If pinot noir is “the heartbreak grape,” Riesling has to be its feel-good counterpart. Though, like pinot, it prefers cooler climates, it is nevertheless planted around the globe. And, unlike that one-note hussy that is chardonnay, this sweetheart offers something for everyone. She can be voluptuously honeyed and lush, and she can exhibit steely slate qualities — and this is just in Germany, the country of longest tradition and most extensive cultivation. Add to this the expanded personality traits from the influence of soils and climates in locations as different as Australia and New York’s Finger Lakes, and there should be a Riesling out there for you.
Omniboire decided to play international matchmaker by putting together a panel on Rieslings around the world. We called on the considerable talent and expertise of Fernando (Woody) de Luna of Republic National Distributing; he put together the selection, and he’s not called Mr. Riesling for nothing. Bohanan’s erudite sommelier, Laz McGill, acted as host for the tasting. Jenny Rabb, Bohanan’s director of catering, and Gabriel Howe, wine-savvy server at Sandbar, a restaurant with a considerable interest in whites, added more enthusiasm and expertise. As always, we scored our blind dates on everything but label presentation before revealing their identities.
I’m a mature individual looking for same, not afraid to get crazy on occasion …
Dear Mature yet Madcap,
Have we got the match for you! Maturity of the financial sort will be required, as our number-one wine retails around $45. This 2002 vintage also has a bit of age on it as well, but de Luna says you can “lay this one down” for 10 or 15 more years. It’s like a vintage Mercedes, he added, “all 12 cylinders firing and doing 150 on the autobahn.” “I just want to drink it,” said McGill, while Howe wanted to take it to dinner with “ceviche, steamed mussels … keep it simple.” Omniboire praised its smoky minerality and zingy acidity.
2002 Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile Appellation Alsace Controlée Riesling (12.5 percent), $45
I’m looking for a partner I can spend time with by a private pool and still take to an elegant affair at the Petroleum Club …
Dear Playful yet Proper,
This is just your ticket to ride. “Effervescent, definitely a pool wine,” noted Rabb; “polished and elegant,” countered de Luna. McGill found it “fresh and bright” with a “lot of minerality at the end.” “Opulent, with tangerine and roses,” said Howe, who thought it would go well with full-flavored fish dishes. “Riper and almost tropical,” thought Omniboire, partly as a result of its modest residual sugar and 11.5-percent alcohol.
2007 Schäfer-Frolich Nahe Riesling, medium dry (11.5 percent), $23
I’m a traditionalist, yet I’m especially attracted to hip, young types…
Dear Square Seeking Something Sexier,
This is technically a “medium-dry” wine, yet its “tangy” qualities (Rabb) and “lemon-curd” acidity (McGill) allow it to play both sides of the street. According to McGill, it also had a “great mouth,” a quality not to be taken lightly, and a “really cool label” — not normally an attribute of German wines. Howe found a “a really ripe, sweet orange flavor,” and admitted to drinking Riesling with chili.
Maria Schneider Jazz Reichsrat von Buhl Pfalz Riesling, medium dry (10.5 percent), $17
I’m a von Trapp type who appreciates discipline and staying power yet yearns for some softness …
Lieber Captain With a Softer Side,
This Australian Rielsing should surely float your boat. “This is intense, fine, and long, with some apricot,” noted de Luna — “it’s like a German kabinett trocken.” “I thought it was ‘warm’ with a little baked pie fruit — though that’s not a detraction,” said Howe. Yet “it’s scrubbed clean with bright acidity,” suggested McGill. One of my favorite things, thought Omniboire. (Federspiel, by the way, literally translates “feather play” — softness and then some. But it really means falconry and poetically refers to a degree of medium ripeness at harvest.)
2007 Domäne Wachau Terrassen Federspiel Riesling Qualitätswein Trocken Austria (12 percent), $24
I expect the unexpected, want to take a walk on the wild side …
Dear Sensation Seeker,
A walkabout with an Aussie Riesling may be just what you need to calm your wander(and other)lust. This 2008 Riesling from South Australia has some exotic allure coupled with classic qualities. “It’s extremely ripe,” noted McGill. “It reminds me of Smarties candies,” reminisced Howe. “Petroleum and smoke,” suggested Omniboire. “Lime and toast,” countered de Luna, who noted that the wine is done in all stainless steel.
2008 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Riesling South Australia (12 percent), $11
I’m confused — some days I think out-front and obvious, other times I want to keep things under wraps …
Dear Confused and Conflicted,
We didn’t know what to think about this Columbia Valley Riesling, either. This collaboration between Germany’s Dr. Loosen and Washington’s Chateau Ste. Michelle has good chemistry but got mixed reviews. “There was a faint bouquet, but the flavor more than made up for it,” declared Howe. “I thought it tasted like a `Portuguese` vinho verde at first,” sniffed McGill — who came around a little later. “There’s that New World apricot Dr. Loosen encourages with long hang time,” said de Luna. Omniboire found a floral, figgy quality, while “easy to drink” was Rabb’s assessment.
2008 Eroica Riesling Columbia Valley (11.5 percent), $18
I’m shy and average in every way but know I need to start somewhere …
Dear Average but Optimistic,
Some work will be required by both parties, but this biodynamic Willamette Valley Riesling from Oregon is a good jumping-off point. “It’s shy, a wallflower,” thought de Luna. “Nothing stood out, but it’s a pretty little cocktail wine, added Howe. “Agreed — it’s a nice summer wine,” said McGill. Omniboire was more forgiving, claiming good body and some latent mineral qualities that just need to be coaxed out.
2007 Bergström Winery Dr. Bergström Willamette Valley Riesling (12.5 percent), $25
I can handle swings and the rough stuff, but need a calm companion for balance …
Dear Swinger Seeking Stability,
Howe found this 2008 Finger Lakes Dry Riesling “too acidic and out of balance” — just like you. But de Luna noted “intense sherbet” qualities and a powerful, long finish, and Omniboire said “appealingly bitey pineapple and grapefruit under a faint nose of flowers,” suggesting that this pioneering New York producer has something to offer those who appreciate its uniquely regional qualities. Not everything needs to taste like slate and smell like petroleum, after all.
2008 Dr. Konstantin Frank Finger Lakes Dry Riesling (13.5 percent), $17