Monday, June 23, 2014

I Don’t Drink Enough Riesling

I’m not going to get into the history or roots of Riesling. Nor will I start to explain terroir and the differences between Germany, Austria and Upstate New York. And don’t look for a tirade arguing the virtues of the Nahe versus the Mosel. Hell, I won’t even talk about vintages. Why? It’s simply because all the information is out there and easy to find, even in the pages of this blog. No, today I want to talk about why I love Riesling, how I am constantly reminded of the fact that I simply don’t buy or drink enough of it, and why you should be doing the same.

Let’s start with my roots, a red wine drinker to the core. When the weather got warm outside and most people turned to white wine—I just lowered the thermostat on my air conditioner. If you had a salad and needed to pair a wine with it, I’d pull an acid-driven, high-altitude Italian red. I had never met poultry that didn’t taste good with a Pinot, and I don’t need to even start on how good Zinfandel goes with barbeque.

My tasting note may have been short
but it was love at first sight.
But something happened a few years ago that changed everything. It was a bottle of 1994 Gunther Steinmetz Mulheimer Sonnenlay Spatlese Riesling (try to say that ten times fast). During an evening of excellent red wines, someone placed a 15-year-old (at the time) bottle of Riesling Spatlese into the mix, and my world was turned upside down. I actually remember staring at the glass, bewildered and wondering what it was which I had before me. First it was the nose—deep, intense, fruity and earthy with a hint of blue cheese funk. It put me back in my seat and forced me to take notice. Yet it was what I found on the palate which sealed the deal—here was a white wine with all the power and presence of a red, with a balance of ripeness and acidity that sizzled on the taste buds. In the end, it was the best wine of the evening, and that was against some very serious competition.

This set me on a path to understanding Riesling better. The next week I found myself at Crush Wine filling up two mixed cases. What truly amazed me were all the different styles—there’s literally a Riesling for every situation. They start with bone dry, and they go through every degree of sweetness imaginable. You can find a simple quaffing wine for $15 or an intensely-detailed thinking wine for $30. Wait, did I just say $30? Yes I did. That’s the best part; and I’m not saying that you can’t go broke falling in love with Riesling, but what I am saying is that there are many more affordable bottles that are worth you consideration than not.

This brings me to what prompted today’s ode to Riesling—yet another tasting that proved to me that Riesling belongs in a prominent place of my cellar. I sometimes fall victim to forgetfulness and need to be reminded. Or what often happens is that I simply end up drinking my stock of Riesling so fast that I forget to replenish it.

So I beg of you, do yourself a favor and explore this amazing variety. Below I’ve included some recent notes--most of these are hard to find--but they are all worth the hunt.   In the end, I have no doubt that you will thank me down the road.

On to The Notes:

2009 Van Volxem Wiltinger Braunfels Riesling - The nose was tight and took some coaxing to truly show its qualities, yet with time notes of peach skin, tart lemon and hints of green stem came forward.  On the palate, it showed great intensity, bitter citrus, tropical mango with a fresh, food friendly acidity.  A note of floral tea leaves and lemon lingered on the finish.  This wine should continue to develop for years and I'm really interested to see where it will end up.  For now--enjoy it with food.  (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2008 Markus Molitor Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett - A very interesting, value Riesling that really packs a punch. The nose showed ripe lemon, sour cream with hints of banana and ripe brea. On the palate, it showed great energy and ripeness with a mix of tropical fruits, ripe peach and roasted nuts--yet mouthwatering. The finish pulled things together nicely, as the wine's acidity sizzled across the senses. (90 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher

2001 Von Schubert Maximin Grünhauser Abtsberg Riesling Spätlese - The nose was beautifully finessed with masses of depth, showing dried figs, lemon skin, floral peach, almond and hints of petrol. On the palate, it was seamlessly ripe yet juicy with a dollop of brisk granny smith acidity and a bitter twang. The finish went on and on, remaining biter yet rich and satisfying. It was the Yin Yang of a wine that kept me guessing at every sniff and indulging in every sip. Very Nice. (94 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2001 Weingut Robert Weil Kiedricher Gräfenberg Riesling Spätlese - The nose was focused and refined yet ripe and fruit forward with white berry, mango, almond cake and a spritz of lime. On the palate, it showed great intensity and richness, like a fresh lemon curd with a slight sour and creamy note, yet offset by balanced acidity and a hint of cranberry, resulting in a cheek-puckering experience. The finish lingered on with center-focused spiced pineapple and peach skins. This is a beautiful wine with years of great drinking to come. (95 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2010 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling 'Rotlay' - The nose was insanely beautiful, showing sweet spices and floral notes, lemon curd, ripe peach with hints orange and green grass. On the palate, it was all about perfectly balanced intensity. The weight and sweetness of this wine is at first perceptible, but then is swept away by a burst of green apple acidity, leaving a slightly oily texture with tropical fruit and citrus notes, which seem to last for over a minute throughout the finish. This is a sweet wine, balancing it's girth as if on the point of a needle, swinging this way and that--yet never tipping over. Love it. (94 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!