Tag Archives: Riesling

Another Great American Riesling (meaning what?)

Red Newt Lahoma Vineyard Riesling 2009 is a surprising drink, not merely because this is a great American Riesling. “Great American Riesling” has, for much of our vinous history, been damnably faint praise. Moreover “surprising” isn’t a term I would likely apply to American Riesling. Satisfied (often)? Sated (frequently)? Surprised. Hmm.

There are lots of beachheads for the grape here. While the Left Coast may have a significant head start, it’s back east that the many of the best are found. You have to like some delicacy in your Riesling, but if you do, you will find stunners in Michigan and particularly in New York. I know that there will be some fat but nonetheless fine examples from California, north to south. But nearly none have that rasp of acidity that gives Riesling its distinctive shape.  Oregon and Washington can do that. Sometimes they can get some soil notes in their Rieslings, but more often not, the wines don’t repay aging the way I wish they would.

Cross the border into BC, the odds might be even better and often are. Along the East Coast, things get uneven until you get to Long Island, head up the Hudson and drive over to the Finger Lakes.

Here, you are more likely to find excellent Riesling than not. In fact, you’ll have to work at it if you want to find something boring or bad (your time could be spent in more productive pursuits). The Rieslings that have some sugar to them are more piercing than lush, and that’s exciting. The drier wines are sometimes easy to overlook, like the quiet girl at a party. I pity the fool who doesn’t see her, but then I always figured my job was to look at them all. That’s how I approach my wines.

So each place has its style and for the most part that’s what you get. Or so I can convince myself for short stretches, and then something like this comes along. Yes, it has some sugar, and it has some bite. But it’s not only that it has considerable teeth to that bite, it that it’s unruly. That’s not the way of Finger Lakes Riesling. Indeed, that’s not what I expect of American Riesling. With a sort of peachy, even apricot, basso profundo, there is more fat than I get from any Riesling this tangy. It’s IRF rated as somewhere between Medium Sweet and Sweet, but that will not help you know how this wine tastes.

How does it taste? Like grapefruit pie. Yep, grapefruit pie (whatever that is, but go with me on this), especially if you threw white peach and mangos slices on top of it. The “bite” explains this wine, just as the best of all Rieslings are defined. But what makes the best Riesling so damned exciting is when, in spite of fulfilling these demanding but often achieved standards, it surprises. That this wine can be so robust and so delicate is a patent surprise. Thank you, Red Newt.

Ya gotta look for the good news

After an arduously steamy summer, the weather has broken, though it seems to me that there is absolutely nothing broken about the weather; it’s as right as it could be: cool, breezy, sunny. Amazing. Much of the lawn is dead; work is brain-snappingly crazy, everything’s a mess. Yeah, sports shouldn’t matter, but the Royals remain only a promise (next year, I swear, next year, it’s gonna happen), the Chiefs are just plain gonna suck and the Big 12 is no longer imploding. Now it’s exploding. This is big stuff to those of us in Kansas City. You don’t have to pretend to understand. But look at our sports landscape; the Big 12 is all we got. For as long as I have been here, it’s offered brilliant games and sometimes relentless rivalries. Border War? Lots of teams talk about a Border War but Kansas vs. Missouri was an actual war: it was one of the critical sparks that burst the country into the conflagration of our never Civil War. For some of us Kansans, there is an underlying (or perhaps more visible) sense that some of the folks on the Missouri side are still replaying that particularly ugly moment of American history. Now it seems, it all goes away courtesy of the massive egos of Texas. Thanks, Longhorns. I suppose your record will be better when you’re playing in your very own league against a handful of handpicked non-BCS teams.

K-State, my alma mater, will be even more irrelevant than it already is. KU, where my money (and my kids) go, will hie itself thither to the Big East, I suppose, but am I supposed to like that? Will MU, my wife’s alma mater go to the Big Ten as Missouri’s always triangulating governor had hoped? Or to the SEC? Who the hell knows and now, I guess I’m trying to say, who the hell cares?

My friend JK cracks open a JJ Pruem Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese 1983 and laughs. He only cares about Fantasy Baseball so he’s happy. The wine smells somewhat muted, but then it starts showing fruits that are still fresh and clean. Honey notes are everywhere; citrus, both dried and fresh, sweet pie apples; in the mouth, the sugars are starting to show more complexity than overt sweetness. There is something about these old sweet Rieslings that show less and less sweetness as they age and more and more complexity. What have thosee sugars become?

We watch the Royals give away another game (dammit, they still have a potent offense and they can field now; they don’t stupid mistakes, like they used to, so I care, I really do), and kick back, grinning at the wine. And then there’s something, a bit mushroomy, that pops up. Hmm. It takes another ten minutes or so, deep into the first glass before I state the obvious: uhm, this is corked. Yep, JK replies, since he’s already concluded the same. Hmm. Damn. It still tastes pretty good.

We watch some more baseball; pour a second glass and wait for the corkiness to get worse, like it always does, only it doesn’t. It just sits there, like a fat little annoying troll, but one that is a bit forgetful, a bit off task. That’s to say, you think it’s corked, and then it doesn’t seem so corked, and then it does, and there you go, it’s somewhere in between. Now, this is theoretically impossible: it’s either corked or it ain’t. But this one seems to be neither or both, I’m not sure how to call it. So here’s what I decide: it’s a beautiful day; the wine is cold. Let’s just drink it faster and enjoy it as much as we can. And we do.