different styles and what to expect, as well as what you prefer. And so, I opted to try a lineup of wines from one producer in the region who came highly recommended: A.J. Adam.

Mention the name A.J. Adam in the company of an experienced Riesling aficionado and the least you’ll get is a nod of respect. However, it’s more likely that the response will be one of admiration and genuine excitement about this young producer, who has only started to recently craft wines under the name “A.J. Adam.”

Andreas Adam, of the Middle Mosel, is best known for a collection of wines made from the Hofberg vineyard, with a soil composition of mostly weathered slate and clay. These wines are wonderfully rich and full yet somehow electric through a whip of vibrant acidity that excites the palate. Recently, he has also crafted a Grosses Gew√§chs (Germany’s version of a Grand Cru) from the Goldtropfchen vineyard. It’s a dry wine that is spellbinding on the nose with a massive amount of flavor and character on the palate. All the wines were amazing, and picking which ones to add to my cellar was near impossible.

If you don’t know Riesling, A.J. Adam is a great place to start. Readers can also expect many more updates such as these throughout 2011, as I continue to explore this amazing region. For those of you that love the little details there are many to follow. For now, permit me to simply introduce you to four very special wines, and the best part is my top scoring bottle also happens to be the best priced around $26.

On to the Wines:

2009 A.J. Adam Piesporter Goldtropfchen GG – The color of A.J. Adam Goldtropfchen was of pure white gold. In the nose, spring flowers and grapefruit assaulted my senses as aromas of raw almonds and burnt butter followed behind adding subtle complexities. On the palate I found sour lemon drops with minerals and a touch of green grass. The flavors turned to sour apple as this wine’s tongue-curling acidity turned what was originally a perception of a full-bodied wine into something ethereal and light as a feather. The lasting finish showed lemon and lime with hints of salinity. Today, this wine is almost too much to drink, but with proper cellaring, may one day be truly magical. (92 points)

2009 A.J. Adam Dhroner Hofberg Riesling Feinherb – In the nose, this showed lemon and wet slate with a hint of honey and kiwi. On the palate, I found ripe peach, apple and stone with just the slightest kiss of sweetness. This was velvety and mouth-coating, followed by a mouthwatering finish of lemon and lime. The Hofberger Feinherb would be a perfect alternative to the Kabinett for a taster who prefers a bit less residual sugar. However, I still found the Kabinett to be a more complete wine. (91 points)

2009 A.J. Adam Dhroner Hofberg Riesling Kabinett - The nose was at first ungiving, but with some time in the glass, this wine bloomed with fresh brioche, slate dust, citrus and white flower petals. On the palate, I found a hint of sweetness balanced by tart lemon curd and clotted cream, which showed incredible mouth-filling richness that was suddenly wisped away, and turned refreshing, by lively acidity. The finish was like that perfect glass of lemonade on a steaming hot day. This is a bottle to wow your guests with or simply treat yourself to the depths of which Riesling is capable of. (93 points)

2009 A.J. Adam Dhroner Hofberg Riesling Spatlese – Aromas of lime, walnut and green apple wafted up from the glass. On the palate, this was weighty yet still fresh with flavors of honeydew melon and grapefruit playing a sweet and sour act across the tongue. There was a perceptible amount of sweetness, but this didn’t come across as sweet; instead it was full, balanced and bursting with flavor. The finish was long with citrus fruit and a hint of toasty pecan. This bottle is gorgeous now, yet I can’t help but wonder how great it will be in 10 to 15 years. (92 points)

Also see: The Wines of Willi Schaefer


  1. How wonderful to read about your recent exploration of Riesling. It is, alas, a grape I have not had enough. Coincidentally, it was the subject of our WSET class tonight. The last three wines we tasted were Kabinett, Spatlese, and Auslese, all from the Mosel. Brilliant pours which left me thinking the same: I need more Riesling in my life. Cheers!

  2. Thanks for sharing Diane. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time. In fact, the first glass of "turn my head" riesling, that I ever had, was at the "Open that Bottle Night"" dinner that we met at. Now that's coincidental!


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