You can’t beat Riesling when it comes to versatility
Broken-record time again. (Are there still records? Do they still “break”, i.e., get stuck in the same groove and repeat over and over? Or is that one more figure of speech we should jettison in these digital times? Just asking.)
Talking about Riesling today; still my favourite white wine. Oh, sure, Pinot Gris/Grigio sells the most, varietally, in our market. And Chardonnay still pleases plenty more palates. But for sheer versatility, you can’t beat Riesling.
Sparkling, dry, off-dry, “regular”, berry selection, late harvest, TBA, icewine—Riesling makes ’em all and makes ’em all better than any other grape. So here’s a quick roundup of some new ones that have crossed my tasting table lately, including three Old Vine Rieslings from Summerland’s 8th Generation winery, whose “Riesling project”—based on 26-year-old vines from Okanagan Falls—is fast emerging as an intriguing collection of B.C.’s major expression of this great grape and its wines. All of the wines come screw-capped; you can get them at the winery (in person or online), at select specialty wine stores, or by direct delivery from the agent, Quaff Wines, at 778-829-9463.
8th Generation Classic Riesling Dry 2011 ($19.99, 480 cases only) One of the label’s most popular wines, this one missed a season (the vintage proved too challenging, so only one style was produced in 2010). The ideal “convincer” for palates that feel Riesling isn’t dry enough: it’s very dry indeed this time, lean and fine for fish of all sorts, with plenty of citrus and hints of crisp minerality.
8th Generation Riesling 2011 ($19.99, 270 cases only) This is the “off-dry” model: more tropical, rounder, riper, full and rich, with well-balanced acidity. Some wag at the winery describes it as “serious apple juice, for grown ups!” Fragrant and bracing. Try it with a good Cobb salad (if you can find one; I had two last week in high-end restaurants around town and found both wanting!); also quiches and desserts with fresh fruit.
8th Generation Riesling Selection 2011 ($28.50, 80 cases only) Here, winemaker Bernd Schales set out to make a Riesling of greater distinction, different from his other Rieslings, more concentrated and long-lived. Aggressive pruning and very low cropping, as well as fermentation with wild indigenous yeasts, have resulted in a wine with finesse and complexity: there’s layers of citrus, apple, and honey. If you get some, lay it down and sample it at six-month intervals to watch its development in the bottle.
A fascinating—and delicious—experiment is to acquire (at least) one bottle of each of the above three wines and taste them side by side. Wine brat that I am, at the end of my tasting I poured the heels of the bottles together, Cold Duck–style, and sipped slowly, trying to pick out the three major components. Tough but enjoyable. (Ask me one day to get into the etymology of that term, Cold Duck, which is nothing more than a mistranslation of the German. Just for fun.)
A handful of others, recently arrived…
Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling 2010 ($15.99, Specialty Listing) Lightly floral but with big, mouth-filling German-style fruit, by way of Washington state. A nice and hearty, honeyed traditional Riesling with just enough sweetness to go with dessert (crème brûlée, custards, et cetera). Worth seeking out; it’s apparently stocked in 74 B.C. LDB stores.
Rudolf Muller Bunny Riesling 2010 (regular price $11.49, April LTO $9.99; Speculative Listing [i.e., not in the LDB stores; the agent’s rep believes it’s to be found in Liquor Depot stores]) Fantastic price, this Easter dinner discount. The back label describes it as the “modern style of German Riesling…with aromas of peaches and pears”. Definitely a gulper (and at only 8.5-percent alcohol, go ahead and gulp). It starts off with a very shy aroma, then opens up; dry and flinty with a perfectly balanced finish. Great value from a very reliable producer. Serve it alongside cream-sauced pastas, scallops and steamed prawns, quiches and omelettes. Pity it’s not widely available. Maybe next year.
JoieFarm Riesling 2011 ($22.90, 780 cases. From the winery and select indie stores; also listed in quite a few Vancouver restaurants.) Another old vines Riesling (from two vineyards, aged 27 and 35 years) , with the majority of the wine from the original Riesling vines planted in Kelowna’s Mission District in 1976 by Dr. Helmut Becker. Deep, golden colour; heady, spicy aromas; a surfeit of citrus and other fruit; perfect acidity; and glorious balance. It’s a textbook example of the finest Okanagan-style Rieslings being made today. Well, we wouldn’t expect anything else from JoieFarm’s Michael Dinn and Heidi Noble. That 780-case total production may sound like a lot, but there are thousands of Joie and Riesling fans out there, so act on it now. I expect it will all be gone by the start of summer, maybe before.
Speaking of selling out fast, that “golden” Sandhill Chardonnay 2010 does it again: taking the only gold medal awarded to a Canadian winery at this year’s Chardonnay du Monde competition in France. (It won silver last year.) Meaning it will be gone quickly, especially since it’s in the government stores in B.C. and also for sale in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. Here, it sells for a most reasonable $17.99.
It’s a fabulous Chardonnay, and if you want to know what the world loves, Canadian white wine–wise, get your hands on a couple of bottles and plan a dinner party. It loves grilled halibut (and it’s cheaper! Checked the price of halibut lately?), wild mushroom risotto, turkey pot pie, puff pastry–wrapped chicken or salmon, roasted butternut squash cream soup, or grilled chicken with yogurt and smoked paprika marinade. Those are all suggestions from the impeccable palate of senior Sandhill winemaker Howard Soon, who gets to add more gold to his groaning board of medals.